The slow death of rear projection TVs

Rear-projection panels can no longer compete against slimmer LCD and plasma TVs

Hitachi has reportedly withdrawn from the real-projection TV market in North America. Digitimes reports that the Japanese company has also closed its RPTV factories in Mexico to focus its efforts on plasma and LCD production.

Digitimes cites a Japanese report which shows that sales of RPTVs in the US have long been in decline, although it also notes that there is still a market for them in China.

Everybody wants a flatscreen

Traditionally, rear-projection TVs were ideal for AV enthusiasts who wanted particularly large TV screens. We're talking sizes in excess of 50 inches and often up to 70 inches across.

2005 was arguably the high-point for rear-projection TVs in the UK. HD Ready screens such as Optoma's 50-inch HD50, Sagem's HD-D45 and Samsung's SP-50L7 not only provided large display acreage but did so with price tags under £2,000.

Compared with early plasmas, rear projection sets offered bigger, brighter and sharper pictures, with no motion blur and excellent contrast. Early plasma models couldn't match RP sets for screen size, while LCD struggled with small panels that were blighted by motion blur and over-excessive backlighting.

You can't hang one on your wall

These days, however, LCD and plasma technologies have dramatically improved and RP's stock has fallen as a result. Plasmas have become bigger and more affordable; while modern 100Hz HD LCD panels have all but conquered the motion blur problem and now provide deeper blacks than ever before.

Crucially, today's consumers demand 'flatscreen' TVs. And while manufacturers like Thomson did manage to shrink the depth of their RP TVs to six inches, you still couldn't hang one on your wall.

"When the size, i.e. depth, is the same as plasma and when new technology, i.e. LED or laser, comes along, then [rear projection TVs] may take off again," said Bob Johnson at Optoma.

"It will be difficult to combat the pricing of plasma and LCD now. But you may get a 100-inch RP TV for the same price as a 37-inch plasma once the new technology gets going. There will be some early sets out in 2008, but not from Optoma."

Optoma no longer sells RP TVs after having some success in 2005 with the HD50. JVC launched the world's largest RPTV this year, which measures 110 inches.

James Rivington

James was part of the TechRadar editorial team for eight years up until 2015 and now works in a senior position for TR's parent company Future. An experienced Content Director with a demonstrated history of working in the media production industry. Skilled in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), E-commerce Optimization, Journalism, Digital Marketing, and Social Media. James can do it all.