CES 2007: Sharp unveils 108-inch LCD TV

Sharp unveiled the world's largest 1080p LCD television today in Las Vegas, a TV set measuring 108-inches. It's the centrepiece of Sharp's new strategy to make bigger, better LCD TVs.

And the new 108-inch TV isn't just a PR gimmick. Fabricated at the company's 8G Kameyama Plant No. 2, Sharp Chairman and CEO Toshihiko Fujimo was keen to point out that this giant TV proves that LCD can directly attack and compete against plasma and rear-projection sets.

Fujimo explained that Sharp's Kameyama Plant No. 2 has been able to produce larger 46 and 52-inch LCD substrates in quantity. These large panel sizes finally push LCD TVs into competing aggressively with equivalent-sized plasma and rear-projection sets.

Sharp pointed out that its 65-inch Aquos LCD TV, introduced at CES in 2005, is still the world's largest commercially available LCD TV. But like this $20,000 model, the 108-inch LCD will become a production model in the future. A price tag has yet to be decided.

Fujimo went on to tell the press conference that Sharp is committed to growing the LCD TV market in 2007 and beyond. The numbers are impressive - Sharp shipped over 42 million LCD TVs worldwide in 2006 as consumers upgrade from old CRT televisions. Fujimo put the reasons for this dramatic growth down to greater consumer acceptance of LCD.

"Consumers are recognising the advantages of LCD over other technologies," he said. "With LCD sales forecast to be 69 million by 2007, LCD is fast becoming the dominant flat panel technology with consumers."

LCD TVs by the truckload

Bob Scaglione, senior vice president and group manager, Product and Marketing Group, then picked up the reins to preview a range of new products that Sharp is showing at CES.

He talked again about Sharp's commitment to becoming the world's number one LCD producer and how the Aquos range is at the heart of the Sharp's TV strategy.

This year will see the launch of Aquos D92 series - 1080p LCD TVs with a 15,000:1 contrast, 4ms response time and 120Hz frame rate conversion. Each D92 model will feature twin HDMI ports, plus 1080p component and DVI-I inputs. Three new D92 TVs will be introduced - the 42-inch LC-42D92U ($3,499), 46-inch LC-46D92U ($4,199) and the 52-inch LC-52D92U ($5,299)

A 65-inch version of the D92, dubbed the LC-65D93U, will also be available in March for around $10,999.

Sitting alongside the D92 range is the D82 series, a step up from the existing D62 models. These new LCD TVs will be available with either 46 or 52-inch screens and boast a 10,000:1 contrast ratio, 4ms response time, plus three HDMI ports and 1080p component inputs. The LC-46D82U is priced at $3,699, while the LC-52D82U comes in at $4,799.

Getting cheaper, the D43 series will offer a range of 720p Aquos models with screen sizes ranging from 26-52 inches. These will be introduced from now until June 2007 and will feature a 6,000:1 contrast ratio, twin HDMI, plus component and PC inputs. Prices will range from $1,099 for the 26-inch set to $3,999 for the 52-inch version.

Sharp also announced the availability of 1080p TVs designed specifically for gaming. The new Gamer GP1U series will be available in either 32- or 37-inch guises and feature 'Vyper drive' technology to optimise the picture quality for gaming. The GP1Us will feature side-mounted HDMI, 1080p component and DVI-I connectivity.

Blu-ray and networked TVs

Rounding off the press conference, Scaglione highlighted several prototype products, specifically a networkable Aquos TV that's capable of accessing any DLNA-compliant device and is compatible with HomePlug-specified Powerline technology.

Sharp also has a 65-inch display with a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, a TV with a 4,000 x 2,000 pixel resolution and a triple-view LCD system.

Sharp is also previewing two new projectors - the XVZ3100 (with a 6500:1 contrast ratio) and the DT-510 (with a 4000:1 contrast ratio) - and takes the wraps off its first Blu-ray player for the US market, which will cost $1,199 and go on sale in March.

The 108-inch LCD TV was the only real highlight of a press conference designed to announce several refreshes to Sharp's existing product line. Nevertheless, while there were no revelations here, Scaglione was bullish and inspirational about Sharp's strategies for 2007 and beyond.

"Sharp makes one-of-a-kind products that change the way we live," he said. "We are focused on bringing LCD innovations to the next level at 2007 CES, not only with new Aquos products but also with groundbreaking concepts that will change our consumer's lifestyles."

And when asked whether anybody would actually buy the 108-inch LCD TV, he responded: "well, people bought the 65-inch one."