Hitachi Launches Mysterious Ultra Thin TVs

Technology so amazing, they can't even explain it

Oh you poor saps with five-inch thick LCD TVs. Hitachi put them to shame today with its new 1.5-inch "Ultra Thin" line of panels.

The secret to that slim figure is in the backlight behind that panel. And that secret, for now, is remaining a secret. On a conference call from Japan today, Hitachi representatives would say only that it uses an "external electrode fluorescent light," as opposed to the fluorescent tubes behind a regular LCD. What exactly this new term means was left to the imagination. But Hitachi did say that the TV requires a special LCD panel with "a conductive material fused into glass." So the best guess for now is that the panel creates an electrical field around a container of gas to make it glow—as opposed to having electrodes inside a glass tube.

In addition to making the TVs thinner, Hitachi says that the new backlight technology extends the lifetime of the sets and makes them more energy efficient. It also improves color on the screen, expanding it to beyond what the HDTV standards require and especially improving reds, said a Hitachi spokesperson

The Ultra Thin TVs will be available in 2008 in screen sizes of 32, 37, and 42 inches. They are not the same as the super-duper ultra thin TVs that Hitachi showed off at CEATEC in Japan earlier this month. Those waifs measure only 0.75 inches and are scheduled to appear in 2009. Hitachi is saying even less about how those sets work, but some industry experts suspect that Hitachi uses light-emitting diodes for the backlight.

Hitachi didn't specify exactly how much any of the Ultra Thin sets will cost. But Kevin Sullivan, the senior vice president of sales, said "It will definitely be a high-priced product" targeted at "highly affluent" customers who "seek luxury, prestige and style." The 32-inch panel will be available in 2008, followed by the 37- and 42-inch models around mid year. All will debut under Hitachi's Director Series line of premium products sold in specialty A/V shops and by high-priced custom installers, but Hitachi plans to offer the technology in more mainstream products later on.—Sean Captain