Last week’s CEDIA Expo became the latest showcase for the rapidly emerging category of home-theater-targeted direct LED displays (sometimes referred to as MicroLED displays), which may soon offer bigger and brighter alternatives to projectors for high-end homes.

Samsung and Sony have been proudly showing their own approaches to the concept, while Digital Projection Inc. (DPI) and NEC are moving forward with systems of various levels for commercial applications.

Although LG is known also to be working on MicroLED technology, the company didn’t have anything to show in the category at this year’s CEDIA Expo.

In each case, the companies appeared to be using the show to test the reaction of custom installers, who will be the primary distributors of the new displays, at least in the early years of home-cinema distribution.

Direct LEDs, of which MicroLED displays are a variety, consist of arrays of microscopic or near microscopic LED subpixels forming the individual pixel elements. When compared to the widespread LCD technology, MicroLED displays offer much larger screens with better contrast, brighter images, better response times, and greater energy efficiency.

Generally speaking, the technology is either based on MicroLED technology, or  direct LEDs that are not quite small enough to qualify as true “microLED technology.” Whether direct LEDs or microLEDs, the displays are capable of very large screen sizes (exceeding 100 inches) with picture quality that surpasses today’s 4K LED-LCD and 4K OLED flat-panel technologies.

They typically significantly beat projectors for brightness, color gamut and power efficiency, while offering wide viewing angles of at or near 180 degrees, without risk of short lifespans or image retention.

In each case, the displays use a modular concept, where smaller direct LED panels are fitted together like tiles to produce one large screen surface. In most cases, the seams are almost invisible viewing from normal viewing distances.

Sony used CEDIA to showcase its Crystal LED Integrated Structure (CLEDIS) technology using a 260-inch (diagonal) Crystal LED video wall with 4K Ultra HD resolution.

Due to the modular structure of the system, theoretically, almost any resolution level and screen size is possible according to a Sony representative. However, to achieve certain resolution levels, like 4K or 8K, larger screen sizes will be necessary to fit all of the pixels in across the screen.

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The limitation, here, being the pixel pitch (spacing between pixels) which has thus far prevented smaller traditional home-size screens with 4K Ultra HD resolution or higher. Earlier this year, Sony showed CLEDIS displays using modular tiles measuring 403 by 453mm, each with a resolution of 320×360. The pixel pitch is 1.2mm and the emitting area is 1% – which allows for very high contrast ratios, but requires very large screen sizes for 4K resolution.

At CEDIA, Sony said CLEDIS goes beyond conventional display technologies by delivering over a million-to-one contrast ratio, highly accurate color reproduction, a 99 percent black surface area using 0.003 mm² ultrafine LEDs, and a 180-degree viewing angle.

The company is currently selling CLEDIS displays for commercial markets, including broadcast studios, but Mike Fasulo, Sony Electronics U.S. president, told us that the purpose of the CEDIA showcase was to begin discussions about bringing the technology to the custom home theater market.

Meanwhile, Samsung again showed its 146-inch 4K MicroLED display called “The Wall,” which is now being sold to commercial and professional customers. However, the company said it will be bringing a consumer-targeted MicroLED home theater version to market by the end of the year with a matte finish and invisible seams.

The Wall was being pitched at integrators looking to offer their customers displays in any configuration for residential home theater environments. In commercial environments integrators can assemble 16-panel video walls that stand more than 10 feet tall and nearly 6 feet wide for signage applications and other purposes.

Each pixel in the Samsung MicroLED is illuminated by a Red, Green and Blue LED subpixel, which can be shut off to achieve almost pure black. Since it is LED-based and using technology that was designed to work in extreme sunlight, the displays can achieve extremely bright HDR contrast levels, the company said.

Samsung’s MicroLED panels have a .84 pixel pitch, which allows for 4K resolution at a 146-inch minimum screen size. However, the screen size can go larger, if customers desire it.

Samsung said the home theater version will be engineered to deliver perfect black levels in ambient light environments, along with high levels of color accuracy and support for the HDR10 and HDR10+ high dynamic range profiles. They will also support a wide color gamut.

Peak brightness levels are listed at 1,600 nits and the refresh rate is 60Hz. Features in the consumer version will include: HDMI 2.0, USB and LAN connections, an over-the-air tuner and Samsung’s Tizen-based smart TV platform.

Digital Projection (DPI) also made known its plans to support commercial markets with direct LED displays by announcing a .9mm pixel pitch panel and showing its 1.2mm pixel pitch LED wall system. All of the company’s direct LED products are marketed under the name Radiance.

The addition of wall display technology means the company can now offer a lineup of Radiance LED direct view LED panels with .9mm, 1.2mm, 1.5mm, 1.9mm, 2.5mm and 4.0mm pixel pitch layouts, for various size/resolution capabilities.

The 1.2mm version demonstrated at the show enabled the company to offer a display with Full HD 1080p resolution starting at 110 inches (diagonal) and a 4K Ultra HD screen size starting at 220 inches.

At the show, the company demonstrated an assembled 4K screen measuring 60 by 9 feet.

DPI boasted that its Radiance walls enable a 160-degree viewing angle and afford a very narrow footprint with 24/7 operational capabilities that are ideal for commercial applications.

The DPI direct LED displays can achieve a peak brightness level of about 1,000 nits before calibration. The displays can be set for various brightness levels as different applications require. DPI sells its direct LED panels with a concierge service program described as “a true turn-key, from projection management, design and integrations.

“While Digital Projection is an awkward name for a company that also makes LED products, it really makes sense when you consider that there are a really a lot of environments that projection just isn’t suitable for,” said a DPI spokesman.

Similarly, NEC Display announced new fine pitch Direct View LED (dvLED) displays it is selling for video wall solutions in its new F- and Q-Series indoor and outdoor dvLED panels.

The F-Series offers a pixel pitch of 1.2mm, 18-bit color processing and the option to add HDR10 capability.

The Q-Series dvLED panel was designed for larger applications, offering a wider pixel pitch starting at 2.84mm.

NEC, which is targeting professional and commercial applications with its wall displays, said its technology has an 80,000-hour lifespan, front and rear serviceability, and a variety of pixel pitch options.


By Greg Tarr


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