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After reviewing the Sharp PN-K321 Ultra HD monitor, the CRN Test Center liked its 3,840-x-2,160 resolution for medical imaging, CAD/CAM, video production and other intended applications at a list price of $7,395. But at its new price of $5,250, we like it a whole lot more. With the new list price announced Friday, Sharp expects the PN-K321 to be selling on the street for around $4,000. That's $1,000 for each of the full HD windows it can display on its single 32-inch IGZO panel.
That's IGZO, folks, another acronym to start hearing about. IGZO stands for indium gallium zinc oxide, and it was developed by Sharp as a thinner, more translucent and responsive alternative to the amorphous silicon used in most of today's LCD panels. A thinner active layer means more light can pass through more pixels, which means greater-resolution displays with faster refresh rates that use less energy to run, and require less cabinet space to keep cool.
That's according to Steve Brauner, senior product line manager for professional displays at Sharp. During a phone briefing with the CRN Test Center, Brauner explained that without a new technology, today's thin-film transistor (TFT) displays had hit a wall. "To increase the number of pixels, you have to increase the light that goes through," or darken the viewing environment, Brauner said. "That's why viewing high-resolution X-rays requires a dark room." Each pixel has a transistor behind it, so displays packed with pixels also are packed with light-blocking transistors. "The IGZO TFT dramatically reduces the size of the transistor, allowing more light to pass through," he said.
Side effects of the new technology actually have useful benefits, said Brauner. Aside from reducing the required light intensity, Brauner said that IGZO enables more light to be distributed more evenly to the edges of the screen. The panel also has persistence characteristics that enable it to maintain unchanged portions of the display without the use of the graphics processor. While this characteristic isn't in play on the desktop, it's expected to greatly benefit battery-operated devices. Apple is reportedly considering IGZO in its next-gen iPhones.