Tech 10: Dynamite Digital Displays For 2013

Looking Sharp, Feeling Good

HD screens are like high-end cell phones: everybody has one and they all look pretty good. Now that we've affordably shrunk 1920 x 1080-pixel screens to the size of a pack of gum, the next phase in digital display technology will be Ultra HD--panels that display four-times the current resolution; double the pixels across and double the pixels up and down.

Standards are in place for such "4K" monitors--so called for a horizontal resolution that approaches 4,000 pixels. They include DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI 2.0 and Thunderbolt 2. Driving the segment of the industry are the fields of digital media production, CAD/CAM, medical imaging, financial and of course gaming. This month's Tech Ten covers two of the handful of Ultra HD products currently available, plus a variety of digital display technologies being offered for various niches.

10. ViewSonic VSD220

ViewSonic gets even more specialized with the VSD220 Smart Display, a 21.5-inch-high 1,920 x 1,080 LCD display with a built-in dual-core OMAP-based computer running Android 4.0. Currently listing for $399, the VSD220 includes a two-point touch screen, webcam and mic, USB ports, HDMI input, wired and wireless Ethernet, Bluetooth, built-in stereo speaker, stand, VESA mount and soft keyboard. Intended applications include kiosk, self-service terminal, digital signage and waiting-room entertainment.

9. ViewSonic TD3240

Digital signage and computer input device become one with the ViewSonic TD3240, a 32-inch VESA-mountable HD display with projected capacitive 10-point touch input capability and stereo sound. The IPS panel delivers 1,920 x 1,080 pixels at viewing angles close to 180 degrees. Its scratch-resistant glass is well-suited for education and retail environments, transportation centers and other high-traffic kiosk applications. The TD3240 provides inputs for VGA, DVI and DisplayPort (with adapter). It lists for $3,059 with a three-year warranty. There's also a 27-inch version.

8. StarTech HDMI USB 3.0

When the number of HDMI outputs is deficient by one, StarTech again has a solution. For $95 list, the USB 3.0 to HDMI External Video Card Multi Monitor Adapter is a long name for a device that, in short, provides HDMI output from any USB port. Its 1,920 x 1,080 pixels work on Mac or Windows and there's no lag when used with USB 3.0. A VGA version supports 2,048 x 1,152 pixels.

7. StarTech HDMI Auto Switch

When the number of HDMI devices exceeds available inputs, StarTech comes to the rescue with the three-port HDMI Auto Switch with IR Remote Control. For around $40 list, it keeps the display alive by automatically switching to the next active signal. It supports 1,920 x 1,080 pixels and 7.1 surround audio, and can manually switch among its three sources using a frontpanel button or the included remote.

6. Sony Triluminos

Sony's new releases include 55- and 65-inch-class additions to its Triluminos X850 Ultra HD line of 4K resolution 3-D televisions. The XBR-55X850A and XBR-65X850A up-convert signals of lesser resolutions, can simulate 3-D, and include a gaming mode that eliminates the split screen. The displays offer four HDMI 2.0 inputs with MHL and support for resolutions up to 3,840 x 2,160 pixels. Preorders are accepted at $3,499 and $4,999 for October delivery.

5. Sharp IG ZO

Among the first major vendors to offer a 4K commercial display is Sharp with its PN-K321 Ultra HD monitor, which pumps a dazzling 3,840 x 2,160 pixels. It uses Sharp-developed indium gallium zinc oxide (IGZO) technology, a thinner active layer that allows more light to pass through more densely packed pixels at faster refresh rates. The Sharp PN-K321 lists for $5,250.

4. NEC V652

NEC continues to expand its V-series line of commercial-grade digital signage displays with the January release of 55- and 65-inch models, including the $4,999 list NEC MultiSync V652 65-inch unit. Both put out 1,920 x 1,080 pixels with edge-to-edge LED backlighting and support Intel's Open Pluggable Spec for digital signage applications. NEC in June released the MultiSync V801, an 80-inch version with which it bundles its OPS-compliant singleboard computer for deploying kiosk and other PC-driven digital signs. That system lists for around $11,500.

3. LG Flatron 29

Taking split screen a step further is LG's Flatron 29EB93-P, a 29-inch-class IPS display. Called the ultimate multitasking monitor, the 29EB93-P offers an ultrawide screen with a 21:9 aspect ratio and 2,560 x 1,080-pixel workspace. It can split the screen in eight different layouts of two, three or four discrete workspaces or serve as a single monitor for two computers or a computer and phone. The unit provides inputs for DisplayPort, dual-link DVI and two for HDMI. Street price is listed at $599.

2. LG ColorPrime 27

One of LG's latest releases is the ColorPrime 27EA83-D, a wide quad high-definition (WQHD) display in the 27-inch class with some special attributes. Shipped precalibrated, this 10-bit color IPS panel can display more than a billion hues accurately across 2,560 x 1,440 pixels at a superwide viewing angle of 178 degrees. Its 16:9 aspect ratio is well-suited to video content and digital signage layouts. The all-digital 27EA83-D lists at $999.

1. HP Z-Series Displays

Hewlett-Packard this month began shipping 27- and 30-inch Z-Series displays with next-gen IPS 2 LCD panels that consume less power without affecting viewing angle or color accuracy. The $729 Z27i offers a maximum native resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 (at 60Hz). The $1,329 Z30i brings 2,560 x 1,600 (at 60Hz). Both accept DisplayPort 1.2, VGA, DVI and HDMI inputs and include a four-port USB 3.0 hub and outputs for HP's Speaker Bar.