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Calling For Industry Specifications Standard

2/12/2009 03:12:00 AM

One of the challenges consumers face when researching and subsequently purchasing consumer electronics products is understanding the many technology terms inherent to these devices. 

Once performing their research, usually online, to gain at least a basic understanding of the product they are about to purchase, they are then faced with the question of why speeds, feeds, and specifications can appear so different between manufacturers while the performance appears to be comparable. Consumers trust that their car is running 60 mph when the speedometer reaches that mark, but what if each car manufacturer had a different standard for measuring speed? Could you imagine the influx in speeding tickets? 

Within the LCD TV space, some of the specifications seem a bit subjective, while others represent technology that no consumer could reasonably discern with the naked eye. Viewing angle, for example, represents a specification that a consumer can at least observe by walking a semicircle in front of the TV to see how well the picture looks at different angles. However, if a consumer reads the specifications such as response time, or contrast ratio, or dynamic contrast ratio, how are they to know if the device performs to this specification? It is difficult to tell. 

While writing this blog, I googled the words “what is dynamic contrast ratio” and 1,340,000 results came up. The very first link takes you to the Wikipedia definition for contrast ratio, which is as follows: “The contrast ratio is a measure of a display system, defined as the ratio of the luminance of the brightest color (white) to that of the darkest color (black) that the system is capable of producing. A high contrast ratio is a desired aspect of any display, but with the various methods of measurement for a system or its part, remarkably different measured values can sometimes produce similar results.”

It further states: “Contrast ratio ratings provided by different manufacturers of display devices are not necessarily comparable to each other due to differences in method of measurement, operation, and unstated variables. Manufacturers have traditionally favored measurement methods that isolate the device from the system, whereas other designers have more often taken the effect of the room into account.”

It’s the part about different manufacturers utilizing different methods of measurement that represents the basis of this blog. In the near term, representatives from a few of the consumer electronics manufacturers, including myself on behalf of Sharp, will present a white paper to the Consumer Electronics Association, calling for a standardization of the manner in which the various performance specifications are measured. There are some who believe this is in the best interests of the consumer, and I agree with this assessment. While it may be difficult for most consumers to actually tell that their device is delivering a dynamic contrast ratio of 50,000:1, at least they would take comfort knowing that there is consistency when they are comparing one TV to another. 

Recently, other trusted advisors and reviewers of technology products have also been vocal questioning the consistency of the manner in which performance specifications are derived. There are multiple variables that go into the measurement of performance specifications. These are typically complex measurements and/or calculations. Most consumers will never know or understand what went into the process of deriving this numerical value; however, they should at least know that there is consistency in the manner in which the manufacturing community presents its products to the end user. This will ensure that the consumer has the knowledge they need to make the most informed, and fair purchasing decision.

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