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Report: Sharp To Launch Blu-ray/LCD Combos

One of those head-scratching stories appeared on the Nikkei News Service Wednesday declaring what would be a major product launch for Sharp in the United States. The only problem is, representatives from Sharp’s U.S. operations apparently aren’t aware of it yet.

According to a report on the Nikkei Electronics News Service, Sharp announced in Japan Wednesday a new line of DX series Aquos LCD TVs with built-in Blu-ray Disc players will be launched in the United States at the end of the year and in Europe next year.

A spokesperson for Sharp’s U.S. operations said they could not confirm U.S. marketing details on the products as this was posted. If true, the new model series would offer a compelling option for U.S. consumers looking for less clutter around their flat-panel TV sets, especially those to be wall mounted, where running cables can be difficult and unsightly.

Meanwhile, according to the report, starting Nov. 20, lucky Japanese consumers will have access to similar models that substitute full Blu-ray Disc recorders for the BD player versions.

The line announced for Japan will consist of 16 models. Screen sizes for the Japanese versions include 26, 32, 37, 42, 46 and 52 inches, according to the report. Although no suggested retail prices were issued, Nikkei estimated street retails in Japan to range from about $1,689 for the 26-inch model to around $4,987 for the 52-inch version.

Models in the Japanese series will be offered in three bezel colors of red, white and black, according to the report.

In announcing the new line, Sharp president and COO Mikio Katayama reportedly said the company intends to make the combo units “our main products for the year-end sales season.”

Sharp said it reduced the cost of the combo sets by using key Blu-ray components produced in-house, including the blue-violet laser, optical pickup and Blu-ray Disc drive unit. In addition, the recorder models will reportedly share the power circuit with the TV.

Playback will support Blu-ray Discs, DVDs and CD media. No hard disk drives will be included.

The LCD panels used for the 37- to 52-inch models will offer full HD 1080p (1,920 by 1,080) resolution.

The bigger-screen versions reportedly will analyze the luminance histogram of the input video signals and control the backlight brightness corresponding to scenes on the screen. The technology achieves a contrast ratio of up to 15,000:1 when displaying moving images, Nikkei reported. When the backlight control is not active, the contrast ratio is 2,000:1.

The TVs support 10-bit grayscale output for each of the RGB colors as well as double-speed display to render 60fps images at 120fps, according to reports.

The 26- and 32-inch models will offer 1,366 by 768 resolution and a 7,000:1 contrast ratio.

The Japanese combos will use an LSI jointly developed by Sharp and ViXS Systems of Canada to convert HDTV video from MPEG-2 format to MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 to maximize recording capacity on a Blu-ray disc.

The minimum encoding rate for HDTV was said to be 4.8Mbps, allowing approximately 21 hours 40 minutes of HDTV video on a 50GB Blu-ray disc.