Toshiba Revamps TV Look, Adds LED Technology

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Toshiba is using International CES to unveil sweeping changes across its LCD TV lineup, including new bezel designs and picture performance enhancements highlighted by the company's first sets with LED backlighting.

Highlighting this year's offerings will be a new bezel design using unique shading accents that give the sets a look of high technology and elegance, and a range of technological enhancements that improve picture performance while limiting additional cost.

"Regza is already premium LCD TV, and consumer reaction has been beyond our expectations," said Scott Ramirez, Toshiba America TV marketing VP, "However, in 2009 we are truly taking it to the next level by making a quantum leap in picture quality, next-gen connectivity and industry-leading design."

Meanwhile, the company said it has scrapped last year's short-lived product introduction strategy, which called for changing out spring model lines during the summer and fall to make faster price and technology adjustments.

"The approach we started last year had two caveats to it: One, we needed to get a lower cost by changing the commodity end models during the year, and two, we wanted to eliminate the wait for bringing to market new features," Ramirez explained. "In the end, we felt there was not enough cost to be saved to make it worthwhile to change our commodity models after six or seven months, and on the high end, we decided to just introduce a new model to the line with a new technology in August or September instead of replacing models in the line."

Ramirez said last year's experiment succeeded in getting Toshiba close to its 10 percent market share goals for the U.S. LCD TV category.

In the U.S. 19-inch to 52-inch LCD TV screen size market segment, Ramirez said Toshiba expanded its share, from 4.5 percent, to 9.5 percent over the course of last year, just shy of its 10 percent target.

By screen size, Toshiba said it reached the No. 2 position in the 19- to 20-inch segment, at 12.8 percent; No. 2 in the 22- to 23-inch segment, at 12.9 percent; No. 3 in 26-inch, at 11.1 percent; No. 3 in 32-inch, at 8.6 percent; No. 3 in 37-inch, at 12.9 percent; and No. 4 in 40-inch at 9.6 percent.

For 2009, Toshiba expects to "break through the 10 percent" market share mark, Ramirez said.

At the opening end, Toshiba will offer three series of Toshiba-branded LCD TVs that are not part of its Regza collection.

The AV600 series will feature a pair of models (19AV600 and 22AV600) in the 19- and 22-inch screen sizes, both with 720p HD resolution and scheduled delivery dates in April. Key features include a DynaLight dynamic backlight system, which is said to deliver deep black levels; dual HDMI inputs; PC input; audio outputs; game mode; and Energy Star 3.0 compliance.

"These are great digital transition models for people looking to replace their old analog TVs with," Ramirez said.

Stepping up, Toshiba will continue through the year its three-model AV502 series (26-, 32- and 37-inch screen sizes), which was introduced last fall. All models include the same core feature set as the AV600 series, but offer larger screen sizes and high-gloss black cabinet cosmetics.

Also being carried forward through 2009 will be the AV525 line (40- and 46-inch screen sizes), which add Full HD 1080p resolution; a third HDMI input with RegzaLink (HDMI-CEC) component control; and a high-resolution PC input.

Stepping up, Toshiba is unveiling three series of updated Regza-branded sets, all of which feature the dual-component Regza Engine, including a fifth-generation PixelPure 14-bit processor with 4,096 levels of gradation, 2-D chroma enhancement, 2-D luma enhancement, dynamic sharpness and adaptive noise reduction, and Resolution+ (formerly known as Super Resolution Technology) 1080p up-conversion technology, first introduced last fall.

Ramirez said Resolution+ was designed as a long-term architecture that will eventually be scaled to apply to ultra-high-resolution panels expected to come in the future. For the lines the circuitry has been enhanced with additional corner and edge sharpness, to help convert both standard-definition and sub-1080p high-definition signals.

Models in the Regza series introduce new cosmetic designs with hidden speakers and a color shading effects called Deep Lagoon. Ramirez said the design uses color accent shading on the bezels to resemble the look of beach sand that gradually fades as the water gets progressively deeper further from shore.

The XV645 Regza series will feature the Deep Lagoon cosmetic effect across a the bottom edge of the gloss-black bezel using sliver shading, while leaving the sides and top a solid black. Models will include the 40-, 46- and 52-inch screen sizes, all of which will feature FullHD 1080p resolution, and 120Hz motion adjustment technology and the Dolby Volume automatic sound leveling system, which previously has been found only in A/V receivers in the United States.

The line will also include AutoView ambient-light-sensing and picture compensation technology that adjusts picture brightness and other parameters including color temperature to match the light levels in the surrounding room. All will ship in May at prices to be announced.

The step-up ZV650 series adds to that feature set a full Deep Lagoon design effect with silver shading around all four sides of the bezel on top of a high-gloss black finish that extends to even on the back of the set. The series also introduces Toshiba's new ClearScan 240 motion smoothing technology that further clarifies blurring of fast moving images.

Ramirez explained the ClearScan 240 process uses 120Hz processing combined with a backlight scanning technique that inserts stops between the frames to trick the brain into perceiving 120 frames as 240, significantly reducing perceived motion blur in the process.

Ramirez said the ClearScan 240 system achieves the same effect as full 240Hz frame rate technology but at significantly less cost.

The ZV650 models include the 42-, 47- and new 55-inch screen sizes in 1080p resolution. All add four HDMI-CEC inputs with IR emitters for control of hidden components, Deep Color capability, Audicy sound enhancement, a USB input and SD card slot for JPEG, MP3 and video images, and a next-generation connectivity pack with faster switching between HDMI sources. All three models will ship in March at prices to be announced.

The new Regza flagship SV670 series will introduce Toshiba's first LCD TVs using LED backlighting with local-dimming technology. The technology is said to offer significantly improved contrast performance and color saturation.

Models will be offered in the 46- and 55-inch screen sizes starting in May and add to the ZV650 feature set an Infinity flush-front bezel look that is designed to resemble the edgeless illusion of an Infinity swimming pool. The design uses one sheet of glass across the entire front of the set and a Crystal Coat coating to eliminate screen glare.

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