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Sony’s new LCD: a CRT killer?

17 May 2007

One of the top concerns for systems engineers at present is that grade one CRT monitors are now largely unavailable and, until now, there has not been a viable replacement. With the introduction of an LCD display into its BVM range, however, Sony hopes to change that, writes Dick Hobbs.

The BVM-L230 is a 23-inch monitor designed for master applications. It is a true HD display (actually 1920 x 1080) with a 10-bit driver and a backlight grid of red, green and blue LEDs. According to the presentation at the monitor’s launch these LEDs are controlled by 12-bit digital electronics, although this is just for absolute consistency across the display and the backlight is not dynamically controlled to stretch the contrast.

That said, the contrast appeared very good indeed, with solid blacks not greys suggesting that it met its specified 1000:1 contrast ratio. Colour gamut is more than a match for EBU, SMPTE and even digital cinema standards. Each display is factory calibrated for colour, with a colour feedback system available to maintain precise alignment. The backlight is guaranteed for 50,000 hours. Viewing angle is 178˚.

The initial demonstration used 24p material: it looked sensational but 24p content can make a lot of displays look good. Sony has gone a long way towards making this a real world monitor, though.

The drive electronics operate at up to 120Hz, which allows it to use some tricks to get good monitoring even with interlaced signals without the need to de-interlace them. The black insertion mode uses double scan rates to alternate pictures with black frames to minimise motion blur. The demonstration material included some interlaced images with ridiculously fast text crawls — which screwed the other LCD monitors on display but looked perfectly crisp and clean on the BVM-L230.

The display itself was very fast, with less than 10 milliseconds response time. The Sony people present at the launch were disarmingly honest in response to questions, admitting that as the product is not due to be deliverable until after IBC, some of the specifications were yet to be finalised. They did suggest, though, that latency through the monitor and its drive electronics would be less than half a frame.

So is the BVM-L230 the HD monitor we have all been waiting for? It certainly seems to go a long way towards it, providing good master-quality reproduction. There remain a couple of issues, though.

First is price. At the UK launch event a “tentative” price of _15k was offered. However, the BVM-L230 does not come with any inputs (apart from a not particularly useful DVI-D port). Input modules go into one of four slots. These include HD-SDI and dual link, but the cost of these additional modules will push the price up over that of the CRT that the new monitor replaces.

The other issue is size. The BVM-L230 has an actual viewing area of 22.5″ diagonal, which is probably a bit small for many applications. The next model to be added, according to Sony, will be a 42″ panel which will really only be suitable for post house hero suites. At the launch there was pressure from leading UK broadcasters for a 32″ model. Again, Sony was honest in admitting that it could not source 32″ LCD panels of suitable quality.

If you need a grade one monitor and can live with the 23″ size, though, the Sony BVM-L230 looks like setting the standard.

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