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The AV debate: LCD vs Plasma

IN THE IN-ROOM TELEVISION CATEGORY CONTINUES TO RECEIVE A SUBSTANTIAL AMOUNT OF ATTENTION FROM THE MAJOR CONSUMER ELECTRONICS COMPANIES IN AUSTRALIA. THE LCD AND PLASMA BATTLE STILL EXISTS HOWEVER THE NEW AREAS OF INTEREST HAVE BECOME POWER EFFICIENCY, DIGITAL SPECTRUM SWITCHOVER AND THE EMERGING MARKET OF DIGITAL SIGNAGE.

WORDS JAMES WELLS

According to Philips Hospitality Sales Manager – Australia and New Zealand, Travis Anderson, during the current economic slowdown hotels are taking the opportunity to invest in technology including in-room televisions and digital signage.

“While the economy may be slowing down in some areas, we are starting to see an increase in refurbishments within the 4- to 5-star market. Hotels within this market segment are using this opportunity to re-establish themselves as market leaders by investing more in technology,” Anderson said.

Philips hospitality TV

Over the last 30 years, Philips has installed over seven million hotel TVs globally and boasts that it is the only company with a dedicated division to represent both television and lighting categories, particularly following the company’s recent Dynalite acquisition.
The latest products released by Philips include the Pro Hotel TV and System Hotel TVs which feature reduced power consumption and automatic standby when not in use.

While hoteliers are now understanding the differences between plasma and LCD, Anderson sees other issues now emerging in the category.

“It is interesting enough that we are going through the phase of switching off the analogue service here in Australia but now we have to contend with Free View as well. Many businesses are confused on what they require and whether or not they need to change their existing infrastructure to support DVBT.

“Within the Hotel segment this isn’t much of an issue as many of the properties have VOD, meaning they are not reliant on the standard free to air stations,” Anderson said.

Panasonic has traditionally been associated with in room television products featuring plasma technology as it takes advantage of its significant investment within its own manufacturing facilities. However with demand increasing for smaller screen sizes and for suppliers to offer a ‘one stop shop’ for hotels, the company will be releasing a range of products in the LCD category in the third and fourth quarters of the 2009 calendar year.
While the company remains tight-lipped about what exactly the LCD products will deliver, Mark Deere-Jones, Director, Business Systems Panasonic Australia is continuing to espouse the virtues of the alternative technology.

“The strength of plasma, especially in the larger screen sizes continues to grow,” he said.

“This is because the myths around burn in have been dispelled and because they represent superior value for money, as the size requirements increase. As more vendors continue to exit the market, customers are looking for a secure, established vendor who can provide a total solution, and can be confident in their future roadmap,” he said.
The hero product within the company’s plasma range is what they refer to as “the new king of flat panels”.

“The 65-inch Custom Home Theatre Plasma Panel offers broadcast quality similar to that used in TV stations and production houses,” Deere-Jones said.
“The world’s largest plasma at 103-inches still offers a unique large screen solution and our recently introduced high end projector DW12000 offers the opportunity to project full high definition on curved screens.  Finally for conferencing we are just about to introduce the latest interactive whiteboard which now includes integrated speakers,” Deere-Jones said.
According to Sharp Deputy Managing Director, Denis Kerr, several Australian hotels have been rushing to take advantage of the tax breaks leading up the 30 June deadline.

“Companies are just starting to realise that they are quickly running out of time, to achieve the delivery requirement of end of June to meet the guidelines for the additional 30 per cent depreciation claim for the 2008-2009 financial year. Recent activity has seen an exponential growth in enquiries, orders and delivery requests,” he said.
Digital switchover remains one the main areas of interest and Sharp is positioning itself as a leader in the category.
“The enlightened customers are fully focussed on future proofing and digital switchover. Whilst past buying habits were built around ‘in house systems’ provided by third party organisations allowing analogue hardware to be used, the future systems will require a more technology based interactive product which has digital capability,” he said.
Kerr said he is noticing more knowledgeable purchasers of flat panel products and as a result larger screen sizes are bring requested.
“Previously, the average screen size requested was 32-inches for rooms but now almost all customers are requesting a minimum of 37-inches or 42-inches and premium rooms attracting 46-inches or 52-inches,” he said.

“There has also been a universal switch away from plasma technology to LCD as Sharp is currently replacing plasma screens in almost all applications.”

At this stage, Sharp’s fastest selling product for rooms is the 42-inch (LC42D77X) LCD TV featuring 100 hertz and 1080P full high definition.
Sharp continues to pride itself in after sales service, however strategies need to be put in place by the hotel to maximise their investment in technology.

“Our experience is that failed Sharp units are almost non-existent. However we recognise that a hotel room becomes non-serviceable if the TV fails and this means loss of income. Sharp encourages all customers to build redundancy into their purchases by allowing for swap out units. In addition, the employment of business processes for fast tracking of any swap out unit back to a serviceable state is essential to maintain 100% availability of rooms,” he said.
Sharp’s products are manufactured in its Kameyama factory in Japan and Kerr believes that the ‘Made in Japan’ tagline still carries a message of quality and reassurance.
“With the recent withdrawal of several large brands from the Australian marketplace, the client has come to realise that OEM brands are not the masters of their own destiny. A true manufacturer of the product, in their own factories, provides peace of mind when making large investments of the Hotels money. Sharp is the only company that manufactures LCD panels in Japan and just as the Germans are known for their engineering expertise, the Japanese are equally recognised for their technical expertise.  As the first Company to commercialise LCD technology, Sharp quality has been proved over the past 40 years in manufacturing LCD technology,” he said.

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