in September 2005
3LCD versus DLP
Gary Kayye, CTS
The ‘battle’ is just beginning.
start your engines—projector engines, that is.
Since 1998, Texas Instruments’
(TI) DLP division has out-marketed, out-maneuvered, out-published
and, according to many sales figures, even out-sold LCD
in virtually all of the leading projector vertical market
segments. I say “virtually” because there are
some markets that DLP hasn’t been playing in—but
when they do, they generally win: Digital Cinema, Staging,
Micro-portables, Ultra-portables, Portables.
Ah, but LCD has dominated
the meeting-room market. Not so fast: DLP has had products
for that vertical market category for only 16 months. It’s
too early to call a winner in this category, but right now,
this is where LCD still dominates.
Why is it that DLP dominates?
Is DLP technology that much better?
Truthfully, not really. In
fact, I believe TI’s magic is not necessarily in the
technology as much as it is in the marketing. Hands-down,
TI’s marketing just simply BLOWS AWAY anything the
individual 3LCD companies have done thus far. But earlier
this year, a consortium of 3LCD projector manufacturers,
including Epson, Sony, ViewSonic, Hitachi, Panasonic, Sanyo,
Fujitsu, Avio and Daewoo, announced that it is fighting
back with a 3LCD marketing campaign. In the initial announcement,
projector market analyst Dr. William Coggshall was quoted:
“3LCD is clearly the dominant microdisplay technology
worldwide when you look at the total number of customers
who have purchased front- and rear-projection products so
Coggshall, founder of Pacific
Media Associates, went on to say, “Based on our calculations,
over nine million projection products using 3LCD technology
have been purchased to date, surpassing any other microdisplay
technology on the market, and that figure continues to grow
at a rapid pace.”
True, but remember, 3LCD
had no DLP competition for more than six years while DLP
was still in development. In fact, I remember in 1996, when
TI was just starting to truly launch DLP technology, I went
to the DLP factory and was amazed. Not just with the technology—because
LCD technology is amazing in itself—but with the marketing
kit TI was readying. It included an educational CD (something
no one was doing at the time), a real DLP 640x480 chip,
white papers, an incredible article from Lars Yoder (still
the best written on DLP technology to date) and color connection
diagrams showing how the technology worked, all packaged
in a colorful cardboard box. It was the most professional
PR kit the professional AV industry had seen. This was real
And, TI continued this trend
with ads in major consumer print publications such as Forbes,
Wired, USA Today, Fortune and
many others, one of the most educational websites in the
professional AV market (www.dlp.com), great tradeshow booths,
parties and giveaways, and more and more educational materials.
All the while, Sony, Epson,
Hitachi, Sanyo, Mitsubishi and the like marketed their own
products, but hardly ever their technology or even their
technological improvements over the years.
This was the difference.
And, unfortunately for them, continues to be the difference.
Although the 3LCD logo is
nice and creative, and the small notepads and bags they
gave out at InfoComm were pretty, they still lack the breadth
of educational pieces that TI has. All you have to do is
go to the two websites and you’ll see that for yourself:
www.3lcd.com and www.dlp.com.
But, watch out DLP: 3LCD
is coming. And, instead of having the backing of just one
technology giant, 3LCD claims to now have the backing of
I believe it’s going
to come down to marketing. There is no denying that both
technologies are great. I used to teach a class, The Perfect
Image, where after evaluating all the great 3LCD and DLP
projectors, the class left with the impression that 3LCD
was the way to go when projecting computer images and DLP
was the way to go when projecting video. But, not anymore.
Now we see strengths in both for both applications: Depending
on what the content looks like, it may well look better
on a 3LCD projector than a DLP projector, or vice-versa.
But, when I walk into Circuit
City and listen to the salespeople talk to customers or,
as recently happened to me when a neighbor asked, “Isn’t
DLP technology better than LCD?”, that’s
marketing—great marketing. TI’s just been
out-marketing 3LCD. Now, with a consortium of LCD manufacturers
making up the 3LCD brand, the battle has truly begun.
This will be a great battle
to watch, but, will I watch it in my home theater on my
DLP projector or in my family room on my 45-inch LCD TV?
a member of Sound & Communications’ Technical
Council, is principal of Kayye Consulting. He was the ICIA’s
2003 Educator of the Year. Send comments to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.