Japanese technology industry giant Panasonic has developed a new type of IPS LCD panel that the company says is capable of a contrast ratio in excess of a million to one. That's 1,000,000:1, to be clear, and that's a static contrast measurement, too, unlike the often fudged "dynamic contrast" figures. Assuming that Panasonic delivers on its word, that would mean these new panels are among the highest-contrast displays we usually see.
Contrast ratio, for those unfamiliar, is a measurement of the brightness value of the brightest versus darkest parts of a monitor. Companies frequently quote "dynamic" contrast ratios in excess of one million for their displays. Those abnormally high numbers are achieved by changing the monitor backlight's output level—or completely turning it off, in the case of "infinite" contrast.
By contrast (ahem), a monitor's static contrast ratio is the measurement that's actually useful, that is, the difference measured between the brightest white and darkest black the monitor can display at a fixed backlight setting. The very best TN and IPS LCDs have a static contrast ratio around 1200:1. Monitors using VA LCD panels can achieve much better contrast, up to around 5000:1. All of these measurements pale in comparison to the numbers Panasonic is bandying about for its new displays, though.
Panasonic says that to achieve such a ludicrous contrast ratio, its new panels utilize "newly-developed light-modulating cells." The new cells are made of liquid crystals, just like those in the color-modulating display cell. By applying these light-modulating cells behind the traditional IPS display cell, the monitor can control light transmission on a per-pixel basis. Panasonic says the new technology has no inter-pixel light leakage, too.
Of course, blocking light only gets you halfway to a good contrast ratio. Panasonic says the backlights it's using in the new displays can continuously shine at up to 1,000 cd/m². That's far too bright for normal use, but the company says the new panels are directly targeted at industrial and commercial applications. Brightness that high should make these new displays clearly legible even in direct sunlight.
It's difficult to blame Panasonic for going after the high-margin special-purpose market, but we hope these displays hit the mainstream market sooner rather than later. This technology will almost certainly make for displays that are more expensive than run-of-the-mill LCDs, but its stellar contrast sounds ideal for reproducing HDR content, and it's possible they'll still ring in for less than still-exotic OLED displays.
We obviously haven't seen one of the new displays in person yet, but we might not have to wait all that long. Panasonic says the new displays can be produced on existing manufacturing equipment, and that it will be shipping samples in January of next year. Hopefully we'll get to see one at the Consumer Electronics Show. Hat tip to Anandtech for the news.