LEDs Gaining Market Share, Even in 32in Segment

The narrowing price gap between LEDs and CCFLs is driving the former to become the mainstream backlight technology in China.

With costs falling three to four times faster than those for CCFLs, LEDs are set to dominate LCD backlight technology in China. Presently, most small and midsize LCD modules for mobile and portable devices incorporate screens with LEDs as their light source. DisplaySearch even projects LED-backlit units will outstrip CCFL/EEFL backlights for large-area TFT-LCD panels by 2011 and bring about 74 percent market penetration by 2013.

The narrowing price difference between LEDs and CCFLs is helping the former gain visibility, particularly in the 14 to 24in segment. Such models are currently 3 to 15 percent more expensive than their CCFL counterparts, with the discrepancy ranging between $3 and $15. Because the price gap is small, Hong Kong THTF Co. Ltd overseas business department general manager David Xiao said it is easier for end-users to focus more on the additional features than on the extra cost. These include an ultraslim appearance, low energy consumption, mercury-free components, greater dynamic contrast, and a wider and deeper color range.

Positive response to products with 14 to 24in LED-backlit screens has encouraged more manufacturers to engage in the line, which is then driving costs further down. Midsize monitors and TVs presently account for half of China’s exports of LED devices.

At Shenzhen Hasee Computer Co. Ltd, 80 percent of laptops and all netbooks have LED backlights. Just a year ago, only 20 percent of its laptops came with LED-backlit LCD modules. In fact, many laptop companies in mainland China have increased their share of LED-based products in the past year, especially since most upstream LCD module suppliers are replacing CCFLs with LEDs. For instance, AUO, one of Taiwan’s major TFT LCD manufacturers, is planning to convert all of its LCD module production lines for monitors from CCFLs to LEDs by 2012.

Weihai Daewoo Electronics Co. Ltd, meanwhile, is expecting its range of 14 to 23.5in LED-backlit LCD TVs to constitute 15 to 20 percent of total sales this year.

LEDs inch their way to large screens

For TVs with monitors measuring 32in and above, the discrepancy between LED- and CCFL-backlit versions is 30 to 50 percent. Even so, quotes for the former are falling faster than those with CCFL backlights. Prices of 32in LED-backlit LCD TVs declined 15 to 20 percent over the past six months. In the same period, quotes for the same size CCFL-backlit model dropped less than 5 percent.

In fact, the situation in the laptops line may be replicated in the TVs industry. Guangdong Changhong Electronics Co. Ltd’s exports of LED-backlit TVs grew 210 percent over the past year, and are projected to account for 20 percent of the company’s total LCD TV overseas sales in 2010. Screen sizes range from 18.5 to 55in.

Likewise, from a 15 percent export share, Hong Kong THTF is forecasting 15.6 to 42in LED-backlit TVs to contribute 40 percent to total sales this year.

Edge-LEDs constitute the bulk of devices made in China. While these cost less than RGB dynamic LEDs, the technology makes ultrathin TVs possible.

Apart from the growing manufacturing pool that is pulling costs down, Guangdong Changhong believes the freefall in prices comes as a result of the development of superbright, high-powered LED chipsets. A TV panel generally uses between 1,000 and 4,000 standard LEDs, but only several hundred of these superbright versions.

By alpha