Pioneer brings back gas plasma displays—this time for $22,000

Gas plasma displays, which seemed to have a bright future in mid-1980s monochrome
portable computers, have made a comeback in color.

The displays work by heating up a gas until it turns into charged particles, which
excite a phosphorescent layer that displays vivid colors.

Pioneer New Media Technologies Inc., of Long Beach Calif., is one of the few companies
now shipping gas plasma color monitors. Most CRT and LCD vendors are months or years away
from releasing plasma products.

Pioneer makes no other kind of monitor. Its 50-inch, 4-inch-thick display can show 16
million colors at 1,280- by 768-pixel resolution. Its picture quality ranks with the best
in the market. The downside is price—the 50-incher costs $22,000.

Samsung Display Devices Co. of Choongchungnam Do, Korea, makes a 42-inch plasma monitor
that runs at 852-by-480 resolution.

Other companies such as NEC Computer Systems Division, a division of Packard Bell NEC
Inc. of West Lake Village, Calif., are entering the gas plasma display market, but all the
large models at present have price tags hovering around $20,000 for acceptable resolution.

Now that LCD is becoming the monitor of choice for desktop as well as portable
computers, LCD prices are coming down. Gas plasma might well supplant LCD someday because
of its superlative picture quality, tiny footprint and light weight.

For the time being, gas plasma’s price is prohibitive, but the same thing could
have been said about LCD a few years ago.

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