At CES 2016, Sony demonstrated its 'Backlight Master Drive" prototype LCD TV that is capable of pumping out 4000 nits of brightness, which is about 10 times higher than a conventional LCD and 4 times higher than the brightest HDR LCD TVs in the market. Sony wants to tell us that LCD has potential for more.
4000 nits of brightness
The 85-inch TV was located in the corner of Sonys CES booth and for now it is only a prototype. Sony wanted to show attendees that it can reach those brightness levels that some players in the film industry hope to achieve with HDR (high dynamic range).
The 4K TV had a full-array local dimming system and, according to Sony, over 1000 zones. They called it Backlight Master Drive. Sony claims that the TV can reach peak brightness levels of up to 4000 nits. Not in fullscreen mode, but in segments of the image. At the same time, the display can reach very deep black levels, which means that Sony can achieve a picture with extremely high contrast and amazing HDR picture quality.
Conventional LCD TVs typically reach up to 300-400 nits of brightness, whereas the latest HDR-capable LCD TVs (that are coming out this spring) will reach up to 1000 nits.
4000 nits is curiously the same goal that Dolby is aiming for with its Dolby Vision format. So when Hollywood studios grade content in Dolby Vision they aim for 4000 nits. However, the Dolby Vision name was nowhere to be found and Sony told us that the TV did in fact not support Dolby Vision at this time. At the moment, only LG, TCL, And Vizio support Dolby Vision in TVs.
The image looked spectacular. The zones managed to control the light very precisely, thus eliminating any halo artefacts (at least during our demo) and avoiding detail loss in shadows and highlights. The black tones were very deep and the brightest tones were incredibly bright; at times so bright that you were forced to squint. The colors were rich and vivid as the TV reproduced a wide color gamut. It is probably the best HDR image we have seen on an LCD TV.
Sony has no current plans to launch TVs based on the Backlight Master Drive system but it will introduce a scaled-down version called "Slim Backlight Drive" in its XD93 high-end TV later this year, whereas the flagship XD94 uses a full-array local dimming system. With the demonstration, Sony wanted to show us that we have not yet reached the full potential of the LCD technology and the company believes that this prototype even comes close to OLED. Sony is still researching OLED technology.