I finally saw SED. One had to wait on line almost half an hour at the Toshiba booth, and see it in a standing-room-only (no seats) darkened theater to get a glimpse at the future of TV. Or, walk over to Canon's booth, where the line was a bit shorter. Each theater held about 30 people, (which may sound like a lot until you consider CES has about 150,000 attendees, lasts only 3 or 4 days, and this is probably the biggest thing to happen to screen technology since plasma hit the market.)
So how did it look? With the exception of one bad pixel, spotted by a couple of guys standing next to me who worked for a high end projector company (and who, like me, took the trouble of visiting both Toshiba and Canon), it looked superb. In contrast ratio alone, these screens are fantastic -- the darkened screening rooms really made sense here, as they allowed ones' eyes to see incredibly fine gradations of black and dark gray in the darkest areas of the picture, while simultaneously discerning many subtle gradations of white. A 100,000:1 ratio is claimed, and I believe it.
The screens in both exhibits appeared identical, but Canon called 'em 36" while Toshiba said they were 37". Go figure. In any event, this size 30-ish size won't go on sale initially -- the production units, which will first become available this year in Japan, next year in the U.S., will be 55". The screens were about four or five inches thick. The demo was 720p, but the 55" production units will be 1080p. Response time is less than 1-millisecond, they say.
Flesh tones and color in general appeared superb. My apologies if I seem to be gushing, but I wholeheartedly join the chorus: SED blows away LCD and plasma in picture quality. The image is markedly better, and it takes minimal eye training to see the difference. A high school temp working Circuit City for the holidays could easily handle the demo.
The decision to introduce, initially, a 55-inch screen no doubt reflects considerable calculation that it's a sweet spot in the competitive landscape. We've all seen plenty of examples where the technically superior technology lost out, but unless prices are outrageous, or they're unable to offer a variety of screen sizes to fill everyone's needs, it's hard to imagine any other reason why SED won't ultimately beat out everything else in flat panels away. Then again, this is a very price sensitive market, where CRT is still a dominant factor, and there may be some very aggressive pricing strategies to keep various screen technologies competitive in the years ahead as the SED story unfolds.
PS: If you don't already know the SED back story to all this, including the low-profile semi-secretive way that Canon and Toshiba have touted their joint venture, enter "SED" in the Search tool in the upper right corner.