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Toshiba prototypes notebook screens

Toshiba is showing a flat panel display based on a new LCD display technology that will make notebook screens brighter, lighter, and more reliable.

LAS VEGAS--After almost a decade of painstaking research and development, at least one major liquid crystal display (LCD) manufacturer is finally preparing to ship a display which has been the holy grail for makers of these screens.

Toshiba is showing a prototype flat panel display based on a new LCD display technology that will make notebook screens brighter, lighter, and more reliable than models now on the market.

The Japanese firm has produced the first 12.1-inch active-matrix notebook screen manufactured using what is called the low-temperature polysilicon (LTPS) process. Smaller screens have been made with the new process, but Toshiba is the first to make a notebook-sized screen.

The technology allows notebook screens to display more information with more brightness than liquid crystal displays of comparable size. LTPS screens feature smaller circuits, which means more circuits can be patterned onto the glass, producing higher resolution displays. Current LCDs use a technology called amorphous silicon that doesn't allow for the same circuit density.

The LTPS screens also weigh less and are more reliable, and could cost as much as 60 percent less than their predecessors once volume manufacturing begins, according to company officials. These advantages derive from what Toshiba calls the "system-on-glass" design. In this scheme, the circuitry needed to drive the display is sandwiched between glass and plastic.

Typical displays used today in notebook PCs can't do this and, as a result, aren't as reliable.

Toshiba expects to move into full production of these screens in 1999. No pricing was available.

The company also showed a technology demonstration of a 15-inch active-matrix display that has a digital interface with the computer for higher definition. Most flat panel displays take the analog output from a monitor card designed for CRT displays (cathode ray tube) and translate it back into digital information, but this display eliminates that conversion process with a new card and connection to the monitor.

Toshiba says the display is expected to be available to manufacturers by mid-98 and will be priced at around $2,000 without the special monitor card.

Thin displays have been one of the hot hardware items throughout the Comdex show floor. IBM, Samsung, Mitsubishi, and others have been showing 14- and 15-inch-class displays that can serve as elegant, lightweight desktop monitors.