DLP 5 Million Chips and Growing

The winner by acclamation?

By Cliff Roth

In less than a decade’s time, DLP has advanced from laboratory curiosity to mass market commodity, built-into millions of big-screen TV sets, and this extraordinary imaging technology keeps getting bigger and better. Last December Texas Instruments—the inventor and sole supplier of DLP microdisplay chips—announced the sale of their 5-millionth DLP chip. Don’t bother trying to decipher the acronym—DLP originally stood for Digital Light Processor years ago, but like DVD, it is now a non-acronym. Anyone remember the Digital Versatile Disc?

Five million of anything is a milestone indeed, but looking at it that way is a bit of lumping apples and oranges together, because today’s DLP chips are significantly improved from yesteryear’s. TI’s newest generation of DLP—announced this past January at CES, and due to arrive in rear projection TVs this summer—offers 1080p resolution, a significant advance over earlier 720p versions.

While Texas Instruments has taken great pains to brand “DLP” as a unified entity, there are in fact many different flavors of DLP, representing a variety of quality levels since the first commercial DLP chip was introduced—for business projector use—back in 1996.

And while the range of DLP-equipped products runs from $600 business projectors to quarter-million-plus dollar theatrical projectors, TI has its eyes squarely on the prize: Mass market big-screen TVs.

“In 2002, we calculated the market for $3,000 and above TVs was just 300,000 units worldwide,” said John R. Reder, Manager of Tabletop Television and DLP Home Entertainment Products for Texas Instruments. “In fact, in 2004, there were about 2 million of these TVs sold. We proved that if you delivered the value and picture quality, there were lots of people who would step up and pay that.”


At the high end—or should we say the super-high end of the DLP spectrum—there are projectors that no home theater enthusiast could afford, or be able to use. Designed for installation in movie theaters, “DLP-Cinema” represents the gold standard of DLP picture quality. It is currently the only electronic format for projection of Hollywood movies that has been approved by Hollywood.

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