Slim LED-backlit Notebooks Dominate Laptop Market

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The market for slimmer notebook PCs with LED backlights (including 9.1″ and larger netbooks) is forecast to double its share, from 16% in Q1’10 to 31% in Q4’10. According to the latest DisplaySearch Quarterly LED Backlight Panel Shipment & Forecast Report, LED backlight penetration in notebook PCs grew rapidly from 36% in Q1’09 to 81.5% in Q1’10. Based on these figures as well as shipping forecasts, notebook PC panel makers are expecting to nearly eliminate CCFL-backlit notebooks from the notebook PC market by 2011.

Laptop screens feature two types of LED backlights: slim and wedge type. Both use different light guide plate (LGP) technology compared to traditional screen designs. The slim format reduces the panel thickness to 3.0-3.6 mm, while the wedge type is in the 5.2-5.8 mm range. Slim LED backlights for notebook PCs require higher quality and thinner components, such as LED array and LGP, compared to the wedge type.

Slim type LED backlit screens also come with a $5 cost premium over wedge type panels because of those higher quality components, difficult assembly and limited yield rates of the light guide plates. Despite the greater expense and assembly issues, notebook manufacturers are placing a higher priority on slimmer form factors rather than production costs. In addition, the yield rate improves and costs decrease thanks to the economies of scale as more laptops start using the slim type display panels

Slim type LED display panels have been used widely in CULV-based notebook PCs with 10.1″, 11.6″, and 13.3″ screen sizes. However, the sales numbers for CULV notebook PCs have been disappointing for many brands. To create a larger and more diverse market segment, some panel makers are promoting a full product lineup of slim type notebook panels this year and are reducing the panel price gap between slim and wedge as the slim volume increases.

Hidetoshi Himuro, DisplaySearch Director of IT Market Research in Japan, said: “The slim type backlight has advantages such as a shorter interface connection cable and easier electromagnetic interference (EMI) management. Meanwhile, the slim type panel design also benefits from the assembly locations for the wireless LAN antenna and other cables.”

Notebook Screen Backlight Percentage (on a unit basis)

Backlight Type Q3 ’09 Q4 ’09 Q1 ’10 Q2 ’10 Q3 ’10 Q4 ’10 Q1 ’11
LED Slim Type 7.6% 8.5% 15.9% 22.6% 26.7% 31.1% 34.9%
LED Wedge Type 58.8% 63.7% 65.6% 67.9% 69.5% 66.7% 63.5%
CCFL 33.6% 27.8% 18.5% 9.5% 3.7% 2.3% 1.6%

Note: Actual results up to Q1’10; data from Q2’10 based on panel makers’ shipment targets

Source: Quarterly LED Backlight Panel Shipment & Forecast Report

The team at NotebookReview.com is keeping an eye on the LCD panel market as notebook manufacturers offer an ever changing variety of screen types. It remains to be seen whether the shift from wedge LED to slim LED screens offers any tangible benefits to consumers (other than thinner laptops) but all indications are that old CCFL displays are as good as dead.

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