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CES: Sharp unveils TV displaying four primary colors for sharper picture

Sharp promo image featuring "QuadPixel" four-color technology. Courtesy Sharp Electronics Corp.

While other TV manufacturers were focusing on a third dimension for their pictures, Sharp homed in on a fourth color.

Company executives unveiled today their "four primary color" technology, Sharp's hope for a new edge over its rivals. LCD makers have traditionally relied on pixels in three colors -- red, green and blue -- to generate a broad palette of colors on screen. Sharp is adding a fourth, yellow, which increases the number of colors on screen to more than 1 trillion. That's about 1,000 times better than the previous approach, Sharp executives said.

Technical advantages are hard to maintain in the consumer-electronics industry, where innovations are quickly replicated and leapfrogged. And at the Consumer Electronics Show, often the breakthroughs amount to little more than clever marketing. So while it stands to reason that adding a fourth color to the mix will make a difference, I'm not sure that will translate into a great leap forward in the viewing experience.

Sharp helpfully put one of its older LED models next to the new ones with the "four primary color" technology, and the new models looked distinctly better. The colors -- all of them -- were warmer and richer. I can't say whether the same results could have been achieved, however, just by expertly adjusting the older TV's settings.

Anyway, the technology will be available this year on about a third of Sharp's flat-panel TVs -- typically, the larger LED-backlit screens. The new technology carries a premium of about $200. If it really is the next big thing in picture quality, expect to see similar moves by other manufacturers next year. It's also safe to predict that the price premium will drop rapidly over time.

And just in case four colors aren't as important to consumers as three dimensions, Sharp also plans to have a 3D TV on the market later this year. Just like the rest of the pack.

-- Jon Healey

Healey writes editorials for The Times' Opinion Manufacturing Division. Follow him on Twitter: @jcahealey

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