by Robert Estel

While Japan is renowned for liking small and compact, there is one area of the electronics industry that has grown in size, all the while main­taining that slim-line look. And what could that be you ask? Well, that would be flat-screen televisions, of course, as Japan officially goes television crazy. It is all too commonplace nowadays to walk into any electronics store in Japan and see row after row of flat-screen televisions, as their existence has gradu­ally increased both in size and popularity over the last few years. Of course, this also means an increase in price too.

The fad for slim, widescreen televisions has gained momentum in the last few years, thanks, no doubt, to the Japanese government’s plan to phase out analog broadcasting in favor of terrestrial digital broad­casting. A plan they intend to implement by July 24, 2011. So what does this mean? In basic terms, your old clunky television will be obsolete in about four years. However, as efficient as ever, the Japanese electronics makers have come to the rescue with slim high defini­tion televisions that have built in, life-saving digital broadcast tuners. But enough technicalities, let’s look at what’s available.

All the current makers provide high definition flat screen televisions, but arguably the two most popular lines of flat screen televisions are Sharp’s AQUOS line and Sony’s BRAVIA line. Both have re­cently introduced new spring and summer models of all sizes, featuring all the important inputs, from HDMI for hooking up your Playstation 3 and hard disc recorders, to personal computer inputs. The new models also feature full high definition output of up to 1080i, however the actuality of it is that there are still few movies, broadcasts, and games that give the full output, as most HD broadcasts are done in the lower resolution of 720p. Unfortunate­ly, not a lot of people know this and will be charmed by the new sales tag of full HD television. Sharp has actually taken the reins and managed to implement full HD in televisions as small as 32 inches, whereas Sony’s line of full HD televisions currently start at 40 inches.

For those wanting top of the line televisions, the newly released AQUOS LC-32DS1 (32 inches) clocks in at a suggested price of around ¥250,000, while Sony’s nearest-in-size competitor, the Bravia BRAVIA KDL-40X2550 (40 inches) comes in at a whopping ¥418,000. Just to let you know the damage the larger size can do to your wallet, the AQUOS LC-65RX1W (65 inches) runs at ¥1,030,000. Those happy for an “older” fall model can find AQUOS flat screens for as low as ¥140,000 at your favorite elec­tronics store. All the more reason to stay at home and catch those high-definition broadcasts of 24 during the rainy season.