What is Sony’s Triluminos technology and how does it make Sony TVs better?

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Sony Bravia X9300D

There’s no denying the fact that although flat-screen TVs were all the rage a decade or so back. However, the underlying LCD technology backbone has gotten long in the tooth. Now before you say that’s not true because LED TVs rule the roost now, you might be surprised to know that the so-called LED TVs use the same LCD panels with more power efficient LED backlighting instead of the regular CCFL backlighting. These LED TVs are for all intents and purposes the same ol’ LCD TVs.

There have been efforts to bring life back into LCDs with gimmicks such as 3D technology, integrated smart TV hardware, motion interpolation, and host of other electronic image processing gimmicks to improve picture quality, but none has managed to make any significant improvement to LCDs. However, Sony is well regarded for making quality LCD panels and it has applied considerable marketing muscle behind its Triluminos brand of LCD TVs. While everyone agrees that the Triluminos branded Sony TVs look better and produce more vibrant colours than regular LCD televisions, no one really knows exactly what does Sony’s proprietary technology entail.

Well, if you have come here with this burning question, read on to find out exactly what Triluminos technology does for Sony TVs. However, before we get down to understanding what makes a Sony TV tick, we need a crash course on why LCD TVs suck so much. That’s primarily because LCD televisions are inherently transmissive displays. Unlike plasma and OLED panels, wherein each pixel of these displays emits light, LCD panels have to reply on a separate source to generate light. In other words, while emissive displays such as plasma and OLED TVs rely on a simple unified pixel to generate light and colours on its own, an LCD panel goes about this business in a rather complicated manner.

tv_guide_lcd_diagram
LCDs are complicated and inefficient

What’s wrong with LCD technology?

LCD TVs basically create a moving picture by the means of blocking and bending light generated by an external source such as the backlight. It uses a complicated array of liquid crystals do perform the aforementioned bending and blocking of light. However, this gets even more complicated. To bend light effectively, the said backlight produced by CCFL tubes or phosphor coated LED lamps has through pass through an array of polarising filters to ensure correct orientation of the light waves. Let’s not forget that each time the backlight has to pass through a filter, there’s some degree of loss of light intensity and that, in turn, reduces the overall brightness and contrast of the resulting picture.

Now, this polarised light has to pass through the liquid crystal array, which bends and blocks light to reproduce colours and modulate brightness. But elementary physics dictate that bending and blocking light isn’t all that easy, and therefore using liquid crystals is probably the worst possible way to control crucial picture parameters. Nevertheless, this modulated backlight has to pass through another array of red, green, and blue filters. These additional filters form the sub-pixels and are essential for ensuring correct colour reproduction. Did I mention that each additional filter tends to sap brightness and contrast?

It’s no surprise then that LCD panels are not only plagued by poor contrast and colour reproduction issues, but this complicated method of polarising, filtering, bending, and blocking of light tends to add other issues such as severe degradation of picture quality with wider viewing angles and piss poor pixel response times brought upon by the sluggishness of liquid crystals. That’s why traditional LCD televisions have always produced inaccurate colours along with a washed out, low contrast picture plagued with slow response times and poor viewing angles.

Triluminos: An antidote to LCD issues

Sony’s Triluminos technology is an antidote to some (if not all) of these major problems afflicting LCD televisions. To explain what Triluminos in a sentence, it allows Sony TVs to reproduce a colour gamut that’s 50 percent wider than conventional LCDs, while rendering colours that are more saturated, vivid, and accurate. However, at the heart of it, Triluminos technology is little but a fancy marketing term used by Sony to denote quantum dot technology. And quantum dot technology by itself doesn’t replace LCDs, but rather builds upon the existing technology to reduce some of its major limitations.

At the heart of Sony’s Triluminos and quantum dot technology are quantum dots. These are basically light emitting nanoparticles (and quite small at 2 to 10 nanometres) that emit a very specific hue of light when excited either electrically or another external source of light. The ones used in Sony TVs enhanced with the company’s Triluminos tech have the latter kind of quantum dots that are excited by a special backlight. In Triluminos branded Sony TVs, the standard LED backlight is replaced by special LED backlight arrays that emit monochromatic blue light instead of white light.

Triluminos TVs do away with the traditional white backlight because it’s quite difficult to reproduce pure white light, and standard LED backlighting technology therefore contains many colour impurities that affect colour accuracy. Triluminos TVs instead rely on monochromatic blue light for a number of reasons, one of which is the higher intensity of the blue light spectrum. A Triluminos equipped Sony TV works by employing a pure blue light source and mixing it with red and green light sources to create pure white light.

Quantum Dots
Quantum dots help LCD TVs push back against OLED technology

Leveraging Quantum Dots

This is where Quantum Dot nanocrystals come into play. Interestingly, the presence of a quantum dot layer sandwiched in between the blue LED backlight and the polarisation, liquid crystal, and colour filter arrays is what essentially separates a Triluminos and regular LCD TV. This film contains quantum dot nanocrystals that emit colour when excited by an external light source. However, the colour of these nanocrystals can be controlled by varying their size. In a Triluminos TV, this nanocrystal film has crystals of two sizes – big ones with a diameter of approximately 50 atoms that glow red and smaller ones with the diameter of about 30 atoms that emit green light.

This film leverages the property of nanocrystal to emit pure reds and greens depending upon the size of the crystals. What you have here is the ability to emit bright and highly monochromatic light of a specific colour. All a Triluminos display has to achieve is, use the pure blue light to excite the big and small nanocrystals to produce pure red and green light. That’s how you get pure monochromatic red, blue, and green light sources, which in turn combine to produce pure white light. This is something that isn’t quite possible with a regular LCD and this dramatically increases the colour accuracy of an LCD panel.

This allows Triluminos panels within high-end Sony TVs to reproduce a much wider colour gamut than it is possible with regular LCD TVs. The colours are also more accurate and have greater saturation and vividness than plain vanilla LCD TVs. This inherently superior picture quality is then further enhanced with dedicated image processors that make up Sony’s X-Reality Engine, which uses a bunch of algorithms and image processing routines to further enhance the sharpness, contrast, and colours. However, at the end of the day, a Triluminos panel uses quantum dots to improve colour reproduction, but it still has most of the LCD shortcomings of viewing angles and slower response times.


Content peddler by day and avid gamer by night, Nachiket has been obsessed with computers since the days of the 8086. He has worked with some of the reknowned tech publications and media houses like UTV, Network 18, Digit, Chip, TechTree, Tech2, International Business Times Australia, and DNA. His free time is meant for tinkering with hobby grade R/C, or just sharpening his knives. He also has a kitten named Nigel and is ready to give up his aquariums for him.