Competition between the two leading flat-panel display technologies appears to have been run and won, but a third technology is emerging that may boost quality and cut costs. Liquid-crystal displays (LCDs) brought us electronic calculators, digital watches and handheld games. But it was the invention of colour LCDs that truly unleashed the LCD's potential and drove the development and market for notebook computers. At the same time, larger screens have been mostly the domain of plasma panel displays (PDP), thanks to its technological advantages. These days, the main competition between LCD and PDP is in the 30-inch to 60-inch market. Conventional wisdom is that PDP is better for 32-inch or larger displays, while 28-inch or smaller displays are best served by LCDs. 'What is the best solution for the large-size market? I do not know yet. But price is going to be the key,' said Kuen-Yao Lee, president and chief executive of LCD maker AU Optronics and electronics company BenQ. AboutPlasma.com, an industry-sponsored plasma-education Web site, says plasma is faster, brighter, and has a wider viewing angle. This was true a few years ago, but thousands of man-hours and billions of dollars of investment have helped thin-film transistor LCD to catch up. A third technology that has exciting possibilities involves organic light-emitting diodes (OLED). Experts agree that OLED has many superior qualities: it is very bright, has high contrast, fast response-times, wide-viewing angle and requires low-voltage. On the face of it, OLED ought to be the leader. But is has one big problem. According to Ching Tang, a research engineer at Kodak who invented OLED, the technology degenerates quickly. After just 400 hours of use, the brightness of OLED pixels falls 10 per cent for blue pixels, a significant amount that can be seen easily by the naked eye. 'Organic LED is not known for its long life; we have been waiting on that for years,' Mr Tang said. But its low-component count and similarity to LCD puts OLED in a strong position should the degeneration problem be solved. If that day comes, consumers can expect better and cheaper monitors and TVs, leaving the cathode-ray tube for dead. For now, however, LCD and PDP technologies are continuing to improve, particularly in terms of refresh rates. The refresh rate is how quickly the screen updates the information being displayed. For standard-PC use such as browsing and word-processing, users would not be able to tell the difference. But a faster refresh rate is critical for televisions. Aboutplasma.com says the refresh rate for LCDs generally take more than 20 milliseconds and, for plasma, less than 20 milliseconds. But latest TFT-LCD displays from Taiwan's AG Neovo, for example, site a refresh rate of 15 milliseconds. An advantage of LCDs is the number of driver integrated circuits (ICs), the electronics board that controls the signals to the panel. The Taiwan semiconductor industry, which dominates the market, has spent a lot of time and effort boosting technology and cutting costs for LCD driver ICs, whereas far less effort has been put into PDP. 'In terms of resolution, I do not think PDP will be able to catch up for high-definition TV. But it is still too early to tell who will be the final winner,' he said. The indication from Mr Lee and dozens in the industry is that so much time and money has gone into LCD that technological advances are bound to strip PDP of any remaining edge.