|Pass the Popcorn|
Part 2: LCDs and Plasmas
By Diane M. Byrne — March 2002
The flat panels are comprised of LCD or plasma (really, gas plasma) screens. They’re compatible with video input and digital television signals, so you can still get your daily stock-market update from CNBC via satellite when you’re cruising the Caribbean. And as their name states, these TV screens are perfectly flat, eliminating much of the reflection and distortion found in conventional TVs and providing a wider viewing angle–something anyone who’s ever sat in a saloon can appreciate.
But perhaps the primary reason flat-panel televisions are becoming increasingly popular onboard boats is the space they save. The screens are thin enough that they can be mounted in a variety of places onboard even a small boat. While a 13-inch conventional television–easily found aboard any thirtysomething-footer–extends nearly a foot deep to accommodate the cathode ray tube, a flat-panel TV is just shy of four inches deep, regardless of whether its screen measures 15 inches or 60 inches. Boatbuilders can mount flat-panel screens right to a bulkhead, mount one to an arm that swings out or away as needed, or if space is really at a premium, install a small one–say, five inches–that flips out from beneath an eye-level cabinet. (Note to gadgetry addicts: Yes, even the five-inchers come with remote controls.)
But while the picture quality and mounting flexibility of these screens are attractive, what happens if a production or semicustom builder finds its buyers prefer having the television hidden from view when not in use? The trick is to conceal the TV yet still preserve usable space. The solution comes in the form of the pop-up lift systems that have also grown in popularity over the past few years; they’re as ideal for flat-screen televisions as they are for conventional televisions.
Even though these lift systems were created first for home use, they’re fashioned to keep the television stable, so they work well onboard. That’s important considering plasma screens are particularly susceptible to damage if they’re jostled. Fortunately, such mounting systems help counteract the effect of wave motion. Auton Motorized Systems of Valencia, California, which lays claim to being the largest manufacturer of television lifts and has worked with a handful of boatbuilders, uses a remote-controlled, rack-and-pinion design that it says eliminates wobble, particularly in comparison to the older "scissor-type" lifts. It’s made of welded-steel construction, so there are no breakable plastic parts or metal rivets that can loosen. And like many of the other traditional household products employed onboard boats, the lift operates on 120-volt/60-Hz A.C.
This article originally appeared in the February 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.