What is an OLED TV?
An OLED TV screen uses a new display technology called OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diodes). OLED televisions are brighter, more efficient, thinner and feature better refresh rates and contrast than either LCD or Plasma. OLED TVs deliver the best picture quality ever.
A little bit about the technology
OLEDs are made by placing thin films of organic (carbon based) materials between two conductors. When electrical current is applied, a bright light is emitted. The OLED materials emit light and do not require a backlight (unlike LCDs). Each pixel is a small light-emitting diode, in fact. OLED TV panels offers several advantages over LCDs:
Samsung's OLED TVs
In August 2013, Samsung launched their first OLED TV, the KN55S9C - a 55" curved Full-HD set. The curved panel means that the distance from the viewer to the TV screen is the same from almost any angle - which makes for a better experience according to Samsung (but most people actually prefer flat panels).
Samsung's OLED TV features Multi-view (where two users can watch two different 2D programs using active-shutter 3D glasses) and it's also compatible with the company's Evolution Kit, ensuring that the TV is future-proofed. The TV weighs 27 Kg and is 5.3 inches deep. It is now shipping in the US for $8999, and in South Korea for 9.9 million Won (about $8,900).
Samsung also developed a flat 55" OLED TV, but it seems that these won't be released as commercial products any time soon. First branded as "Super OLED TV", Samsung now calls them "Real OLED TVs" - to note the fact that Samsung are using 'True OLED' RGB subpixels, as opposed to LG's WRGB architecture, and also to differentiate its OLED TVs from LED TVs. The model number of Samsung's TV will be F9500.
LG's 55" OLED TVs
In December 2011 LG officially announced their first commercial OLED TV, the 55" 55EM9700. In January 2013 LG announced that the TV is now on offer in Korea (for the small price of 11 million Won, or about $10,000) and in the UK. This is a Full-HD panel that features 100,000,000:1 contrast ratio and fast response time (1,000 times faster than LCD according to LG). The panel is only 4mm thick, and weighs just 3.5 Kg. LG considers OLED to be the "ultimate display technology".
LG said they expect to launch the flat OLED TV soon in the US, India and Israel, but in the mean time, like Samsung, the company is more focused on their curved OLED TV - the 55EA9800. LG's curved TV is shipping in Korea and in the US for $8,999.
LG's TV is based on LG Display's Oxide-TFT white-OLED with color filters (WOLED, or WRGB, more on this below) OLED panel. LG are quite excited of this new TV - they call it calling it the "Ultimate Display" and they say that this is the "most transformational moment" in the TV industry since the introduction of the color TV 60 years ago.
Older OLED TVs
Actually LG's 55" OLED TV won't be the first OLED TV on the market. Back in December 2007 Sony started to offer the XEL-1 - which was more of a technology prototype than a commercial set - a small TV (11"), expensive (around 2,500$) OLED TV that was only produced in small quantities. LG Themselves also used to offer the 1.7 mm thick 15" EL9500 OLED TV, which was also more of a technology demonstration, as the price was very high for a 15" display (around $2600 in Korea and €1,999 in Europe).
Direct Emission vs WRGB
The basic OLED TV design uses 3 color OLED sub-pixels (RGB: Red, Green and Blue) to create each 'pixel'. This is referred to as a direct emission OLED (or SBS, side-by-side), and is the design Samsung uses in their small displays and in their upcoming Super OLED TVs. Some companies are using a different architecture, called WRGB (or WOLED-CF) which uses four white OLED subpixels with color filters on top (RBG and W).
The WRGB technology was developed by Kodak (and the IP is now owned by LG Display), and it should make the OLED panel easier to make. However it will also be less efficient. LG Display's OLED TVs which will be released in 2013 will be based on this design, and indeed LGD managed to produce these panels before Samsung.
OLED TV status
Rollable transparent OLED televisions?
Like we said before, OLEDs can be made flexible, or transparent. In the future we might see an OLED displays that is actually rollable (LG for example is working on a 60" 4K rollable TV for 2017). So maybe you could just roll it when you want to watch some TV, and then remove it when not needed. Or perhaps the OLEDs will be so thin and transparent that they will just be invisible when not in use - you'll just see the bare wall, but when lit up, it'll display your TV picture.
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