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.
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:
LG's 55" OLED TV
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). It's also coming to the US for $12,000. This is a Full-HD panel that features 100,000,000:1 contrast ratio and fast response time (1,000 times faster than LCD according to LG). The panel is only 4mm thick, and weighs just 3.5 Kg.
LG's TV is based on LG Display's Oxide-TFT white-OLED with color filters (WOLED, or WRGB, more on this below) OLED panel. LG are quite excited of this new TV - they call it calling it the "Ultimate Display" and they say that this is the "most transformational moment" in the TV industry since the introduction of the color TV 60 years ago.
Samsung's 55" Real OLED TV
Together with LG, Samsung also announced their own 55" OLED TV. First branded as "Super OLED TV", Samsung now calls them "Real OLED TVs" - to note the fact that Samsung are using 'True OLED' RGB subpixels, as opposed to LG's WRGB architecture, and also to differentiate its OLED TVs from LED TVs. The model number of Samsung's TV will be F9500, but the company did not reveal their launch plans yet.
Older OLED TVs
Actually LG's 55" OLED TV won't be the first OLED TV on the market. Back in December 2007 Sony started to offer the XEL-1 - which was more of a technology prototype than a commercial set - a small TV (11"), expensive (around 2,500$) 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.
So will 2013 be the year of the OLED TV?
LG's 55" OLED TV (the 55EM9700) is already on offer in Korea for $10,000, and it's also headed for the US soon. and we're pretty sure that Samsung will soon announce their own OLED TV launch. This is exciting, but remember that those TVs are terribly expensive, and will only be produced in small quantities (analsyts expect the OLED TV market to only reach about 500,000 units in 2014).
Hopefully the market reaction to these new premium TVs will be good, and both Samsung and LG will increase capacity and start real mass production which will bring the cost down dramatically. This is expected to happen during 2013-2014. Other companies (such as Sony and Panasonic, AU Optronics and others) are expected to enter the OLED TV market too in the coming years.
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.
This is exciting - but don't expect such OLED panels any time soon. What you can expect maybe sooner are "curved" OLED TVs. These use flexible OLED panels (which are not really bendable) for a more a life-like viewing experience. Both Samsung and LG unveiled 55" curved OLED TV prototypes at CES 2013.
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