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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.

LG EG9600 photo

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:

  • Faster refresh rate, better contrast and better color reproduction
  • Thin and light: OLED TVs today are just 4 mm thick, and some OLED panel prototypes are merely 0.3 mm thick!
  • Better viewing angle - almost 180 degrees
  • Greener: OLEDs draw less power, and contain no toxic metals (that's almost true - OLEDs contain a trace amount of Iridium, a non-toxic heavy metal)
  • OLED panels can potentially be made flexible and/or transparent

What's on the market today

The only company that currently produces OLED TV panels is LG Display. LG Electronics has several OLED TV models on the market - ranging in size from 55" to 77". Some of these are flat, and some are curved (and the high-end 77EG9900 is a bendable TV). 

LG 55EC9300 photo
55" Full-HD curved TV ($1,999)
55" and 65" curved 4K OLEDs ($3,999 / $5,999)
LG EF9500 photo
55" and 65" flat 4K OLEDs ($5,499 / $6,999)
LG E9900 photo
77" bendable OLED TV

LG's cheapest OLED TV is currently the 55EC9300, a curved 55" Full-HD TV released in 2014 that is currently shipping for $1,999. All of LG's 2015 OLED TV models support 4K resolution. The curved 55" 4K 55EG9600 is now shipping for $3,999, while the 65" 65EG9600 is shipping for $5,999. LG's flat 4K OLEDs (the EF9500 series) are launching now for about the same prices.

LG Display also supplies panels to other companies (including Skyworth, Changhong, Haier, Konka and KTC in China) and is also collaborating with Panasonic and Grundig and Sony.

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.

In August 2013, Samsung launched an OLED TV as well, the KN55S9C. Samsung stopped producing and marketing the S9C OLED TVs soon, and is currently focused on quantum-dot enhanced LCDs. Hopefully Samsung will return to the OLED TV market soon.

Samsung curved OLED TV launch photo 2

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 Super OLED TVs - which are no longer in production as this technology is very difficult to scale up.

LG Display is 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 is a far easier technology to scale and thus results in cheaper panels However it will also be less efficient.

Rollable and transparent OLED televisions?

Like we said before, OLEDs can be made flexible, or transparent. LG is actually developing a 60" 4K rollable TV - with an aim to have it ready by 2017. This will indeed give TV designers a freedom of design and totally redefine the TV of the future.

Toshiba ultra-thin flexible OLED prototype photo
Samsung Transparent AMOLED, CES 2009 photo

Further reading