What is an OLED TV?

An OLED TV screen uses a new display technology called OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diodes). OLED technology enables displays that are brighter, more efficient, thinner and feature better refresh rates and contrast than either LCD or Plasma displays. Simply put, OLED TVs deliver the best picture quality ever!

LG EG9600 photo

OLED TV technology

OLED displays are made by placing thin films of organic (carbon based) materials between two conductors. When electrical current is applied, light is emitted. OLED displays are emissive and unlike LCDs, do not require a backlight (unlike LCDs). OLED TV panels offers several advantages over LCDs:

  • Faster refresh rate, better contrast (true blacks) and better color reproduction
  • Better form factor - OLED enables much thinner panels
  • Better viewing angle - almost 180 degrees
  • Efficiency - in an OLED display, only the lit pixels draw power, unlike in an LCD.)
  • OLED panels can potentially be made flexible and/or transparent - think rollable TVs!

OLED TVs on the market - what can you buy today?

As of 2017, only LG Display produces commercial OLED TV panels (China's BOE is initiating small-scale production). LG Electronics has several OLED TV models on the market - ranging in size from 55" to 77". LG's latest range of OLED TVs all support 4K (UHD) resolution and HDR. Reviews of OLED TVs are terrific, and most experts and consumers agree that OLED TVs are the best TVs ever produced - with virtually perfect image quality.

LG Display also supplies panels to other companies - including Panasonic, Sony, Grundig, Philips, Metz, Loewe, Skyworth, Changhong, Haier, Konka and others. The following table shows some of the prominent 2017 OLED TVs available in the US:

Entry level 55"/65" ($1,999 / $2,799)
LG OLEDG7 photo
High end 65"/77" ($4,999 / $9,999)
Wallpaper 65"/77" ($7,999 / $30,000)

In August 2013, Samsung launched an OLED TV as well, the KN55S9C, that used Samsung's own OLED TV panels. Samsung stopped producing and marketing the S9C OLED TVs soon afterwards and is currently focused on quantum-dot enhanced LCDs (and perhaps Micro-LED will be Samsung's future TV display technology of choice).

Direct Emission vs WRGB

The most straightforward OLED architecture uses 3 color OLED sub-pixels (Red, Green and Blue) to create each 'pixel'. This is referred to as a direct emission OLED, and is the design used in mobile OLED displays (for example those in Samsung's Galaxy S8 and Apple's iPhone X.

For its OLED TVs, however, LG Display is using a different architecture, called WRGB (or WOLED-CF) which uses four white OLED subpixels (each created by using both blue and yellow OLED emitters) with color filters on top (RBG and W). The WRGB technology (developed by Kodak and now owned by LG Display) was found to be easier to scale-up for large-area OLED production, although it suffers from lower efficiency and more complicated design.

Rollable and transparent OLED televisions?

Like we said before, OLEDs can be made flexible, or transparent. Both LG and Samsung demonstrated large 55" transparent and mirror OLED prototypes, and LGD already demonstrated 77" rollable and transparent OLED panels, which it plans to commercialize by 2020. These kinds of technologies are exciting - and while it will be some years before they reach the market, they could eventually redefine the TV of the future.

LGD 18'' rollable OLED prototype (CES 2016)
Samsung Display 55'' transparent OLED photo

Further reading

Latest OLED TV news

DSCC: OLED materials to grow at a 20% CAGR to reach $2.25 billion in 2022

Nov 17, 2017

DSCC released a new market report which tracks the OLED materials market. According to DSCC's estimates, the OLED material revenues will reach $905 million in 2017 and will grow at a 20% CAGR to reach $2.25 billion in 2022. Note that these numbers do not include royalty payments.

OLED Materials sales forecast (DSCC 2016-2022)

DSCC sees the small/medium display materials growing at a 22% (from $586 million in 2017 to $1.56 billion in 2022) - and growing faster than OLED TV materials (CAGR 16%) as ink jet printing, which will begin to be adopted in 2020 will result in more efficient OLED deposition.

UBI: The price gap between premium OLED and LCD TVs is almost gone

Nov 16, 2017

UBI Research is tracking the price of premium TV sold on Amazon.com in the US. As competition intensifies, the price gap between OLED and LCD TVs keeps getting lower - to the point where is not much difference between a high end Samsung QLED TV and LG's OLEDC7 OLED TVs.

LCD vs OLED TV price gap, (UBI Research, 2016-2017)

In December 2016, the price gap between a 65" LG OLED TV to a 65" Samsung SUHD TV was about $1,000. The price gap as of today is only about $300. The price gap for a 55" TV is even lower (around $200).

OLED Microdisplays Market Report

IHS: The production price gap between a 55" OLED TV and a 55" LCD is about 2.5 times

Nov 02, 2017

According to IHS, production costs of 55" 4K OLED TVs have declined 55% from the beginning of 2015 to Q2 2017. IHS estimates that it costs $582 for LGD to produce a 55" OLED panel, and the price will continue to drop to reach $242 in 2021.

55'' TV production cost, LCD-vs-OLED (2015-2017, IHS)

In early 2017 the cost of a 55" OLED TV is about 2.5 times the production cost of an equivalent 4K LCD TV panel. The price gap has narrowed as it was 4.3 times back in Q1 2015. The price in material cost is currently around 1.7 times - but other factors such as yields and depreciation increase LGD's production costs.

The Korea Government approves LG's Guangzhou OLED TV fab

Nov 01, 2017

In July 2017 LG Display announced that it has decided to build a 8.5-Gen (2200x2500) OLED line in Guangzhou, China, to make OLED TV panels. The Korean government hesitated whether to approve this plan, as it sees OLED as a strategic technology Korea' economy and this is the first time a Korean company plans to build an OLED fab outside of Korea.

LG Display's LCD fab in Guangzhou, China

According to a rather confusing report from Business Korea, it seems that the Korean Government committee decided to approve this plan, and LG is now free to start constructing its fab. The new fab, according to the initial plan at least, will be a joint-venture with the local government and LGD will hold a 70% share. The total cost for this fab will be KRW2.6 trillion ($2.3 billion USD).

LGD shipped over 200,000 OLED TV panels in September

Oct 31, 2017

LG Display announced that it has shipped over 200,000 OLED TV panels in September, over double the volume compared to September 2016. LGD is seeing high demand for its OLED TV panels, mostly from LG Electronics and Sony.

Sony XBR-A1E OLED TV, on sale in Tokyo (July 2017)

LGD expects OLED shipments to reach 210,00 units in November 2017. The company aims to produce 1.7 million OLED TV panels in 2017, and as new capacity comes on line the shipments in 2018 will reach 2.5 million panels.

LGD: OLED holds 25% of the premium TV market share in Europe, details its product roadmap

Oct 29, 2017

During a press event in the UK, LG Display said that OLED technology holds 25% of the premium TV market in Europe. The company defines this market as TVs sold over 1,300 Euro. The market share in Benelux and Italy is 35% and in the UK it is 31%.

LG OLED premium TV market share 2016-2017

LGD also detailed its product roadmap. All of its OLED TVs in 2017 support 4K, and the company hopes to add 8K support in 2019 - when it will also release 80" OLEDs.

DSCC: Here's why LGD wants to build its new OLED TV fab in China

Oct 29, 2017

In July 2017 LG Display announced that it has decided to build a 8.5-Gen (2200x2500) OLED line in Guangzhou, China, to make OLED TV panels. This is the first time a Korean company plans to produce OLEDs outside of Korea, and the Korean government is still considering whether to approve this plan as it sees OLED as a strategic technology Korea' economy.

55'' OLED TV panel production cost, 2016-2022 China vs Korea (DSCC)

Beyond lower-wages in China compared to Korea and the proximity to the huge Chinese market, LG is looking for a subsidy from the local government. LG Display's Guangzhou OLED line is supposed to be a joint-venture with the local government, where LGD will hold a 70% share.

DSCC: LGD will start mass producing top-emission OLED TV panels in 2019

Oct 27, 2017

LGD's current OLED TV panels use a bottom-emission architecture, but according to DSCC LGD is aiming to shift their production process to a top-emission design starting in 2019. LG currently has a pilot capacity of about 3,000 monthly top-emission substrates, and plans to start mass production (with over 10,000 monthly substrates) in 2019.

Toshiba X97 photo

DSCC says that top-emission will be required for 65" 8K panels as a bottom-emission design will not be bright enough with such a high density. The shift to top-emission will increase the aperture ratio (=brightness) by around 10%.

DSCC: Ink-Jet printing could lead to 17% cost reduction in 55" OLED TV production

Oct 27, 2017

LG Display currently produces all its OLED TV panels using an evaporation (VTE) process. Market research company DSCC says that ink-jet printing is more efficient than current VTE processes as it will result in simpler displays (no need for color filters, for example, as used by LG's current WRGB displays). Ink-Jet printing will also enjoy lower depreciation costs and lower indirect expenses such as water and electricity.

55'' OLED TV cost evaporation vs Ink-Jet (DSCC, 2017)

DSCC estimates that an ink-jet printed 55" OLED TV panel will cost 17% less to produce compared to a VTE produced panel. An ink-jet printed panel will theoretically be significantly brighter (as the color filters absorb a large portion of the light), however solution-based OLED materials have traditionally lagged behind evaporation ones (Merck though says that the latest soluble materials are on-par with evaporation ones).

LGD reports its financial results for Q3 2017, sees increased OLED TV shipments

Oct 25, 2017

LG display reported its financial results for Q3 2017 - revenues increased 4% over 2016 to reach $6.18 billion and operating profit increased 81% and reached $520 million.

LG Display 2017 Q3 earning results slide

LGD reported that it has increased its OLED TV panel shipments as it increased production capacity, and its wallpaper OLED TVs have received "excellent responses in the market". LGD says it will continue to focus on OLED products as part of its long-term preparation for the future.

Kyulux - Hyperfluoresence OLED emittersKyulux - Hyperfluoresence OLED emitters