What is an OLED TV?
OLED TVs use a display technology called OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diodes) that enables displays that are brighter, more efficient, thinner, flexible and with higher contrast and faster refresh rates than either LCD. Simply put, OLED TVs deliver the best picture quality ever!
OLED TV technology
Each pixel in an OLED TV emits light on its own (in fact each pixel is made from 3 different OLEDs, red, green and blue). OLEDs are truly emissive devices with a simple design which gives them many advantages over current LCD technology:
- Much higher contrast: in OLEDs we have true blacks as when a pixel is off it does not emit any light. In LCDs, the backlighting is always on and so true blacks are impossible to achieve. Even with high-end local dimming, the contrast of LCDs is simply no match for OLEDs.
- Higher refresh rates: OLEDs can switch on and off much faster than LCDs.
- Better power consumption: OLEDs only consume light on lit pixels - as opposed to LCDs who always need to use the backlighting. The power consumption of OLEDs depends on the image shown, but in most cases OLEDs will be more efficient than LCDS.
- Flexibility: the simple design of OLEDs enables next-generation flexible, bendable, foldable and even rollable displays. LG's amazing 65" rollable TV unveiled in 2019 would be very difficult to create (if not impossible!) using an LCD panel.
OLED TVs on the market - what can you buy today?
As of 2019, the only company that produces produces OLED TV panels is LG Display - making 55" to 88" OLEDs that offer the best image quality possible today. LGD is offering its OLED panels to many companies, including LG Electronics, Sony, Panasonic and many other companies.
LG's 2019 OLED TV line includes:
- The top of the range Z9 OLED TV which uses LGD's latest large 8K 88" OLED panel.
- The Wallpaper OLED W9 with its beautiful design
- The midrange OLED E9 and the new OLED C9, LG's "entry-level" OLED TVs.
- The world's first rollable OLED device - a TV that rolls into its base - the 65" Signature OLED TV R!
As of April 2019, LG is now shipping the OLEDC9 TVs - the 55" model costs $2,499 and the 65" model costs $3,499. The 77" model costs $6,999 and will ship in May 2019. LG is also shipping the higher-end OLEDE9 TVs - the 65" costs $4,299 while the 55" costs $3,299. You can still buy the LG's 2018 OLED TV lineup which includes the flagship Wallpaper OLEDW8 the high-end OLED-on-glass OLEDG8 and OLEDE8, the basic OLEDC8 and the entry level OLEDB8.
Sony's OLED TVs, based on the company's Android OS platform, are also very popular. Sony currently offers the high-end AF9 and AF8. Sony started shipping the AF8 TVs in April 2018 and - the 55" model currently costs $2,300 while the 65" one costs $3,000 (note: affiliate links to Amazon). In early 2019 Sony launched its new 2019 OLED TVs -
- The Master-Series A9G with its "consumer reference-quality image" (panel sizes 55, 65 and 77 inch)
- The A8G - which also offers high quality images and Sony's Acoustic Surface Audio
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. The company's next generation OLED TVs, however, will be based on the company's unique QD-OLED technology - but 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. Flexible OLEDs have been in production for a long time, and in 2019 LG will release the world's first rollable TV, its 65" Signature OLED TV R!
Both LG and Samsung also 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. While the market demand for transparent OLEDs is not certain, this is an exciting technology that hopefully will reach the market in the future!
The latest OLED TV news:
Korea's The Elec says that Samsung Display aims to start trial runs at its QD-OLED 8.5-Gen production line next month (December 2020).
SDC will brand these displays as QD Displays. The first generation ones will adopt SDC's current hybrid QD-OLED architecture, but later ones may adopt QNED (quantum-rods) emitters. In any case, SDC's plan is to start mass production by the end of 2021, in the first line (15,000 monthly substrates). SDC is also planning a second line to follow the first, to arrive at a total of 30,000 monthly 8.5-Gen substrates.
LG Electronics signed an exclusive marketing partnership with Microsoft, and LG's OLED TV technology is now the official TV partner of Microsoft’s new Xbox Series X gaming console.
LG says that its latest OLED TVs are the best way to enjoy gaming on the Xbox Series X, with features such as 4K resolution, 120 fps, an ultra-fast 1ms response time, low input lag and support for the latest HDMI specifications including Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) and enhanced return audio channel (eARC). LG's latest TVs also feature the HGiG HRD profile.
Ireland-based OLED IP company Solas OLED announced that it has prevailed in its patent infringement action in Germany against LG Display, LG Electronics and Sony. The Mannheim District Court in Germany held that the defendants had infringed Solas’ German patent DE 102 54 511 B4 concerning a control circuit for light emitting diodes.
This technology, owned by Solas, is used in OLED panels used in LG ans Sony's TVs. According to the court's decision, LG and Sony will have to stop marketing products in Germany that infringe upon Solas' patents and they will have to recall from commercial customers all infringing products. LG and Sony must also must render to Solas a detailed accounting necessary to establish damages owed by the defendants for sales of infringing products in Germany dating back to April, 2009.
LG Display announced that its OLED TV panels have received Eco-Product certification from Swiss-based SGS (Société Générale de Surveillance). LG's OLED TV panels have been recognized as eco-friendly products with low emissions of hazardous substances.
SGS evaluated the overall environmental aspects of OLED TV panels and found their environmental friendliness to be especially notable in three categories covering the lowering of indoor air pollutants, the reduction of hazardous substances, and high recyclability.
DSCC says that the high costs of microLED production will limit the adoption of microLED TVs, which are highly expensive, and the technology will remain in the niche of ultra large displays. The market is set to grow from around $25 million in 2020 to $228 million by 2026.
Just for comparison, six years after being commercialization, in 2019 OLED TV revenues were estimated at $2.5 billion.
DSCC says that the utilization rates at flexible OLED production lines have risen sharply in Q3 2020 - from around 40% to around 65% - mostly due to production for Apple's iPhones. A rise in Q3 utilization has also happened in past years, for the same reason.
It is also interesting to note that OLED TV utilization rates are decreasing - part of the reason is that LG's OLED fabs had limited capacity until now and operated at almost 100% rates, but as capacity increases LG is no longer capacity constrained.
LG Display reported its financial results for Q3 2020, with a net profit (of $9.8 million) - which was the company's first profitable quarter since 2018. Revenues in the quarter were $5.9 billion, up 27% from the previous quarter and up 16% from Q3 2019.
LG Display says that its turnaround was due to increased demand for IT displays and OLED displays - both OLED TV panels and flexible OLEDs for smartphones. Profitability was also assisted by the mass production that finally began at LGD's new OLED TV fab in Guangzhou. Next year LGD says it aims to ship over 7 million OLED TV panels.
LG Display announced a 3-year OLED technology partnership with The Walt Disney Studios’ StudioLAB, to "create exceptional viewing experiences".
LG Display will provide StudioLAB with access to its latest OLED technology advancements, and together the two companies will work on a variety of projects to equip Walt Disney Studios filmmakers with new production tools and provide consumers with fun, interactive and immersive experiences tied to the Studios’ film releases.
Market research company DSCC updates its WOLED TV production cost estimates and forecasts. DSCC says that LG is improving the production at its 8.5-Gen production line in Guangzhou and by next year the cost of production in China will be lower than comparable production in Korea - by about 15%. One meaningful technology adopted in China is MMG which enables around 20% cost reduction.
DSCC also estimates that while MiniLED TVs are cheaper to produce compared to OLEDs, the gap is less than 10%, which means that retail prices of MiniLEDs will be pretty much the same as the retail prices of OLED TVs.
LG Electronics announced that it is now shipping the world's first rollable OLED TV, the 65" 65RX OLED TV. The price is set at KRW 100 million (USD 87,000) - that's actually cheaper than expected.
The 65RX rollable TV is currently available in Korea only. The rollable OLED TV was first unveiled in early 2019, but LG did not manage to produce it until now as it faced several technology challenges, including low durability.