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:
In October 2020 LG Electronics started 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 price was actually cheaper than expected - but according to a report from Korea LGE managed to sell only 10 such TVs.
According to the report, it's not just the high price that is keeping consumers away - the TV, which is based on rollable glass, is not very durable.
LG Electronics announced it sold 2.04 million OLED TVs in 2020, the first time it passed the 2 million sales market. This represents a growth of 23.8% over 2019.
According to Omdia, LG Electroncis holds a 56% market share of the global OLED TV market. The average selling price of LG's OLED TVs was $1971.9, over four times higher than the average selling price of LCD TVs.
Sony's flagship 2021 Android OLED TV, the A90J, will start shipping on March 15th, starting at $2,999 for the 55" model. The A90J use LG's latest WOLED panels, with sizes of 55-, 65- and 83-inches. Sony says that the A90J is its brightest OLED TV ever.
The TV uses Sony's latest Cognitive Processor XR that provides the company's latest AI processor for an upgraded audio and visual experience. Other features includes HDMI 2.1, 4K 120Hz support, eARC, VRR and ALLM, Netflix Calibrated mode, HLG, HDR10, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos and IMAX Enhanced support.
DSCC published an interesting post that details the production costs of both WOLED and miniLED TV panels. So first of all, it details LG's current costs for producing OLED TVs, as you can see in the chart below. The costs of producing larger 77-inch and 8-3inch panels are significantly larger than the costs of 65-inch and smaller TV panels:
Interestingly, DSCC says that in 2020, the production costs in LG's Guangzhou fab was higher than the costs in LG's Korean OLED TV fab as the yields in Korea are higher - but this will change in 2021 as China has lower costs for depreciation, personnel and more. DSCC estimates that production costs for a 55-inch or 65-inch WOLED panel will be 14% lower in China than in Korea.
Ireland-based OLED IP company Solas OLED announced that LG Display settled its OLED TV patent dispute with the company, and has agreed to pay a license for its patents. This resolves a number of patent infringement actions (in the US, China and Germany) brought by Solas against LG Display and a certain number of its customers, including Sony Corporation.
Towards the end of 2020 Solas filed a complaint to the US International Trade Commission against Samsung Electronics and BOE, saying that the two companies infringe upon some of its AMOLED patents.
According to a new report from Korea, LG Display is enjoying high demand for its 48-inch OLED TV panels, especially from gamers, and the company aims to expand its production of such panels.
LGD currently produces the panels at its new Guangzhou OLED TV fab, in which it uses one 8.5-Gen glass plate to produce two 77-inch panels and two 48-inch panels. It now plans to start making 48-inch displays in its Paju OLED TV fab, where it will cut one 8.5-Gen plate to 8 48-inch panels.
According to reports from Vietnam, LG Display plans to expand its OLED TV module production facility in Hai Phong, Vietnam, in a $750 million investment. If approved, LG's plan will increase its total investment in Vietnam to $3.25 billion.
LG Display built it first Hai Phong facility back in 2016, and it then expanded the module factory in 2017. According to recent reports, Samsung Electronics is also looking into building an OLED display module factory in Vietnam.
In 2019 Samsung Display formally announced its decision to invest $10.85 billion in QD-OLED TV R&D and production lines. The company is already starting to produce prototypes, and is on track to start mass production in Q3 2021. Reports in 2020 suggested that Samsung Electronics was hesitant about the adoption of QD-OLED panels.
This may have changed now, as we hear that Samsung Electronics has decided to cooperate with SDC and release its first QD-OLED TV next year (2022).
DSCC posted an interesting post with its latest views and forecasts on the OLED material market. The company expects AMOLED stack material sales to grow at a 18% CAGR in the next five years, from $294 million in 2019 to $2.46 billion in 2024. Compared to its previous estimate, DSCC sees higher sales as demand for OLED TVs and OLEDs in the IT market (tablets and notebooks) is increasing.
DSCC also posted an analysis of LGD's new evo OLED material stack. Compared to LGD's "standard" WOLED stack, the evo adds an emitting green layer to improve the brightness by 20%. This of course adds an extra material cost to the panel price.
LG Display reported its financial results for Q4 2020. Revenues reached $6 billion USD, up 11% from Q3 2020 and 16% from Q4 2019. Net profits jumped to $555 million, up from $10 million in Q3 2020 and a loss of $1.6 billion in Q4 2019.
LG Display says that demand for TV and IT products remained strong as the global work-from-home situation continued. Shipments of OLED TV panels and p-OLED smartphone panels increased meaningfully.