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.
While LG Display is the only company that produces OLED TV panels, LG Electronics is not the only company that makes OLED TVs.
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:
Sony officially announced the pricing and availability of its 2019 OLED TV range. Sony's flagship TV, the A9G, will start shipping in May 2019. The 55" will cost $3,399, while the 65" model will cost $4,499. Amazon already lists the new TVs. The 77" model, which will cost $7,999 will start shipping in June.
The A9G offers "consumer reference-quality image" and features Sony's X1 Ultimate Picture Processor, Pixel Contrast Booster and an automated calibration mode (including a dedicated mode for Netflix). The A9G features Sony's Acoustic Surface Audio - which means that the TV stand doubles as a high end speaker. The TV is based on the Android TV OS.
OLED driver maker MagnaChip launched its latest 28 nm OLED Display Driver IC for smartphone displays. MagnaChip says that it is using the world's most advanced process for OLED drivers, which enables it to achieve a 20% reduction in form factor compared to its previous 40 nm process.
In addition to the size reduction, the new process also enabled MagnaChip to reduce the voltage from 1.1V to 1V, which reduces the power consumption by more than 20%, and it also reduces the EMI levels (again, by 20%) which improves the phone's call quality.
In February 2019, at the Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) tradeshow, LG Electronics launched its 55" transparent touch-enabled OLED displays. The displays are not available commercially yet, but LG seems to be advancing and we now know the first such display model number - the 55EW5F.
We still do not have the specification of LG's first transparent OLED signage, but the company latest prototype shown at CES 2019 featured a transparency of 40% - so we can assume that these new commercial displays feature the same transparency. It is also likely that they are touch enabled (that's what been shown in previous trade shows).
LG's OLEDE9 offer a picture-on-glass design and are based on LG's 2nd-gen Alpha 9 intelligent processor which enables LG's ThinQ AI to offer new display algorithms and Amazon's Alexa and Google's Assistant. The OLEDE9 also features HDMI 2.1 which enables high frame rate (HFR) support, enhanced audio return channel (eARC), variable refresh rate (VRR) and automatic low latency mode (ALLM). LG's flagship OLED also feature Dolby Atmos for immersive entertainment.
According to Business Korea, the demand for OLED TVs is increasing, which is helping OLED TV vendors, mainly LG, Sony and Panasonic to increase sales in the premium TV segment.
BK says that in 2018, LG Electronics sold 62.2% of all OLED TVs, followed by Sony (18.9%) and Panasonic (7.7%). Other OLED TV vendors include AOC/Tp-Vision/Philips (5.7%) and Skyworth (2.4%).
Panasonic has been showing transparent OLED display prototypes and concepts since 2016 (with the latest one shown last year in Shanghai) and today the Japanese TV maker has demonstrated a new transparent concept OLED display.
The new display, designed by Scandinavian based designer Daniel Rybakken in collaboration with Panasonic Design Kyoto uses a transparent OLED panel housed in a wooden cabinet that looks like a regular glass cabinet.
DSCC says that OLED market revenues will grow from $26.5 billion in 2018 to $28.7 billion in 2019 and over $52 billion by 2023. The largest application will remain smartphone displays, but several other applications will generate over $1 billion in 2023 - TVs, tablets, notebooks and monitors. By area of production, TV displays will surpass smartphone displays in 2021.
Samsung is still (and will remain so) the dominant AMOLED display producer, even though its market share will drop from 97% in Q1 2018 to 81% in Q4 2019. In Q1 2019 Visionox surpassed LGD to become the 2nd largest AMOLED producer (but most of Visionox's panels are low-end 5.5-inch panels). DSCC expects LGD to regain its number 2 position in the second half of 2019. BOE is the third player and will remain so following its supply agreement with Huawei.
B&H photo is now listing Sony's 2019 range of OLED TVs. There's no shipping date yet, but there are prices for all of Sony's 2019 OLEDs. The mid-range A8G will cost $1,999 for the 55" model and $2,999 for the 65" model. The high-end consumer reference-quality A9G will cost $2,799 for the 55" model, $3,799 for the 65" model and $7,999 for the 77" model.
Sony' A8G features Sony's X1 Extreme processor, Android TV, Sony's Acoustic Surface Audio (the entire screen is the speaker), 4K upscaling (X-Reality PRO) and Motionflow XR for smooth fast action. The A9G adds Sony's Pixel Contrast Booster and an automated calibration mode (including a dedicated mode for Netflix).
Last week LG announced the pricing and availability of its 2019 OLED TVs, and today Amazon started to offer LG's new OLED C9 in the US. The TVs will actually ship in "3 to 5 weeks", i.e. some time in April.
On March 9th, LG Display's promotion team kindly invited us to a tour of LG's "Display City" in Paju, Korea. The display complex houses about 20,000 employees, and is highly impressive. It was a pleasure to get the opportunity to see it.
The first thing one notices is the new P10 10.5-Gen OLED TV fab building - which is the largest building in Paju. The P10 OLED TV fab is not complete yet, but according to reports LGD will be ready to start installing the equipment soon.