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 February 2019 LG Display started producing its 55" FHD transparent commercial OLED displays, and now the company says it plans to double its transparent OLED production in Q4 2019 - and continue to ramp up production years to come. LGD sees possible applications in shop windows, building façades and exhibition spaces.
According to a report from Korea, LG Display is discussing the sale of open-cell OLED panels with TV makers, including China-based Skyworth. The Korean's Elec suggests that LG Display will start offering open-cell OLEDs from its Guangzhou fab which is expected to start producing OLED TV panels by the end of the month.
An open-cell panel can lower the costs for TV makers as each can decide on the assembly process and driver ICs. It could also lead to more innovation and differentiation. Many LCD TV panels are sold in that fashion - but for LG's OLED this will be the first time.
LG Display announced its unaudited financial results for Q2 2019, and updated on its upcoming OLED projects.
First of all, LGD announced an additional investment of KRW 3 trillion ($2.5 billion) P10 10.5-Gen OLED TV fab in Paju. Last month it was reported that LG display has started to install some of the Oxide-TFT deposition equipment (supplied by Applied Materials and Jusung Engineering). The mass production at the first lines in the P10 fab is expected to begin in 2021. LG Display did not disclose any more details regarding this new $2.5 billion investment plan yet.
LG Electronics installed a beautiful flexible curved OLED signage installation at Korea's Incheon Airport.:
LG has a long history of OLED installations at Incheon airport. In November 2015 LG installed a huge 13x8 meter OLED signage display made from 140 55" 4K OLED TV (a total of 290 million pixels). That was the world's largest OLED display at the time.
PlayNitride demonstrated its latest Micro-LED displays at SID DisplayWeek 2019 - a 7.56" 720x480 (114 PPI) transparent MicroLED, a flexible Micro-LED on a polyimide substrate and a high-brightness, high-resolution passive matrix MicroLED aimed towards wearable applications.
PlayNitride aims to release its first Micro-LED display products by the end of 2019. In 2017 the company started to sample micro-LED panels and shipped samples to 10-20 potential customers.
In January 2019 China-based Hisense announced its dual-LCD ULED XD panel, that includes an monochrome inner LCD panel that acts as a two million dimming zones layer to boost the contrast.
In a trade show in China, HiSense demonstrated this panel again, and is apparently close to launching it as a product. The model number will be U9E and Hisense plans to sell it for CNY 17,999 (around $2600) for the 65" 4K model.
In April 2019 Panasonic unveiled a transparent OLED TV prototype housed in a wooden cabinet. Here's a nice video showing the display in action:
Panasonic has been showing transparent OLED display prototypes and concepts since 2016. This specific prototype was designed by Scandinavian based designer Daniel Rybakken in collaboration with Panasonic Design Kyoto.
AVC: OLED TV sales in China to reach 800,000 units in 2020, as China is set to become the world's largest market for OLED TVs
China-based All View Cloud consultancy says that OLED TV sales in China will reach 380,000 units in 2019, (up from 210,000 in 2018 and 120,000 in 2017) and will rise to 800,000 units in 2020. By 2021 or 2021 the sales will surpass 2 million units - which will make China the world's largest market for OLED TVs.
According to AVC, Skyworth is leading the Chinese OLED TV market with 46% of total OLED sales in 2017, followed by LG (16%) and Sony (14.9%). The penetration of OLED TVs in China is relatively low, compared to the US, Europe and Japan and there's much room for growth.
In July 2017, LG Display announced its plans to build a 8.5-Gen (2200x2500) OLED TV production line in Guangzhou, China. Following many delays, LGD got the approval for its new OLED TV fab from both the Korean and Chinese governments in July 2018 and started constructing the fab, with an investment of about $4.2 billion.
Today LG Display announced that the Guangzhou fab will start production in August 2019. The fab will begin with test runs in July but it seems that LGD is confident that mass production will begin next month. The initial capacity of this new fab will be 60,000 monthly substrates, which will bring LGD's total OLED TV capacity to 130,000 monthly 8.5-Gen substrates (i.e. will almost double its current capacity).
LG Display announced that its OLED TV panels received an Eye Comfort Display certification from TÜV Rheinland, a global leader in independent inspection services.
LG Display says that its 65" OLED TVs emit 34% light, lower than TUV's 50% threshold. LGD says that the highest-spec 65" LCD panels emit 64% blue light. LGD's OLED TV panels met all of TUV's testing criteria and scored 0.87% in the light reflection category, which is half of that of LCD panels.