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!
These TVs are not shipping yet, but LG will probably release them by March 2019. In the meantime 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:
Universal Display reported its financial results for Q4 2018 - with revenues of $70.1 million and a net income of $19.2 million. UDC increased its quarterly dividend to $0.1 per share, and expects its 2019 revenues to be in the range of $325 to $350 million.
UDC recently adopted a new accounting standard (ASC 606) which lowers its revenue and income in the early stage of each royalty and material sales contact.
DSCC says that in January 2019 flexible OLED utilization rates dropped to 39% - due to seasonal weakness and Apple's slow iPhone sales. CLSA says that February will another bad month and utilization rates will even drop slightly to 37%. In March things will improve to almost 50% - following the launch of Samsung's Galaxy S10.
Looking at the entire quarter, DSCC sees utilization rates dropping from 68% in Q4 2018 to 41% in Q1 2019. Glass input for all flexible OLED fabs will be down 3% from last year. Rigid OLED utilization rates have been up in 2019 - from 44% in December 2018 to 49% in January 2019, and DSCC sees it continuing to climb in Q1 2019, as a result of increased adoption of rigid OLED by Chinese smartphone makers.
Panasonic officially announced its complete 2019 OLED TV lineup - which includes four TVs. All of Panasonic's 2019 TVs are available in 55" and 65" and feature Panasonic's "ultra-powerful" HCX PRO Intelligent processor, HDR, HDR10+, Dolby Vision, HLG, HLG photo and are fine tuned by Hollywood colorist Stefan Sonnenfeld.
The four models are the GZ950, GZ1000, GZ1500 and GZ2000. The GZ950 is the "entry-level" model, while the the GZ2000 is Panasonic's flagship TV which offers an "extremely high image quality and color accuracy" and very high end audio. Interestingly the GZ2000 uses a "bespoke Professional Edition 4K OLED panel exclusively customized by Panasonic R&D engineers". The panels are WRGB AMOLEDs made by LGD.
According to reports, Samsung Display will hold an investment review committee on April 2019 to decide whether to go ahead with plans to start producing QD-OLED TV panels. If the plan is approved, Samsung will start installing production equipment towards the end of 2019, with mass production starting by the end of 2020 or early 2021.
According to earlier reports, Samsung aimed to start pilot production of QD-OLED TV panels in 2019. It's not clear whether the new reports suggest a delay or whether they only refer to the mass production step, with pilot production proceeding as planned.
At CES 2019, LG Electronics announced its first rollable TV (and the world's first rollable OLED device), the 65" Signature OLED TV R. Market analysts from IHS estimate that producing each 65" rollable OLED TV will cost over $3,000 - more than three times the cost of production of LG's regular 65" OLED TV panels.
LG's new TV can roll up into its base, and has three viewing options - full view, line view and zero view. In Line View, there are six different modes, in which the TV can show the weather, the time, a home dashboard and more. Like the rest of LG's 2019 OLED range, the OLED TV R is based on the company's 2nd-gen Alpha 9 intelligent processor the enables LG's ThinQ AI to offer new display algorithms and Amazon's Alexa and Google's Assistant.
DSCC: the production costs of a 55" QD OLED TV will reach almost $800 in 2019, will fall to $450 by 2022
DSCC says that production costs for a 55" QD-OLED TV panel at Samsung Display's 8.5-Gen fab will reach almost $800 in 2019. While this will fall to around $450 in 2022, Samsung will still lose money on every panel sold if DSCC has its price and cost estimates right.
It is important to note that most of the cost is depreciation costs - which means that in terms of cash on each panel, SDC's margins will actually be around 40%. Part of the reason for he high cost of required equipment is the need to use 12 TFT masks.. SDC is apparently looking to reduce the mask number which will lower production costs.
Samsung Electronics reported its financial results for Q4 2018, with revenues of KRW 59.27 trillion ($53 billion USD), down 10% from Q4 2017. Samsung's operating profit of KRW 10.8 trillion ($9.6 billion) was down 29% from 2017.
Samsung Display reported a decline in rigid smartphone OLED display sales - due to rising competition from LCD panels. Demand for flexible OLEDs was strong. In Q1 2019, OLED display sales will remain weak - but Samsung says that flexible OLED demand will pickup in the second half of 2019.
LG Display reported its financial results for Q4 2018 - it reported an operating profit of ₩279 billion ($250 million USD) due to strong shipments of IT panels and OLED TVs. LGD however gave a weak outlook to 2019 (for its LCD business).
LGD says that it will invest $7.1 billion in 2019 in capacity expansion, and $3.5 billion in 2020. It will divert all of its investments into OLED displays - with 60% going to large area OLED TV production and 40% going to small/medium pOLED production.
LG Display had an impressive booth at CES 2019, show off the company's latest display technologies - and most of these were OLED displays, of course. LGD sent us this nice video that shows the main displays at their booth:
The video shows LG's flower OLED installation made up from four curved 65" OLED TV panels, the 88" Crystal-Sound-OLED (CSO) panel with the built-in speaker, LG's new 65" Crystal-Motion OLED (which features an MPTR of 3.5 ms - the world's fastest according to LGD) and finally LG's latest 55" transparent OLED panels.
China-based Hisense announced a new technology that the company says will enable its LCDs to compete with OLEDs in high contrast. The so-called ULED XD panels use two LCDs panels, on on top of the other. The inner LCD is a monochrome (geyscale) FHD LCD that is used to block the light on low brightness images, and on top of it is the usual 4K full-color LCD.
This is basically a way to achieve a high number of 'local dimming' zones for an LCD display (over 2 million such zones, in fact). The TV itself is very bright (over 2,900 nits) and reportedly offers a great image quality and an almost perfect contrast. HiSense it will release its first ULED XD TVs later this year in China. Apparently SkyWorth is also demonstrating a similar technology at CES.