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 August 2019 Dell's Alienware announced a flagship 55" gaming monitor based on LG Display's 120Hz 55-inch 4K (3840x2160) WRGB AMOLED display. These high-end gaming monitors are now shipping for $3,899.
The Alienware 55 has a maximum brightness of 400 nits and a 0.5 ms gray to gray response time. The monitor support AMD FreeSync variable refresh rate and it has an anti-reflective coating with 2H hardness.
Samsung released a short video that may help you find burn-in marks in your OLED TV. The video should be run on your OLED TV, and it shows a red image that will (according to Samsung) show visible marks if there are any issues in your TV.
If you did find such marks - Samsung suggested to contact a service center - or switch to one of its QLED LCDs... I wonder if this is a mart marketing move as Samsung itself is now committed to OLED TV technology and will start producing QD-OLEDs in 2021. Samsung is probably hoping that no one will remember this video by then...
Samsung Display formally announced its decision to invest ₩13.1 trillion (around $10.85 billion USD) in QD-OLED TV R&D and production lines. The investment plan will span 6 years (2019-2025) and the first step will be to convert an LCD production line in SDC's L8 fab in Tangjong, Korea to QD-OLED production.
The Tangjong line will be converted from 125k monthly substrates of LCD production to 30k monthly QD-OLED substrates, and mass production will begin in Q1 2021. In the long run SDC plans to convert all its 8-Gen LCD lines (360,000 monthly substrates) to QD-OLED production (which will yield around 100,000 monthly QD-OLED substrates).
DSCC says that OLED panel unit shipments will reach 1.06 billion by 2023. The growth will peak in 2020 (with a 27% unit growth and 25% revenue growth from 2019). Overall revenues for OLED panels will grow from $26.5 billion in 2018 to $46.2 billion in 2023.
DSCC says that it lowered its OLED TV forecast for 2020-2023, as LGD is delaying both its Guangzhou 8.5-Gen fab ramp up and its P10 10.5-Gen line by one year. New LCD technologies, including dual-cell LCD and miniLEDs will also hurt the growth of the OLED TV market. DSCC further reports that LG Electronics will not be able to reach its 2 million OLED TV goal in 2019 - and have asked LGD to supply it with only 2.5 million OLED TV panels in 2020 (the original plan was to supply 3.5 million panels to LGE).
IHS Markit estimates that OLED TV displays revenues will grow from $2.9 billion in 2019 to $7.5 billion in 2025. Note that IHS is looking at OLED TV display revenues and not total TV set revenues. In 2019 the market share of OLED TV displays out of the total TV display market will be 8.6% - and this will grow to 20.6% (IHS estimates the total TV display market at $36 billion in 2025).
IHS sees OLED TV panel prices starting to decrease in 2020 as OLED TV panel makers (LGD is currently the only one) start to adopt new technologies to decreases costs such as multi-model glass (MMG), ink-jet printing and QD-OLEDs.
LG Display says that in OLED TV sales in China are expected to reach 300,000 units in 2019. The company hopes to reach over 1 million sales in 2021 and over 2 million by 2021.
This impressive future growth will be fueled by LGD's new 8.5-Gen Guangzhou OLED TV fab which the company recently started production in. The new fab is now production 60,000 monthly substrates.
LG announced that it is starting to ship its 88" 8K flagship OLED Z9 TV in the US, with a price of $29,999. The OLED88Z9 is based on LG'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.
The Signature OLED Z9 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.
In early 2019 LG Electronics announced the world's first rollable OLED TV, the 65" Signature OLED TV R. The company later announced that it will ship the TV in the second half of 2019, but now LG is delaying the launch of its signature rollable OLED TV.
LG says that the OLED TV R will ship in Korea in "2019 or 2020", but that consumers elsewhere will have to wait longer - which probably means it does not have any plans to release it before 2021. According to TechRadar, the main reason is that LG is highly expensive and LG fears that it will be difficult to find a market outside of Korea for such a premium TV.
Panasonic has been showing transparent OLED display prototypes and concepts since 2016, and in April 2019 the company unveiled its latest prototype - a wooden cabinet design:
At IFA 2019 Panasonic says that it aims to launch a transparent OLED display by next year as a commercial product. It is highly likely that this would be some kind of signage/commercial display.
A Federal Court in Australia ordered LG Electronics to pay a fine of $160,000 AUD to two consumers after LG refused to repair, replace or refund OLED TVs that exhibited burn in after less than a year of use.
Under the Australian law, consumers who purchased faulty products are entitled to a repair, refund or replacement - even if the warranty does not apply or has come to an end. The two OLED TVs were bought in 2013.