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:
LG's 2019 OLED W9 Wallpaper TV is now shipping and costs $6,999 for the 65" model and $12,999 for the 77" model. The W9 TVs 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 OLED W9 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.
In February 2019 it was reported that 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 - and then commence mass production by the end of 2020.
According to a new report from China, Samsung will indeed go ahead with its QD-OLED production plans, but at a slower pace than was first estimated. Samsung will only begin trial production towards the end of 2020, with real mass production on a new 10-Gen line only at around 2023.
Many viewers complained that the latest Game of Thrones episode was very dark - too dark infact to see what was happening during the Battle of Winterfell. The episode's Cinematographer says that the scene was dark intentionally, to make it extra intense, claustrophobic and disorienting. However he also blames the compression, and the display settings and viewing environment of most users.
Viewing the episode on an OLED TVs however makes for a good viewing experience with its high contrast and HDR settings. According to reports from the US, this has increased the interest in OLED TVs. Popular Mechanics, for example, ran an article titled "Games of Thrones Proves Why You Need an OLED TV" and Consumer Reports and CNET both recommended an OLED TV over an LCD for the specific episode.
Reports from Australia suggest that Hisense's OLED TV sales are low, Philips cancels plans to launch its own OLEDs
HiSense launched its Series X OLED TVs in Australia towards the end of 2018, with an initial price tag of $3,500 AUD for the 55" model. According to a new report from Australia, HiSense's OLED TV sales were lower than expected, to the point that HiSense lowered the price to $1,495 to clear its stock.
According to ChannelNews.au HiSense is likely losing money on each TV sold. According to reviews, Hisense's OLED TVs are not as impressive as OLED TVs from LG and Sony, and consumers are preferring to buy LG's OLED TVs as Hisense is not perceived as a premium brand.
LG Display reported disappointing financial results for Q1 2019 - with an operating loss of $113 million. LG Display warns that the whole of 2019 will fall short of expectations - due to high costs of its new OLED fabs, weak LCD panel prices and low adoption of its smartphone OLEDs.
LGD's smartphone OLED business still suffers from low yields and low fab utilization as the company finds it hard to secure design wins and compete with Samsung Display. Some reports even suggest that LGD is thinking about shutting down its flexible OLED smartphone business.
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%).