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:
Market research company Omdia (previous IHS Markit) have revised down its global TV outlook - and say that it expects only 3.5 million OLED TV units to ship in 2020. Omdia's previous estimate was 4.5 million units, and this too was decreased from its original forecast in late 2019 of 5.5 million.
The OLED TV is still growing (unlike the entire TV market which will shrink in 2020), but due to the CotonaVirus outbreak, LGD's plans to expand production will be delayed.
Reuters reports that Samsung Display has decided to stop all LCD production by the end of 2020. The company will continue to support it current customers without any issues.
SDC has two LCD production lines in Korea. One of these will be converted to next-generation QD-OLED TV panels (in a $10.8 billion investment announced in October 2019). According to Reuters, the second line will also be converted to QD-OLED in the future. SDC did not yet decide what will it do with its two LCD production lines in China.
DSCC says that OLED area shipments will grow in 2020 to around 10.5 million square meters, up from 8 million square meters in 2019 - a growth of around 31%. In terms of revenues, the OLED market will grow 35% in 2020 to reach $37.6 billion. DSCC says that in 2020, 731 million OLEDs will be produced (up 27% from 2019).
Smartphone revenues will reach $30.7 billion in 2019 (up 35% from 2019) while TV revenues will grow 28% to $3.2 billion. Smartwatch revenues will increase 11% in 2020 to $2 billlion. The revenues for all other OLED applications are expected to increase by 69% in 2020 to $1.6 billion, mainly driven by laptop OLED displays.
DSCC says that OLED panel revenues in Q4 2019 reached $8.1 billion, down 2% from Q3 2019 and pretty much the same as in Q4 2018. In terms of units, DSCC says that in Q4 2019 124 million smartphone panels were shipped, 31 million wearable panels and 998,000 TV panels.
Smartphone revenues in Q4 2019 were down 2% from Q4 2018 (due to lower average sales price for both rigid and flexible panels, the number of panels actually increased 4%), and revenues for TVs were up 30% (to $752 million). Smartwatches remain the 3rd largest market for OLED panels, and experienced strong growth in 2019, but it seems as if the growth may have plateaued (in Q4 the revenues were down 7% from last year).
LG Electronics is getting ready to start shipping its 2020 OLED TVs, and the company announced prices and shipping dates for most of the TV models. Amazon.com now lists the TVs which can be pre-ordered.
Starting at the entry-level, LG's OLEDBX will ship in April 2020, starting at $2,500 for the 55" model. The OLEDCX range, which will probably be LG's most popular series, will also start shipping in early April 2020, with prices starting at $2130 for the 48-inch model.
IHS Markit estimates that 1.1 million OLED TVs shipped in Q4 2019. This is the first time over 1 million OLED TVs were shipped in a quarter. Total OLED TV sales in 2019 reached 3 million units - a 1.3% of the total TV market.
LG Electronics is still the leader in the OLED TV market, with a market share of 53.9% (598,000 units). LG's market share is dropping as more and more companies join the OLED camp. China has become the world's largest OLED TV market (33% by units) - surpassing Korea (32.1%) for the first time in 2019.
LG Display's original plan was to start producing OLED TV panels at its 8.5-Gen OLED fab in Guangzhou in October 2019, but the company faced technical issues - and even though LGD said it fixed these issues and production will start by the end of January 2020, that didn't happen.
According to a new report from Korea, the CoronaVirus outbreak caused LGD further delays, and mass production is now expected to start in 'early' Q2 2020 - so April 2020 at the earliest.
LG Display originally planned to start producing OLED TV panels at its 8.5-Gen OLED fab in Guangzhou in October 2019, but LGD faced technical issues and production was delayed to Q1 2020. Last month LGD said it finally fixed its technical issues and production will start by the end of January 2020 - but here we are at the middle of February and production hasn't started yet.
LGD's original plan was to ship over 6 million OLED TV panels in 2020 - which include the smaller 48" OLED TV panels launched at CES 2020. It seems certain now that LGD will not be able to meet its goals. IHS also reduced its 2020 OLED TV production forecast from 5 million units to 4.5 million.
LG Display reports better-than-expected Q4 2019 results, driven by a strong demand to OLED TVs and smartphone OLEDs
LG Display posted its financial results for Q4 2019, with a lower-than-expected loss of $361.6 million and revenues of $5.4 billion - a 10% increase over last quarter, driven by a rise in sales of OLED TVs and smartphone OLEDs.
LGD has given an optimistic forecast for 2020 as it sees higher demand for its OLED TV and mobile P-OLED panels. LGD expects its OLED TV panel revenue to "rise steeply" as its Guangzhou OLED TV fab increases its production - LGD now says it expects the fab to start mass production in March 2020.
Philips recently announced its latest OLED TVs, the OLED 805, and the company is apparently worried about burn-in issues, and it is developing software technology to mitigate such issues - specifically the problem with network logos.
Pocket-lint reports that it has seen Philips' new technology being demonstrated. Philips' algorithm recognizes these logos, and reduces the brightness of the pixels that display the logo. This extends the lifetime of these pixels and should keep them at the same level as other pixels that do not display constant logos.