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:
China-based BOE Display demonstrated many OLED displays at SID 2019, including new flexible, foldable, rollable and automotive AMOLED displays. Here's a video showing the company's complete SID lineup:
In January 2019, Alienware demonstrated a gaming monitor that uses a 55" 4K 120Hz OLED display. This monitor supports 4K at 120Hz using the new HDMI v2.1 connection (also supported by LG's latest 2019 OLED TVs).
Alienware now updates that it is not ready to launch this monitor yet as it is still a "conceptual product" and that its "potential commercial viability is still in question". The company did say that if the product progresses, it will make an announcement at CES 2020. This will be a premium product with a price tag of over $3,000.
UBI: OLED production capacity to double by 2023, Korean makers to retain their 80% market share by area
UBI Research estimates that OLED production capacity will increase from 34.9 million sqm to 68.5 million by 2023. LG Display and Samsung Display are expected to increase production of OLED TV and introduce new 10.5-Gen fabs better suited for 65" TV production.
Mobile OLED production capacity will also grow, but at a slower rate - from 13 million sqm in 2019 to 19.3 million sqm in 2023, mainly driven by Chinese OLED producers that produce flexible smartphone OLED displays mainly for the Chinese domestic market. Korean OLED producers (SDC and LGD) will continue to dominate the market and will retain their ~80% market share in 2023.
In March 2019 we reported that LG Display has a 48" OLED TV panel in its roadmap - but we did not have any information regarding LGD's actual production plans.
It is now reported in China that LG Display confirmed it is developing a 48" OLED TV panel and plans to start producing these in 2020 - which could mean that the TV themselves will hit the stores in 2020 - but this could also mean that they will arrive only in 2021.
In early 2019 LG announced its first 88" 8K OLED TV panel, the OLED Z9, and the company now finally announced the pricing and availability of its flagship 2019 OLED TV.
LG Electronics will start accepting pre-orders for the OLED88Z9K in Korea in June. The regular price of the TV is around $42,000 (!) in Korea, but pre-orders will enjoy a discount (to $34,000) and a free air purifier to boot. LG did not disclose when the TVs will actually ship, but it did say that they will go on sale in Europe and the US in Q3 2019 (i.e. July to September).
In November 2018 HiSense launched its first OLED TV range, the Series X in Australia. The company is now set to start shipping this TV in Europe by July 1st. The 55" model (H55O8BBUK in the UK) will cost £1,599 and is now available for pre-order at Amazon.co.uk.
The Series X were first priced at around $2,500 USD for the 55" model and $4,999 AUD for the 65" model - but according to reports HiSense lowered the price dramatically in Australia following lower-than-expected demand. This lower demand could be what pushed HiSense to launch the TV in Europe as well.
In early 2019 LG Electronics announced the world's first rollable OLED TV, the 65" Signature OLED TV R and the 88" 8K Z9 OLED TV. Today LGE announced that it plans to start shipping both TVs in the second half of 2019, in Korea. LG did not disclose the price of these two high-end TVs.
The rollable and 88" OLED TVs will be highly expensive - these are high-end premium products. LG Electronics did however say that as it shipped over 4 million OLED TVs since the first one shipped in March 2013, OLED TVs are now "crossing the chasm" and are starting to be adopted by the mainstream market and not only early adopters.
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.