09 August 2012 -- Move over, LCDs: It’s time for OLED displays to make their grand entry. These new screens, which provide the peak of picture quality, are finally moving from trade show prototypes to things you can buy — if your pockets are deep enough.
What is OLED?
OLED stands for "organic light-emitting diode." Each pixel is made up of a material, placed directly on the display panel, that emits its own light. Since there’s no backlight as used in LCD displays, the televisions require less power and are much thinner. For example, LG’s 55-inch OLED high-definition TV prototype shown in January was 4 mm thick.
Why are OLED TVs special?
Think of the TV with the deepest blacks and most vibrant colors you've seen. Now visualize even inkier blacks (which make for great contrast) and brighter, more-accurate colors, and you have an OLED display.
They also have faster response than LCD sets, so motion blur — in sports, for example — is practically
eliminated. Viewing angles are much improved, too, so more people can gather around to watch.
Where can I see OLED technology today?
Small OLED screens are found on some smartphones, such as the Samsung Galaxy SIII. They are also on a few digital cameras and the Sony PlayStation Vita portable game device. From these you can get a taste of the contrast, color reproduction and improved viewing angles coming your way on TVs.
When do OLEDs arrive?
Actually they already have but were initially a flop. Sony introduced an OLED television, the XEL-1, in 2008. The biggest screen size was just 11 inches, and it cost almost $3,000. Sony didn’t sell too many.
Samsung and LG will bring the first consumer-targeted large screens — measuring 55 inches — to the U.S. before the end of 2012.
Who else will have them?
'Panasonic and Sony announced a collaboration earlier this year that should yield TVs from each company in 2013. As other manufacturers master OLED production (or buy panels from other companies), you can
expect a larger variety of brands and screen sizes, probably in about two years.
How much will OLED TVs cost?
Hold onto your seats: The first 55-inch models will likely set you back $8,000 to $10,000. Samsung announced a $9,000 price for the Korean market this past spring. By comparison, the very best current 55-inch plasma is around $3,000, and LED LCD sets are even less.
Clearly this is 1-percenter territory, but as in all things electronic, prices will drop to more reasonable levels over time. When the first 20-inch LCD TV arrived in 2001, it cost $5,000. Today you can buy a 32-inch LCD HDTV for $199.
Respected market analysts at DisplaySearch believe OLED TVs will be much more affordable within two years.