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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Get Ready for OLED!

In early January Samsung announced the release of their "Super OLED" 55" television. The television wasn't the production model and we will have to wait until later this year before they hit stores, but this history in the making - as Plasma, LCD, and LED will be history when these sets become affordable for everyone. LG has also announced a 55" OLED for later this year.


OLED stands for "Organic Light Emitting Diode" and the technology essentially combines the best of what plasma has to offer (speed and contrast) with the best of what LED sets have to offer (thin bezels with flexible mounting options, pure whites, bright screens). OLED sets utilize electroluminescence, which means that the organic compounds, when given an electric current, emit light. OLED sets can use the same active-matrix technology (utilizing a thin film transistor (TFT) back-plate) to switch individual pixels on or off. Because the pixels themselves produce light, eliminating the need for a back-light, OLED sets can achieve extraordinary blacks. Moreover, without the need for a back-light, these televisions can be ultra-thin and light! The response time on these sets is mega fast as well, so there will be no worries about lag or ugly speed artifacts.OLED sets have a response time of 0.01 ms, which would enable up to 100,000 hz refresh rate! If you don't know what that means, see this older blog post. OLED sets will also have better contrast ratios than either Plasma, LCD, or LED televisions. Finally, the color reproduction of OLED cells is quite good (at least before degradation, see below for more information on the disadvantages of the technology). 

These sets will most likely arrive with a price tag between $8,000 and $10,000, but prices will decrease steadily as manufacturing costs become cheaper and competing companies enter the fray. Sony has offered an 11" OLED for some time now and this small set costs a pretty penny - it's still around $800.00. Sony's 25" Professional OLED costs about $6,100! So a $8,000 price tag would be pretty good for a 55" OLED TV.

So it may sound like I have described the "holy grail" of TV technology. However, as with all technologies there are a few disadvantages. As far as I know (and companies may have made significant progress here, we won't know until the sets have been released) the organic compounds used for OLED technologies have a lifespan of about 15,000 hours - that's about 5 years at 8 hours a day. Your typical LCD or Plasma has a lifespan of around 60,000 to 100,000 hours. Moreover, the compounds used for different color pallets have different degradation rates, which can lead to color imbalances over time (with the color blue having a shorter life span). Even worse, the process of degradation can actually lead to "burn-in" as some pixels can actually fade as they are utilized more often with certain content. While power consumption is generally lower than LCD/LED technologies, it does take more power for an OLED to display bright images which are heavy with lighter colors, especially white. Finally, OLED cells are damaged by UV light, but his has been corrected by utilizing UV light blockers. Without the blockers, OLED sets can become useless after only a few months of exposure to normal lighting! 

Nevertheless, at the outset all of our current technologies there were severe downfalls - Plasma sets didn't used to last 100,000 to half-life - in fact they used to dim significantly after only a year's use. In fact, the first plasma TV's did't come with speakers or TV tuners, those "accessories" were extra and the TVs were only "monitors". Early LCD sets had terrible lag and back-light bleed-through. They were also much heavier and thicker than the current displays. I am sure, just like all technology, that OLED will get better over time - but from the looks of the first generation sets, there won't be much to complain about, besides the price.

Yes, you can say I am excited! 


  1. Great post Nick! I was looking at LED TVs when I came across your blog. This sounds really amazing, thank you for sharing this with us!