August 21, 2007 4:00 AM PDT

Still waiting for OLED TVs

Still waiting for OLED TVs
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OLED televisions are going to be a boon for picture quality and energy efficiency--someday, if you can afford them.

We've been hearing about the potential for OLED (organic light-emitting diode) TVs for several years now and Sony, Samsung and Seiko Epson have demonstrated the ability to make a prototype OLED panel.

So when will TV manufacturers actually start selling OLED TVs and, more important, will those TVs cost way too much for the average consumer? So far, Sony has indicated that it will be the first out of the gate with an OLED TV sometime next year, and the panels will likely be small, in the range of 11 to 27 inches wide. No one is saying how much it will cost, but some pundits think that little TV could cost somewhere between $800 and $1,000. Toshiba is expected to start selling 30-inch OLEDs in 2009.

"OLED TVs at the moment essentially don't exist," said Lawrence Gasman, principal analyst at Nano Markets. "If you go to an (industry) conference you'll see some beautiful prototypes, which are very impressive, but you can't actually buy one yet."

There's another problem: unlike LCD (liquid crystal display) and plasma, which were completely new display technologies compared with cathode ray tubes when they first debuted, OLED TVs are a variation on the ingredients and manufacturing process used to make LCD panels. The fact that it's not a drastically new technology could mean a more difficult time gaining a foothold with consumers, particularly when the price for a new OLED TV will be so high, at least initially.

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"Any tech coming into the TV market now has to be many steps ahead of where existing plasma and LCDs are at. The technology has to be substantially better and (have) comparable prices," said Riddhi Patel, an analyst with iSuppli. And right now, that's simply not the case.

Another major issue that's holding up OLED TVs is the reliability factor. It's "fair" to consider that organic materials used in OLEDs need further advances to be realistic for the TV market, said Janice Mahon, vice president of technology commercialization for Universal Display, an OLED research company. The OLEDs currently used in cell phone displays are lasting 5,000 to 10,000 hours while TV manufacturers generally need OLEDs that won't peter out until 30,000 to 50,000 hours of use.

Nonetheless, the market for OLED TVs could be big. According to a forecast by Nano Markets, the OLED TV market should be worth about $42 million in 2008, $436 million in 2009, and $1.2 billion by 2010.

That leaves time for OLED companies like Universal Display and Cambridge Display Technology to tinker with manufacturing processes and dream up more innovative ways to use smaller OLED screens, such as in flexible displays. This technology is being deployed in some cell phones and portable media players.

The key to OLED TVs is the series of thin organic films that give off light when an electrical current is applied. TVs can be simpler to make with OLEDs than LCD panels mainly because there are fewer parts in OLED TVs. Specifically, there's no back light, which makes OLED TVs potentially thinner and able to reduce the power consumption of the display by a factor of four, according to Universal Display, which works on several different OLED technologies.

There are other issues, of course. One of the biggest is differential aging, meaning the red, green and blue diodes degrade at different rates, which results in a distorted picture. But that's changing.

"Over the past two years this problem has begun to disappear as the result of technical improvements in OLEDs," said Gasman of Nano Markets. "Cambridge Display has, for example, announced that it has achieved lifetimes of 80,000 hours for blue OLEDs and blue polymers for OLEDs with 100,000 hours of life."

The manufacturing process is also experiencing growing pains. Right now, OLED manufacturers can produce a sizable amount of smaller displays for cell phones, but increasing the glass size at large volumes necessary for TVs could be a challenge--but one that could be solved, said Mahon of Universal Display. "It's no different for what's had to be done for LCD and plasma panels. It's simply part of the maturation of a technology."

And then there's price. Considering the rate at which LCD television prices are falling, which is making high-definition viewing accessible to a larger subset of consumers, OLEDs will be far out of the price range of the average TV shopper whenever they do land on store shelves.

To put it bluntly, "Right now OLED cannot come in at a competitive price," said iSuppli's Patel. "We are anticipating OLEDs by the end of this year from Sony, an 11-inch for $800 to $1,000. For a $1,000, you can get a 40-inch plasma."

Plus there's a choice that major LCD manufacturers have to make: they're right in the thick of a battle over LCD market share. LCD is a technology that many consumers are only recently embracing, so it could make less sense for some to spend resources on something like OLED.

At some point, when parts become more plentiful and manufacturing efficiency increases, OLEDs will likely be cheaper to produce than LCDs. But that point could still be a few years off. "An OLED may cost 60 to 70 percent of a comparable LCD. Intrinsically, there will be a cost advantage in making an OLED (TV)," Mahon said. "The question is how quickly (they'll get there)."

See more CNET content tagged:
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How long is 10,000 hours in terms of years?

Is 30,000 on a screen for a TV going to last for say- 5 years of typical usage? More?

Use 4 hours a day... as a rule of thumb.
Posted by ofuel (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Pretty biased article. Plasma and LCD's days are already numbered. They are a non-ideal stop-gap technology.

OLEDs and field emission diode/display (FED) based "thin" TV's will replace plasma and LCD. The reason?

They have the exact same picture advantages of CRT without the need for the deep picture tube. They are also simpler designs.

All this non-sense talk of contrast ratio, true black, burn-in, response time, etc will go away with these new display technologies/techniques.

We shouldn't detract from either plasma or LCD's contributions though since they were the "stepping stone" technologies that will make OLED and FED "easier" to fabricate and bring to market sooner.

In a few years, LCD's and plasmas will start to get phased out of the line-up as OLED and FED ramp up. The costs will come down just like they have for every technology.
Posted by cschlise (7 comments )
Link Flag
Bad technology.
OLED just like plasma and CRT is susceptible to raster burn. I know that advances have slowed raster burn, but I find any unacceptable.

DLP may be thick, but it will last a very long time.
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Is 40" OLED TVs just Hype?
Video clips - Different OLED TVs (foldable, thinnest, smallest, largest (Samsung?s 40?), telephone etcetera).
Select the various picture frames in Sony You Tube section - to obtain OLED information.

Why read about it when you can actually see video clips?
<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>

More OLED TV information but no video clips:-
<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>

Laser TV and SED promised a lot - has not been marketed at least in the UK.

The last website (<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>) above to quote:
Higher contrast. OLED materials can support the full spectrum of visible light.

My attitude was, but HDMI 1.3 probably made the same claim. Therefore, I went to the HDMI?s official website to check. It implies that HDMI 1.3 could display the entire spectrum:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
I used the following video clips:-
1) HDMI 1.3 ?Overview and
2) HDMI 1.3 Deep Colour.

Therefore, OLED may just be an exaggeration. I would prefer to have a much more reliable 40? LCD or SED 1920x1080p TV with virtually the same picture quality has OLED despite that it maybe a couple of centimetres (about one inch) difference in thickness. Why don?t all OLED TVs have 1,000,000:1 contrast, and why are the 11? OLEDs thicker than the larger OLED TVs 27" (think) ? in Sony?s case.

Before I forget, in the UK about June/July, Samsung was probably the first to market a 40? HDMI 1.3 M87 TV that in theory should have produced the best picture quality and it was useless (banding, flesh tones? claimed). Probably, the most important thing in a TV is the quality of the video scaler, so I purchased the Sony KDL-40W2000 at almost the cheapest price - must be able to trust retailer if anything goes wrong.

To quote Sharp:

Sharp said the new LCD television that is being developed would be just 29 millimetres thick in a 52-inch model

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>

If Sharp could produce a much thinner LCD so should some other companies
Posted by BT7474 (41 comments )
Reply Link Flag
apples to oranges
What does HDMI have anything to do with what OLED can natively display? HDMI is an interface.
Posted by saiga6360 (1 comment )
Link Flag
Lazer TV
Im still waiting for the lazer TV's.I thought they were supposed to be out by now????
Posted by Reiley (15 comments )
Reply Link Flag
AV projector light bulbs are short lived, yet...
AV projector light bulbs are short lived, all too often far less than a 100 hours of use before they pop, and they cost hundreds of dollars to replace, yet... gee whiz, the marketplace is still aflood with countless models of these video devices ranging from a $1000 on up! They are not exactly "affordable" for home consumerism. Yet they thrive.

So that being a fact, how can these pundits claim that no new video technology is economically feasible in the TV market unless it can deliver 30K to 50K hours of longevity? Even so, that target is only a 3x to 5x increase over the stated current life-span of OLED displays, and can probably be quickly reached with improved purity in the manufacturing process or source materials.
No biggie there. It's not like they're stating they need a 10-fold or 100x increase before they can bring it to the marketplace.

And the short blurb by iSuppli analyst Patel, seems self-contradictory. We know it's only the price/performance ratio that matters to wise consumers, and both the marketeers and consumers look for that "sweet spot" in pricing and buying.
So the only "step" that is required for market success of a newly introduced product is for it to deliver an obviously sweeter "bang for the buck", for buyers to migrate to it. The claim that new tech needs to be "many steps ahead" of the current tech is just hot air bloviation.
Example: DLP RP HDTV (yes I bought one this year) found it's market success in the technology mix because it represented more bang for the buck,
not because it was "many steps ahead" of plasma or LCD TVs in technological features.

Methinks some market "analysts" and industry commentators probably have a vested interest in their particular biased opinions. Oui? Nyet?
Posted by MultiMuse (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag

<a class="jive-link-external" href="" target="_newWindow"></a>
Posted by bxnayan (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I didnt read the whole article before I posted.
Posted by bxnayan (2 comments )
Link Flag

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