December 19, 2012
Korean TV Makers Turning From OLED To Ultra HD
Enid Burns for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Many people flip TV channels, but South Korean TV makers Samsung and LG are reportedly flipping from one TV format to another. It looks like the companies, which are currently the number one and two largest TV manufacturers in the world, are turning away from OLED to 4K sets.
A year ago at the International CES in Las Vegas, the ultra thin OLED sets were all the rage. CNET reported back in January LG´s 55-inch OLED set earned top awards at the annual consumer electronics trade show. It seemed OLED was the next big thing.
But now NPD DisplaySearch, a market research firm that tracks sales in the consumer electronics arena, has reported Samsung and LG — the two biggest supporters of OLED TV technology — are getting cold feet. Both manufacturers could be opting for rival format 4K, recently rebranded by some manufacturers as Ultra HD.
Presently, the two technologies co-exist but are not compatible. That isn´t to say in the future 4K won´t be able to utilize OLED, but for the near term that seems unlikely.
The problem is a matter of size — not to mention price. Right now both sets are very expensive, with models costing more than $10,000. For the same amount of money consumers could get a dozen current generation LCD or plasma HDTV sets.
OLED, or organic light emitting diode, has the promise of offering fantastic contrast ratios with deep blacks that also means vivid colors. The sets can also be very light and super-thin, perhaps as little as half an inch thick. But this technology is still being refined; and according to NPD Group only about 10 percent of OLED panels punched out pass inspection to actually be used in TVs. Even after fixes, physical and electronic, the number of panels that make it to finished TVs is less than 30 percent. That´s a lot of waste.
4K or Ultra HD sets aren´t as thin as OLED — for now — but offer a higher resolution. In fact, the very point of this technology is to deliver the next step in resolution, and these sets offer four times the resolution of current HDTVs. While it is still a challenge to pack in four times as many pixels per area as a 1,920 x 1,080 set offers, this is far less complicated for ULTRA HD.
Because it means greater resolution, Ultra HD has the promise of producing even larger sets. So move over 55-inch — the 85-inch set could be one the way.
The bigger problem for now is the content isn´t exactly there. It is unlikely TV content will arrive for Ultra HD sets in the foreseeable future. And it is even unlikely current broadband or cable/satellite providers have the bandwidth to transmit enough data in a reasonable amount of time.
The switch over from standard definition took years and it is unlikely anyone is ready to go through that again anytime soon. So content for Ultra HD would likely consist of packaged media, such as enhanced Blu-ray. The first 4K content will even likely come via a home server loaned to customers.
So the question is why would the Korean TV makers ditch one technology for another? The biggest reason could be that these exist in parallel development and format wars — such as the HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray disc based systems — created consumer confusion, and in the end only one can really win.
It could also be Samsung and LG, who also recently accused one another of stealing the OLED technology, could put it on the back burner until such time as 4K/Ultra HD takes off.
Together these two could be a killer combo — a massive but thin set. Of course we´ll be sure to report on it at CES and beyond.