Balls of confusion: Marketing material on Samsung’s own web site still implies `QLED TV’ is a distinct new innovation.

Since CES 2017, one of the more confusing new wrinkles in the nomenclature of quantum dot TV technology has been the use of the term “QLED.”

At one time used in press reports out of Asia quoting Samsung executives applying the term to quantum dots with electroluminescent self-emissive lighting qualities still in development, QLED is now being suggested as a more general term to essentially replace “quantum dot” displays.

Chris Chinnock, principal of market research firm Insight Media, was brought by Samsung’s U.S. marketing and communications teams to a meeting with members of the TV reviewer press Thursday to say that Samsung wants to be clear that “QLED” stands for Quantum Dot Light Emitting Diode (QLED), as a reference to any device with a visual display screen enhanced by the use of quantum dots. That goes for other manufacturers’ quantum dot televisions too.

Chinnock went further to say QLED does not refer to a specific application of quantum dots with electroluminescent properties, as many believed before Samsung’s CES introduction. Further, he added, Samsung, which owns the trademark to the QLED term, now wants to share that term openly with any company that wants to use it for their quantum dot display products.

We asked a representative from Samsung for an official statement from the company on this open use of their QLED trademark, but had not received a response as this was posted.

Read more on the use of QLED terminology after the jump:

According to Chinnock: “a quantum dot is a nanoscale particle that can be embedded somewhere in the TV.” All quantum dot TVs today are illuminated with blue LED light and after being excited by this blue light quantum dots generate a quantum effect, emitting either red light or green light. The blue light is covered by the LED. The color of that light is determined by the size of the quantum dot particle.

“The reason the industry is interested in quantum dots is that they push out a narrow spectrum that allows the TV to push out toward the boundaries of the color gamut, which means more colors can be displayed in the TV or device, and you can get more saturated colors because it is closer to the edges of the color gamut,” Chinnock said.

Another reason for the excitement around quantum dots is that the 4K Ultra HD standard allows for a new color gamut – called BT.2020 – which is much bigger than what the Rec.709 gamut for HDTV was.

No displays today except for laser projectors can get to that BT.2020 color gamut.

“OLEDs can’t get there and probably won’t get there. This [and micro LED technology now in development] is the only technology we see besides pure laser primaries to get toward that,” Chinnock said.

“The idea of QLED is that it applies to any display that integrates a quantum dot or a quantum rod, which is a variation on this technology, into the display stacks, somewhere,” he added. “There’s a whole bunch of different architectures and places where you can put these quantum dots in the display architecture.”

Samsung acquired the rights to the QLED trademark when it was purchased along with other assets of the now defunct quantum dot developer QD Vision late last year.

“The whole idea is that this is a category of display technology. It is not a particular implementation and it is not a Samsung trade name or brand name,” said Chinnock. “By calling it a category, there is certainly a lot of precedent here. When we talk about OLED, it encompasses a whole lot of different architectures. When we talk about LCDs, it’s a whole bunch of different architectures. The term LED TV now means a whole lot of different architectures. PDP and CRT included a whole bunch of different architectures. QLED should include a bunch of different architectures. So, anyone who has a display with quantum dots in it can call it a QLED display.”

Chinnock continued, “What they are doing is actually releasing this trademark. They will not enforce it. They want this name to be an industry category.”

Chinnock added that one reason no other company has gone along with this naming convention so far is that “I don’t think any other company knows that they can name their products QLEDs yet. I think that’s the whole point.”

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Samsung, which helped stir the QLED waters last January at its pre-CES 2017 press conference, used the term for the first time while introducing its latest “Q Series” 4K Ultra HD LED LCD TVs. The name was elaborately proclaimed at the start of the unveiling of the Q Series TV line during a CES-Eve technology showcase. This created the impression that the Q Series models were based on a distinct new architecture called “QLED.” Curiously, it was not even hinted at as a Samsung term during the line previews held for the press in New Jersey where the Q series was first discussed several weeks earlier.

“Samsung has its Q Series products, capitalizing on this QLED category, but it’s a category not a brand name,” Chinnock explained. “That’s an important distinction that really Samsung has not done a very good job of talking about.”

Representatives for Samsung’s U.S. operations hosting the discussion, said there have been no public announcements to date that the QLED term is publicly available, but there have been informal discussions behind the scenes between Samsung and other industry parties on the matter.

Asked if he is suggesting that members of the press now start to use the term QLED when writing about quantum dot displays from Samsung and others, Chinnock said, “I think it is something that should be debated. Let’s talk about if it is appropriate to do this.”

For those keeping score, this will be the third general term that Samsung has used for quantum dot TV technologies associated with its television lines. It first called its TVs based on quantum dots, Nanocrystal TVs back in 2015 behind its SUHD TV model tier, and followed that with quantum dots for its SUHD premium tier 4K Ultra HDTVs in 2016. Now it is deploying QLED as the general name for quantum dot displays as it launches the brand-specific Q series line.

The Q Series TVs are a new class of televisions using an advanced new Samsung quantum dot (ahem, QLED) technology architecture that involves use of a (still cadmium-free) metal alloy formulation. These new and improved “QLED” TVs are positioned in the company’s top-three 2017 model 4K Ultra HD TV series – the Q7, Q8 and Q9 – that produce 100 percent or better DCI-P3 color volume, peak luminance levels surpassing 1,600 nits and wider side-to-side viewing angles. Our review of the Q9 found it to be in contention for one of the best TVs of 2017, and the best of show for CES 2017.

By Greg Tarr


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