OLED (organic light emitting diode) has long been touted as the “holy grail” of high defintion display technology. The promise: wafer thin HDTVs with near 180-degree viewing angles, high contrast ratios, jet-black blacks down to the pixel level, very fast response time, wide color gamut and very low power consumption.

Last week LG Display’s chief executive stated “LG Display may release a 55-inch OLED TV set sometime in the latter half of next year.”  This was widely reported as “LG to bring 55-Inch OLED to market in 2012.” We strongly doubt it. Here’s why.

Big screen OLED has been rumored to be “a few years away” for about a decade.

There are three major problems with bringing large screen OLED to the consumer market:

1) The ability to make affordable large screens, due to poor yields;

2) Screen brightness competitive with current HDTVs

3) Acceptable panel life.

To date, the biggest OLED screen in the world is a 24.5-inch Sony professional monitor which retails for a staggering $6,100! A 55″ panel is over four times that size.

As things pertain to LG, here are the facts.

LG showed a 31″ OLED at last year’s IFA show and at the January International Consumer Electronics Show. LG claimed it would ship in 2011. No price was quoted, but Gizmodo rumored it to be in the neighborhood of $9,000. We asked an LG spokesman about the status of its 31″ OLED and he informed HD Guru the 31″ is now off the 2011 product plan worldwide.

LG’s only consumer OLED TV currently in production is the 15EL9500 AMOLED (active matrix OLED). It has a 15.1-inch screen with a resolution of 1366 x 768. It sells in Korea and the U.K. for about $2800 at current exchange rates. HD Guru requested brightness and lifespan from LG, but the numbers are not published.

Sony’s 24.5-inch professional monitor  (PVM-2541) also does not list panel lifespan, but it does spec a maximum brightness of just 100 cd/m² (equal to 29.18 foot-lamberts). By comparison, Sharp’s 52″ PN-E521 LCD professional monitor is rated five times higher at a maximum at 500 cd/m² (equal to 145.93 ftl). Compare this with consumer big screen LED LCDs with Energy Star compliance. These TVs typically produce over 80 ft. lamberts maximum, about three times higher than Sony’s pro unit. Being emissive displays, the brighter one cranks an OLED, the shorter the lifespan.

Taiwan-based Digitimes article reported last week Paul Peng, Executive VP at LCD panel maker AU Optronics (AUO), stated “OLED panels for use in TVs is currently much higher (in cost) than that of LCD TV panels due to too low yield rates and therefore OLED TV panels are not feasible in commercial use until 2014.”

HD Guru’s Predicts

Other than seeing a “halo,” low production, very high-priced showcase product, we do not believe a viable large screen OLED competitor to plasma or LED LCD will appear for years, if ever. Consumers are attracted to bright displays and consumers would not show any interest in a relatively dark, $10,000-$25,000 OLED large screen HDTV no matter how thin or how high the contrast ratio. Pioneer found this out the hard way with their premium Kuro plasmas, which had higher performance and cost than other flat panels, and never sold in enough numbers to be profitable.

As we speculated in our Apple HDTV article we see improvements to current panel technology as the path for the near to mid future.


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