Why your next TV should be OLED

  • OLED technology will finally usher in the age of roll-up mobile computing because the screens can be made quite thin. The only hurdle to clear now is to produce an equally flexible power cell and touch digitiser. LG and Samsung are both working hard on viable solutions and will probably bring something even more spectacular to CES in 2017.
Date:14 November 2016 Tags:, , , ,

Forget the marketing. Mass purchase of OLED panels will be good for all of us.

We shouldn’t have let plasma die. Yes the units were big, heavy, energy inefficient and ran high operating temperatures, but the sizes were realistic (by today’s standards) and the TV didn’t sear your eyeballs when you wanted to catch a movie in the dark. It was also great for gaming, but the current crop of gamers won’t know much about 600 Hz TVs and truly stark contrast. After years of brainwashing from clever but sometimes misguided advertisers, a new champion of infinite contrast and instantaneous refresh rates has emerged. Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) TVs share all of plasma’s strengths and thoroughly address the ancient technology’s considerable weaknesses. Where LED backlighting has learnt a few tricks like localised zone dimming to improve contrast, nothing beats having each individual pixel as its own LED.

It’s silly to draw comparisons because the technologies differ so wildly, but while LED TVs are just LCD TVs with more efficient backlighting, OLED panels are thinner, lighter, more energy efficient and have a far wider viewing angle (which manufacturers negate with their insistence on curved screen design). In terms of resolution, OLED panels will finally bring true 4K to the home. Each pixel of the reported 4 000 on the horizontal will be individually lit because the entire panel is made up of individual light cells that respond to electric charge of a certain frequency, which allows the specific RGB colour to glow. To create black, you don’t charge the pixel.

But what about brightness? Yes, OLED doesn’t crank up the output quite like an LED, but what it lacks in sheer retina-burning power, it makes up for with far superior colours. Even then the colours on an OLED aren’t considered as more accurate, but rather more vibrant and rich. And the glare is less because of the even lighting across the panel.  OLED’s biggest enemy up to this point, however, has been economics.

When the big industry players were committing money to new factories it was LCD panels that proved to be widely popular, since factories can produce many different screen sizes – from cellphones to massive outdoor displays. It’s strange, then, that the current market leader in OLED TVs is LG, a company that isn’t known for producing OLED smartphones outside of the largely experimental G Flex.

Hisense is now building OLED TV at the Atlantis plant and, while that doesn’t include display panel manufacture, it’s a step in the right direction in decreasing costs. Bottom line: as the screen sizes and prices become more reasonable it will make less sense to purchase lesser technologies to place at the centre of your home. The only way to force the mass production is through massive demand, though. Your eyes deserve the best. The best is currently OLED.

 LCD vs OLED IN BRIEF*
200 times deeper black
85 per cent slimmer LCD TV 40,4 mm vs. LG OLED TV 5,9 mm
20 per cent narrower LCD TV 11,9 mm vs. OLED TV 9,5 mm
26 per cent lighter LCD TV 27 kg vs. OLED TV 20 kg
12 times more accurate colour
1 000 times faster response time
*Data provided by LG

This article was originally published in the May 2016 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine.