We do not exaggerate when we say that OLED is probably the future of television screens. The premium screen technology is still expensive, but is increasingly being implemented and improved, and even the new display of choice for the iPhone X and the newly announced successors: the Phone XS and iPhone XS Max.
But what is OLED? Standing in front of Organic Light Emitting Diode, the acronym describes a type of panel used by televisions – such as LED-LCD, plasma or CRT. It is different from the other types of panels that have appeared before, but the overarching idea is exactly the same: OLED panels help bring images and video to life before your eyes.
In short: OLED is really the next big thing in home entertainment and it finally reaches a price level within the reach of regular consumers. It offers better image quality (think blacker black and brighter white), reduced energy consumption and faster response times compared to traditional LED TVs.
So why does not everyone have one? Because it is prohibitively expensive and for a long time only two companies, LG and Panasonic, have used the technology in their television panels.
But that is changing. Sony, one of the first developers of the technology, has restarted its new Bravia A1E OLED in 2017 and will continue OLED production in 2018 with the Sony A8F OLED TV. Philips also threw his hat into the ring with the Philips OLED 803 and OLED + 903 this year.
So is OLED worth the hype? We have discussed everything you need to know about the last major buzzword in the article below.
What is the difference between OLED and LCD / LED?
Everything. They can sound the same, but the processes are completely different.
OLED stands for Organic Light-Emitting Diode, where "organic" refers to the carbon film that is in the panel in front of the glass screen.
OLED panels emit their own light when an electrical current is transmitted, while cells in an LCD display require an external light source, such as a gigantic backlight, for brightness.
This backlight separates LCD screens from their LED variants. A traditional LCD screen has a backlight (called a cold cathode light or CCFL) that is uniform across the entire back of the screen.
This means that, regardless of whether the image is black or white, it is illuminated with exactly the same brightness on the panel. This reduces what we & # 39; hotspots & # 39; or call areas with super-bright light because the actual light source that illuminates them is uniform.
This all started a few years ago when technicians at companies such as Samsung and Sony introduced a series of LEDs as backlighting, which meant that if a certain part of the screen was black, those LEDs could be behind that section. disabled to make it appear blacker.
This is a better solution than CCFL backlighting, but there are still problems. Because it is a lamp behind the LCD that produces the illumination instead of the LCD layer itself, the illumination is not fully synchronized with the pixel before it. The result is an effect that & # 39; blooming & # 39; is mentioned, where LED light overflows from clear parts of the image into black areas.
This is what separates OLEDs from LCD / LED screens. In an OLED screen, the pixels themselves are the things that produce the light, and so when they have to be black, they can turn off completely, instead of relying on a backlight that is turned off in their name.
What are the benefits of OLED?
The result is strikingly dark black in an image and when you combine this with the brightness of the whites that can produce an OLED panel, you have a fantastic, vivid image.
LG and Panasonic, virtually the most consistent producers of OLED televisions on earth, like to use the term "infinite contrast". to describe how the self-exposed pixels completely turn off when reproducing black, making it an absolute & # 39; black color instead of a "relative" black that only describes how dark a pixel can get compared to the brightest pixel on the screen.
For years there was a question mark about the lifespan of OLED panels, while production lines could not possibly be made profitable due to high failure rates. But because companies such as LG have invested huge amounts of money in technology – with Philips and Sony joining the fight – their affordability has improved, although it is still much more expensive than competing technologies.
The advantages of OLED go beyond simple static image quality to the responsiveness and smoothness of the screen itself, which means that gamers and home cinema enthusiasts are fond of OLED. It is capable of a refresh rate of only 0.001 ms, which is about 1000 times faster for reference than a standard LCD panel with LED backlight, while it is also superior to the now terminated plasma technology.
And because the light source they use is so small, the depth of the screen sizes has shrunk by the same pace. That means OLED TVs have incredibly deep blacks and bright, peak white, improved color accuracy and smooth responsive movements – all with a form factor that is only a few millimeters in depth and much lighter than standard TVs. .
Which OLED TVs are there now?
OLED TVs have been on the market since 2012 and a large number of manufacturers have adopted the technology over the years. It was the case that OLEDs were produced by Samsung and LG alone, but Samsung dropped the technology on its costs and how difficult it was to produce, and is not planning to restart production shortly.
On the other hand, LG has consistently released the OLED sets in recent years and in 2016 it introduced four easy-to-understand product lines – the G6, E6, C6 and B6 – with OLED panels. In 2017 LG continued with the 7-series TV & # 39; s and now it has been upgraded in 2018 to the 8-series TV & # 39; s: the B8, C8, E8, G8 and ultra-thin LG signature W8 OLED.
If you do not like LG TV, Sony also offers two OLED TVs: the 2017 Sony Bravia A1E OLED and the new Sony Bravia A8F OLED for 2018. Panasonic released the first OLED set from the TX-65CZ950, last year, and Philips impressed with its new pair of OLED 803 and OLED + 903 televisions at the end of 2018.
Here are some of the best OLED televisions you can buy now!
Philips OLED 803
Philips OLED + 903
LG OLED C7
LG OLED E7
LG OLED G7
LG OLED W7
Sony A1E OLED
How much does OLED TV & # 39; s cost?
OLED TVs are certainly becoming cheaper, but they are still far away from what we call affordable. The prices of LG sets start at $ 1,700 in the US and £ 1,300 in the UK, and Panasonic's are even more expensive.
The scarcity of OLED TVs on the market means that those small players on the market are more or less free to charge exactly what they want. We will not see prices drop before we get more competition.
That said, usually when a company starts to move forward, the others get it quickly. Prices should fall when manufacturers can calculate the kinks in the production line and can increase the demand for these phenomenal pieces of technology.
What is the future for OLED?
OLED is an expensive new technology that, even after a few years, is still difficult for manufacturers to get right.
OLED has existed for so long without having reached the mass of which we wrote an opinion piece in 2014 how the technology might be dead.
It is clear that the fact that we are still talking about OLED in 2017 means that the technology is far from dead, but after so many years of trying to make it work, it is hard to keep hoping that it will ever be really affordable. to be.
But just because OLED is not yet affordable does not mean that it will not get better. A price tag of $ 1,700 / £ 1,300 is not what we would consider a budget, but it is much cheaper than what OLED was selling only a year ago.
If this trend continues, we may see that the technology will just become mainstream in a couple of years, but for now OLED is something for enthusiasts.
Original reporting in this article was by Jamie Carter.