Samsung’s HS Kim: OLED Not Ready Yet

What HiFi? Sound and Vision (WHFSV) spoke to HS Kim, Vice President in charge of Flat Panel Development at Samsung. Samsung invests the majority of its CAPEX toward LCD technology to build LCD TVs but also commercially produces PDP (Plasma Display Panel) TVs, DLP (Digital Light Processing) TVs. Of course, Samsung conducts R&D in OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) display technology as well. Kim stated that Samsung would not sell OLED-based TVs until they can be manufactured at a price the consumer is willing to pay. That is certainly not the case today.

According to Kim, OLED TVs are roughly 10x the price of equivalent sized LCD TVs and nobody would purchase one. Although OLED R&D will continue, Samsung will continue to focus its development on LCD and PDP TVs to make them better, thinner and more energy efficient.

Better. 200Hz (for Europe, and 240Hz for Americas/Asia) technology that almost completely eliminates motion blur as well as LED backlighting technologies will be incorporated into the rest of Samsung products. LED backlighting also enables local dimming technology that significantly improves contrast ratio. Edge-lighting with LEDs where the LEDs are located on the side of the LCD combined with a highly reflective black panel allows for extremely thin profiles.

“Even if the OLED panel is only 3mm thick, the TV will need to be 25mm or so–we are getting close to that with LCD technology,” predicted Kim. We’ve all seen the ultra-thin XEL-1 from Sony. But you have to realize that the OLED TV itself requires a lot of electronics and it is only the top part of the XEL-1 that’s really thin; the rest of it, not really. More anaysis after the jump.

Next year’s 55″ LCD TVs will consume about as much power as this year’s 32″ LCD TVs. According to Kim, “… an OLED TV will consume around 50W. We’re near to that with next year’s 40″ LCDs.” OLED has been touted as having a power consumption advantage, but according to Samsung, next year’s LCD TVs will catch up to OLED.

OLED’s advantages of it being thin and consuming less power seem to be soon erased in 2009 with new LCD TV technologies. But you have to look a bit closer to the details to realize that that is not really the case.

Edge-lit LED. Edge-lighting does not enable local dimming. Although edge-lighting will shrink the thickness of a LCD TV down to OLED levels, it cannot match the contrast ratio of a OLED display. To compete with an OLED TV, a LCD TV must have local dimming capabilities and that will require a LED backlight adding thickness. OLED still has the advantage with its 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio and ultra-thinness.

Power Consumption. There wasn’t much detail in the WHFSV article regarding what technologies will be incorporated into next year’s 55″ LCD TV that consumes considerably less power. But with all the advanced electronics such as 200Hz/240Hz, LED backlighting with local dimming, motion interpolation, etc. it would be interesting to see actual power consumption figures. Even so, a comparable OLED TV would be thinner.

Price. This is where we hold our collective breaths because it will take a good long while for OLED TVs to come down in price. But Samsung’s Kim is missing a big big point. Since when was new technology cheap? In the market for technology there are essential three large groups: early adopters, mainstream adopters and late adopters. The early adopters are willing to pay more for the latest technology. A good example would be the first generation OLED TV: Sony’s XEL-1. It was a miniscule OLED TV at just 11″. The XEL-1 wasn’t even capable of true 720p HD let alone 1080p HD. And the price? Around US$2000. How many did Sony sell? All 2000 that Sony produced in 2007.

Bottomline: Samsung should commercialize OLED TV as soon as possible. Early adopters will purchase them. Take the profit margins and pour it back into OLED R&D and lead the technology toward mass production. Go through this cycle about 2 to 3 times and you’ll get OLED TVs that will have just a little premium over LCD and PDP TVs in the near future.

Source: WHFSV

[tags]Samsung, Samsung OLED, Samsung OLED TV, OLED, OLED TV, Organic Light Emitting Diode, Sony, Sony XEL-1, XEL-1[/tags]

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