My favourite thing at CES? Same thing as last time: OLED TV


Samsung shows yet more OLED TVs at this year's CES.

Samsung shows yet more OLED TVs at this year's CES.

I’ve almost given up hope.

Not on CES itself, although to be honest, this year’s show hasn’t done much for my confidence in the consumer tech industry.

No I’m talking about my hope that one of the best display technologies I’ve ever seen – OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) will finally make its way from the show floor to the living room floor.

Let’s back up a bit…

The modern TV era which now includes HDTV and 3D TV began with the move toward so-called flat-screen technologies. Plasma became the first viable way to produce high-resolution, large-size displays of 42-5o”. LCD started making an appearance a few years later.

Since then, all of the TVs we’ve seen at retail have simply been incremental improvements – tweaks if you will – on these two basic platforms.

Plasmas have become more energy efficient and have done away with screen burn-in (two of the top complaints the format experienced in its early years) while LCD has overcome its size limitations (LCDs bigger than 50″ used to be prohibitively expensive) and has gained improved brightness and contrast thanks to LED-backlighting taking over from the original CCFL light source.

And of course, both technologies now deliver full 1080p HD images with 3D available for those who want it.

But during the better part of the last 10 years a technology that, in my opinion is better than both LCD or plasma, has been waiting in the wings, getting an occasional outing at tech shows, or over-priced and under-sized production models (see Sony’s silly little XEL-1).

Seen from the side, Samsung's OLED TV practically disappears.

Seen from the side, Samsung's OLED TV practically disappears. (click for larger image)

That’s right. OLED is simply stunning. Images and words don’t do justice to how vibrant and rich these displays are. What you can see is how ridiculously thin they can be made. They possess another advantage: when used to create glasses-free 3D, they do the job much better than their LCD and plasma cousins.

But despite tech writers the world over shouting OLED’s benefits from the rooftops, manufacturers delay the introduction of this superior technology. At least in TVs – the beautiful displays are now common-place on the current batch of smartphones.

The reason, they claim is the same as it was years ago: cost. Apparently they still haven’t figured out how to make these things as cheaply as the current TVs on the market.

Well no kidding. That’s because OLED hasn’t been given the chance to start small as it were, and develop a consumer following and demand that would ultimately lead to the sales volumes needed to drive prices down.

Samsung! LG! Please! Don’t wait a day longer. Get these glorious TVs onto store shelves and let the market drive the momentum. Sure, it will start small. After all, only the most well-heeled buyers will be able to afford them at first. But eventually, they’ll reach mass-market just as LCD and plasma did before.

I know it’s tempting to stick with the tried and true. I know it’s cheaper and easier to layer on additional features like internet connectivity to existing TVs than it is to re-tool whole factories to produce something new.

But new is what we want. You’ve shown us OLED TV. We love it. What more do you need?

Update: LG, which showed off their 55-inch OLED TV at the show apparently does have plans to sell it to consumers this year. Exactly when, or for how much money remains a mystery.

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3 comments

  1. Edward Walsh

    Hi Simon:

    Thank you for the article on OLED televisions. I agree with what you are asking and also that starting off it will be a ‘niche’ product till adoption rates climb and costs lower. Personally, I would rather spend, for example, $3000 on a 32″ OLED TV versus a 65″ LED and enjoy a higher quality viewing experience.

    Hopefully one of these companies will take the plunge and see what the market will do. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

    Sincerely,

    Edward Walsh
    Marystown, NL
    Canada

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  2. Gman

    I have wondered lately why a few people that I have read who were at CES say that the OLED by Samsung was “over saturated.” I don’t see those comments from other people. The photos I see of these TVs don’t look that way to me, with the exception of yours here. I know many aspects can contribute to this, but I have to say this picture does look “cartoonish,” as a critic said. I am grateful for people that are willing to give a new technology a chance and be the first to purchase it, but I’m not one of them. I’m glad that some companies wait until a technology is proven for the sake of their customers so no one has to waste any money, like DISH Network. Although my employer is the last to introduce the multi-room DVR experience as they presented the Hopper at CES this year, DISH brought the experience to a new place of ingenuity in my opinion. Besides putting 250 hours of recording time in the DVR, there are small “Joey” client boxes that replace a conventional receiver and are small enough to hide behind a wall mounted TV. Using the existing cabling in the home makes discretion more convenient and each Joey gives the same functions as the Hopper main receiver. That is good news for my family as we are trying to de-clutter this New Year after 15 years of marriage collecting. Sony has decided not to “venture” and perhaps they will be the victor; I will be around to see how it all pans out.

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    • Andy

      Why don’t CBS, FOX, and NBC execs want consumers to enjoy commercial-free TV? It’s what we want! I’m a customer and employee of Dish, and I think AutoHop is great because you can easily watch commercial-free TV. A well known consumer advocacy group, Public Knowledge, agrees that people should have the right to control how they watch TV. They’re taking a stand for consumers by creating a petition that tells CBS, FOX, and NBC media to keep their hands out of your living room and DVR. Sign their petition to keep control of how you watch TV http://bit.ly/KigXAn

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