A focus at this year's CES was the announcement of active-matrix organic light-emitting-diode (AMOLED) televisions by leading TV makers such as Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, Panasonic and Sony-with the makers using distinct technological approaches in order to bring AMOLED technology into their TV offerings.
But despite ongoing efforts among the companies to target mass production and lower cost via various technology options, it is unlikely that most of the AMOLED TV prototypes announced at CES will be available in the market this year, with the exception of LG Electronics' 55-inch flat Full HD model, the 55EM9700, according to insights from the IHS iSuppli OLED and Emerging Display service from information and analytics provider IHS.
Shipments of AMOLED TV panels are expected to remain limited over the next few years, growing from a few thousand units in 2013 to 2.7 million units by 2015.
Staking competing claims to be the first and largest in the world, 56-inch 4K AMOLED TV prototypes were each shown by Panasonic and Sony at the Las Vegas event. The sets boasted four times-hence, 4K-the resolution of current 1080p televisions. For the 4K OLED samples, both manufacturers used oxide thin-film-transistor (TFT) backplanes, which present lower manufacturing costs than low-temperature polysilicon (LTPS) backplanes.
Panasonic used the image-printing method on its 4K AMOLED TV, a simpler printing technology, making OLED production adaptable for a wider range of display sizes. In contrast, Sony used evaporation technology to deposit organic material in its top-emitting RGB OLED structure. The panel was provided by AUO of Taiwan, which at the show also introduced its own 32-inch oxide TFT backplane with White OLED structure TV. Sony's emission technology optimizes the OLED structure, which helps achieve better light management, enhances color purity and achieves higher contrast at lower power-consumption levels.
Using different technological approaches, Sony and Panasonic were both able to make ultra-high-definition (UHD) 56-inch displays reaching 79 pixels per inch-twice the density of 55-inch full high-definition (FHD) displays used in the OLED TVs from LG Electronics and Samsung Electronics.
For their part, Samsung and LG showed off 55-inch 3-D, FHD sets with AMOLED technology, coinciding with news that LG's FHD TV will be available on the market by the first quarter this year. LG's AMOLED TV utilized oxide TFT backplanes and the White OLED evaporation method, as it did in a prototype presented last year. Eliminating the need for fine metal mask technology in OLED production, White OLED provides an easier way to mass-produce OLED panels.
Samsung, in contrast, used LTPS TFT backplane and the RGB OLED evaporation method in its AMOLED TV prototype, similar likewise to what it did last year. Mainly applied in small- and medium-sized displays, sets with LTPS TFT backplanes and RGB OLED evaporation exhibit improved OLED performance, it is generally agreed. But due to low yields and high costs, it may prove difficult for Samsung to launch AMOLED TVs in 2013 using these technologies.
Both Samsung and LG also unveiled their own curved 55-inch AMOLED TV prototypes at CES, with the sets boasting a 4-meter radius of curvature and Full HD resolution. Meanwhile, the success of Samsung and LG in implementing a large-sized curved OLED was thought to be a meaningful achievement in the display industry. However, both still face challenges with mass production, and market availability of curved OLED TVs is not a near-term possibility.
Yield improvement and cost reduction remain barriers
Also at CES, LG announced that its 55-inch Full-HD AMOLED TV will be available in the international market within a couple of months at a price of $12,000. LG has already started receiving preorders in its native South Korea earlier this month, and the company claims it will start mass-producing the world's first 55-inch OLED TV soon. While OLED TV makers all hope to become the acknowledged market and technology leaders in their space, more improvements in technology, material and manufacturing appear to be needed in order to bring AMOLED TVs to the market.
In addition to technical and large-volume manufacturing challenges, OLED TVs also already face an uphill task of competing on prices with lower-priced, higher-resolution 4K LCD and even Full-HD LCD TVs. By the time AMOLED TV production achieves efficiencies in large-scale production, LCD TVs would have had an opportunity to become even more competitive in price and performance.
With still many challenges to be addressed despite many prototypes at CES, consumers are likely to wait a few more years before they buy their AMOLED TVs, IHS iSuppli believes.
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