Which Technology Will Win The TV War, OLED Plasma or LED

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A bruising flat panel TV battle is set to be played out in Australia over who has the best TV technology.

Sony initially kicked off the war claiming that OLED technology was superior. Panasonic claimed that Plasma was better than both OLED and LED while Samsung is backing both plasma and LED TV technology and will shortly have an OLED offering along with LG.

The experts say that LED and not OLED will be the winner in the mass TV market however, they do say that OLED has a place in the market due the unique way that it can be manufactured.

They claim that the emergence of LED backlight technology has yielded enhancement in image quality with respect to contrast and colour gamut. Additional benefits of LED backlight is in the reduction in power consumption and reduction in thickness of TV.

Plasma TV has been claiming higher contrast than LCD TV in dark environments. With the use of LED backlight with image adaptive dimming, this advantage is gradually being lost. The colour gamut of RGB LED lit LCD TV is the highest of all types of TV including OLED TV.

OLED panels are supposed to be thin because there is no backlight involved. The Sony 11″ OLED TV which is being sold in Australia for the ridiculous price of $6,999 is claimed by Sony to be 3mm at the “thinnest point of the TV”.  Samsung said of this claim “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.” (In fact, the thickness of recent models of LCD TVs is likely to be far less than 25 mm).

According to Analyst Munisamy Anandan of the Gerson Lehrman Group, this is true for LED-lit LCD TV as long as the backlight is fabricated in the ‘edge-lit’ mode. But the edge-lit mode will not be giving the advantage of high colour gamut. In the ‘direct-lit’ mode of LED backlight, OLED TV has the advantage of slimness but has to face a stiff competition in power consumption because of the ‘image adaptive dimming’ employed in ‘direct-lit’ mode.

 

The competition in power consumption that OLED TV has to face is not that simple even with ‘edge-lit’ mode of LCD TV because of the impressive efficacy of white LEDs employed in ‘edge-lit’ mode. Plasma TV will also face the stiff competition in terms of power consumption, the company wrote in a recent report.

 “In December of 2008, the 11″ OLED TV by Sony consumed a power of around 45W. Recent development on 46” LCD TV employing ‘image adaptive dimming’ has demonstrated power consumption of 50W. With the introduction of LED-lit LCD TV, the power consumption has been substantially dropping. ‘White pixel’ approach is another route available for both OLED technology and LCD technology to decrease the power further.

What is significant, claims Anandan, is that OLED technology has the inherent advantage of the ‘absence’ of backlight. Under this condition one would normally expect a significant drop in power consumption and low price. But it is not happening in the real world.

With ‘but’ and ‘if’ conditions an extrapolation of OLED power and life can be arrived at, claims the analyst.

Any new technology will take time to reveal its full potential in the market place. OLED technology has the potential of low power consumption through its well demonstrated ‘harvesting of triplet states’. The materials developed in the phosphorescent OLED family have demonstrated even 200,000 hours at lab level except for blue-emitting material.

Blue is still a problem even at lab level. In terms of low cost of manufacturing, solution-based processes and ‘roll-to-roll’ manufacturing processes hold the key in OLED technology. None of these are validated at the commercial product level in mass manufacturing.

 

Substantial generation of learning curve in large area OLED mass manufacturing will start with the introduction of 32″ OLED TV. Establishing infrastructure similar to LCD is capital intensive. In addition to all these barriers, LED backlight is imposing another barrier.
 
Both OLED and LED have potential application in TV and Lighting. The R&D and manufacturing activity in LED is far higher than OLED. Big giants like, GE, Osram and Philips are taking the lead in LED lighting.

The price of LED is coming down substantially. Efforts are underway to introduce 6″ wafer in mass manufacturing and low cost substrates including glass are being experimented. Low power white LEDs in mass manufacturing have shown efficacy as high as 150 lm/w and lab level demonstration for white has revealed 247 lm/w. Medium powers white LEDs have shown mass manufacturing level efficacy of 110 lm/w. What is important is that the efficacy of LEDs quoted is in higher range of brightness compared to OLED. OLEDs have also demonstrated 100 lm/w at lab level (1000 nits) but not yet at manufacturing level. Correlated colour temperature for white is another question that needs to be looked in to precisely for comparison. It appears that LED efficacies are not saturating and is galloping. This is likely to keep pressure on OLED TV and plasma TV.

 Samsung, AUO, ChiMei, LG Display, Sony, Sharp, Panasonic are all manufacturing LCD/LCD TV while  exploiting LED backlight for low power consumption and enhancement in image quality.

Sony and Samsung are leading in OLED manufacturing with Sony leading in OLED TV. However Samsung have delayed the introduction of large size OLED TV.

 All other things being equal (with LCD), theoretically OLED technology should be advantageous both from the price angle and power angle. This advantage is delayed due to various factors and one of the recent factors is the pressure from LED backlight.

One area that OLED holds the key is in its potential to have ‘roll-to-roll’ manufacturing resulting in a dominant advantage of flexibility, slimness and low-weight.

Anandan concluded by saying that OLED will not see any real threat from LCD TV or plasma TV during the next 10 years.

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