We're big fans of OLED (organic light-emitting diode) TVs, but LG is the only company that offers them. According to recent reports in the Korean press, though, Samsung is still firmly invested in OLED technology. And that's good news for consumers, as competition pushes the tech forward and drives prices lower.
We like OLED because it offers the deep blacks, high contrast, and unlimited viewing angles of a plasma TV, combined with the bright images, super-slim design, and high energy efficiency of a LED LCD set. OLED TVs from LG now top our Ratings in the large-screen categories (55 inches and up).
Samsung isn't new to this market; when the first Samsung OLED TV arrived in our labs in 2013, we were impressed with its performance. In fact, when we compared it head-to-head with LG's first OLED TV, the 55EA9800, we thought the Samsung OLED TV was better.
But Samsung OLED TVs used a technology, called RGB OLED, that turned out to be harder to manufacture than the white OLED (WOLED) technology LG is using. LG's process had better yields (the percentage of TVs manufactured free of defects) and lower production costs. For that reason, among others, Samsung stopped making new OLED TVs in 2013.
Since then, we've wondered when we'd see the next Samsung OLED TV.
At first we thought Samsung would simply switch to the same WOLED technology that LG uses, but it appears that LG now owns the patents to that technology, originally developed by Kodak. Given the competitiveness between the two Korean companies, it seems unlikely that Samsung would be willing to license the technology from its rival.
Printing an OLED TV?
But reports in the Korean press say Samsung has been experimenting with a new manufacturing process that uses inkjet printing. The process involves spraying OLEDs (and other materials) onto a substrate much like an inkjet printer spreads ink on paper. Samsung is hoping this method will result in lower production costs, and thus lower prices for consumers.
Over the next two years, media reports indicate, Samsung Display, the company's TV panel-producing arm, will invest more than $3 billion in OLED TV research and production. Based on that timeline, Samsung Electronics, the division that sells TVs, wouldn't get the OLED panels it needs before 2018.
Samsung said it doesn't comment on rumors and speculation.
Our company contacts in the U.S. aren't saying very much about OLED either, other than that Samsung continues to invest in the technology, and that it believes there are still some technical issues—especially image retention (also known as burn-in) from static images left on the screen—that need to be addressed before we see a new Samsung OLED TV.
At CES 2016 in January, we had also expected to hear OLED TV announcements from other manufacturers, especially Panasonic and Sony. Panasonic did exhibit an OLED TV, but didn't offer any firm commitments for bringing it to the U.S. Sony was mum about its plans, despite the fact that it was the first company to launch an OLED TV—the 11-inch XEL-1 set—in the U.S. in 2008.
For now, we're looking forward to checking out the 2016 OLED models from LG, and possibly other brands, when they arrive.
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