9 months ago

Review Edition - IFA International

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SEEN AT IFA IFA: Lessons in LCD for OLED Bob Raikes Principal, Meko The end of IFA is near and that completes a week of coverage for me. Most of my time was spent looking at and talking about TVs. So what are the lessons from the show? LCDs for TVs have one transistor for each red, green and blue dot, OLEDs have as many as five First, it's often instructive to look at what we didn't see. OLED TV has been one of the big topics of recent years, but the biggest player in the TV world in Europe, Samsung, only had a very small display of OLED TVs, and only in the corner of their massive booth. LG is shipping some OLED TV sets at very high prices. All of the other major TV brands showed OLED TVs, but none are shipping them. So what is happening? First, OLEDs are ridiculously difficult to make. OLEDs need four or five times more transistors than LCDs (LCDs for TVs have one transistor for each red, green and blue dot, OLEDs have as many as five). That means an UltraHD OLED TV has around 40 million transistors - around eight times the number of Intel's original Pentium chip! Furthermore, those transistors have to be made of very high grade materials. On an LCD, the transistor doesn't have to carry the energy for the image, just control a switch in front of the backlight, so it can be low quality. On an OLED, all the energy for the image goes through the transistor cluster, so it has to be much higher quality. LCD was massively successful replacing CRTs in the TV market by driving costs down-- because so much of the technology was shared. "Anybody" can build a competitive LCD factory- - for billion! Because so much information, materials and equipment was shared between different LCD makers (although each has some "special sauce"), there was no way to make profits. Therefore, the OLED makers have now decided not to share. LG and Samsung have used completely different technologies to create OLEDs in transistors, materials and production methods. There is absolutely no sharing. Equipment makers have to develop "one-offs" and despite the fantastic engineers and resources these companies have, they have struggled to make large OLEDs reliably. LG takes a simpler course than Samsung, and is said to be getting reasonable "yield" levels (in other words they are throwing away, perhaps, only 20% to 30% as scrap). Samsung has been more technically ambitious and is a long way from this level for large OLEDs (although it has small ones under control), so is effectively dropping out of the market for now. So how did so many companies have OLED TV samples at IFA? Simple - they have bought a few sample panels from LG and put them in a set. However, perhaps only a few, if any, will go into production. Meanwhile, I saw LCDs that could match the contrast of OLED, but offer three or four times the brightness. They will look great in TV stores. I have seen LCDs that have the same great colour performance as OLED, but cost only a third of the price. So tough days are still ahead for OLED in TVs and OLED may never get beyond a niche. Is OLED like Sony's Trinitron was in the days of CRTs-- the choice of the specialist and the rich, but not for the masses? OLEDs in mobile devices are another matter, but I have run out of space, so maybe that is a topic for next year's IFA? Bob Raikes is the publisher of the (free) Display Daily, the Large Display Monitor and Mobile Display Monitor and principal of Meko, the specialist researcher on the European Display market. 22

SEEN AT IFA LG 4K OLED TV STAND OUT STANDS The impending launch of LG’s muchanticipated smartwatch, G Watch R, proved a significant attraction for visitors to LG’s stand and has further fuelled the market’s interest in wearable technology. The launch date is pencilled for October 2014. The watch features a 1.3-inch circular P-OLED display with a 320x320 resolution and 245PPI backed up with 512MB RAM and 4GB of storage. Beko showcased its new brand identity on an inspirationally-designed stand, the second-largest exhibition space at IFA 2014. The cooking area was a special highlight, featuring a selection from the CAST Built-In Series by Patricia Urquiola. Other high points included the user-friendly Luminist concept system that showcases the art of cooking using different coloured flames. IFA International • Friday 19 th September 2014 23

IFA International