There have been rumors abound on whether OLED televisions are real or products on a manufacture’s wish list.

What is an OLED TV, you ask? An OLED TV screen is a major breakthrough, using a new technology, Organic Light Emitting Diodes. Actually, the earliest electroluminescence in organic materials was noticed in the 1950s. Usage was limited because of poor electrical conductivity of the known organic materials. Highly conductive polymers came along and this limitation was overcome.

Polymer light-emitting diodes have an electroluminescent conductive polymer that emits light when connected to an external voltage. These are full color displays, which are efficient and require a small amount of power in relationship to the light produced with efficiencies approaching 100%. OLED is a flat light emitting technology, made by placing a series of organic thin films between two conductors. Since OLEDs produce light, they do not need a backlight, making the device, in which they are used, extremely thin.

There are many kinds of polymers. Some are stretchy; some are tough; some are soft and silky; and some are bulletproof. For TV’s, the polymers are light-emitting. The basics of polymers are too extensive for this article, but a little scientific research will educate you if you are curious. LCD and DLP technologies are simple in relationship to OLED polymers.

Some of the advantages of OLED structures are that the devices are flexible and can be rolled for storage, or embedded in clothing. Other OLEDs are transparent so that a video screen could be embedded in glass, allowing the viewer to watch a commercial video and still see through the window of a store.

OLEDs can be printed onto any suitable substrate by an inkjet printer or by screen printing. In the future, the cost of OLED technology will come down, but presently the fabrication of the substrate is more expensive than a TFT LCD.

Compared to LCD, OLEDs have lower power consumption, better contrast, and faster refresh rate. They are brighter with a wider viewing angle. Because they are so thin, the device is lighter. Put all this together and we have the future of television.

All of the television manufacturers are working with OLED technology and some companies, such as LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba, have exhibited prototypes of their future televisions. Presently, OLED technology can be found in mobile phones, vehicle audio systems and digital cameras.

Samsung, the world’s largest OLED producer, is talking about a 42″ OLED TV soon, but how soon and at what cost? Samsung is the only company that has succeeded in mass production of active-matrix OLED displays, using a thin-film transistor to switch individual pixels on and off, making higher resolution and larger displays possible.

LG, the second largest OLED producer, has decided to go all the way and develop a 55″ OLED HDTV in 2012, bypassing the smaller sizes. Be prepared to take out a bank loan to buy one of these. Most of us won’t be able to afford the new technology for a few more years; so hang on to your LCD or DPL flat screen televisions. LG believes that it will be another 2- 3 years before OLED comes within 30% of LCD prices.


LCD is still strong with larger sizes on the way, better contrast ratios, less power consumption than previously available models and falling prices. DLP is getting larger with Mitsubishi introducing a 92″ 3-D DLP model at $5,999.00. The 92″ TV has four times the area of a 46″ model.

We are familiar with LCD and DLP disadvantages but what about OLED? The cost, as with any new technology, is high, because the time- consuming manufacturing process is costly. Improvements to the efficiency and life of blue OLEDs are the biggest setbacks at present, as the blue OLED has a short lifespan and is less efficient than the red and green.

If an OLED TV is not sealed well, spilled liquid could be a disaster. An OLED TV is not a good choice for use outdoors, because of the problem with liquids and poor contrast in strong ambient light.

Remember, screen burn-in with the older flat panel televisions? OLED now has the same problem, because the varied lifespan of the organic dyes can cause differences between the different color intensities, leading to burn-in.

Every OLED TV must have a UV filter, as UV is very damaging to OLED, without which room light can make the display un-viewable in just a few months. By the time we see affordable OLED televisions on the market, all of the problems will be worked out, hopefully.

Now, what was the question? Oh yeah . . . myth or reality. The myth is turning into reality in 2012, when we should see some production models of OLED TVs, yet affordable TVs won’t be on the market until 2014.

But the wait will be well worth it, once OLED comes within our financial means. OLED will display more vibrant colors, with high contrast ratios, up to 100,000:1. The images will be brighter and the viewing angles will be around 170,° making viewing a movie a great experience even if seated off to the side.

OLED is a “green” technology. An OLED TV will not use any electricity when turned off, contrary to LCD, which has power to the backlight at all times. When viewing action scenes, the images will not blur because of OLED’s faster response time.

Is it a picture or a TV? OLED TVs will look like a picture hanging on the wall since it is so thin, rather than sticking out because of a heavy duty wall mount. In fact, you might be able to roll it up when it’s not in use and it can be stored out of sight, until the next viewing. You can even roll it up and place it in a tube, and take it with you on vacation or a business trip.

Samsung Folding 3-D OLED TV

Since OLED can be printed, we could see OLED TVs the size of a wall. Imagine your living room wall changing scenery as you enjoy conversation with friends. The applications are endless.

Mitsubishi’s 155″ OLED TV

It’s easy to see why OLED televisions will be in our future. They are in a class of their own. Does all of this sound too good to be anything more than a myth? We’ll soon see.

Len started in the audio visual industry in 1975 and has contributed articles to several publications. He also writes opinion editorials for a local newspaper. He is now retired.

This article contains statements of personal opinion and comments made in good faith in the interest of the public. You should confirm all statements with the manufacturer to verify the correctness of the statements.