LG enters the wall-size display market, catering to the lucky few TV shoppers who never need to ask about price.
Pass on that Aston Martin Valhalla. Swipe left on that diamond-encrusted iPhone. Don't bother with that, um, modest two-bedroom tract home that's optimistically within commuting distance of San Francisco. What's really worth your next million dollars? A television.
And not just any television, but a 325-inch, 8K resolution, direct-view LED from LG. It's similar in concept to Samsung's The Wall and Sony's Crystal LED: massive screens comprising millions of LEDs. These kinds of extremely expensive TVs are fundamentally different from standard LED TVs, with (much) larger sizes, potentially better picture quality and eye-watering price tags.
Like standard TVs, LG's DVLED Home Cinema Display is available in different sizes (108 to 325 inches) and resolutions (HD to 8K). Unlike most TVs, however, it's available in different resolutions at the same size. For why that's interesting, and why DVLED is interesting in general beyond its massive size and price, read on.
Let's back up for a minute. All modern TVs are, in one way or another, lit by light-emitting diodes. In most cases it's a series of hundreds or thousands of tiny LEDs arrayed on the edges or behind an LCD screen. It's that LCD that actually creates the image, the LEDs just create the light. Color filters, or increasingly frequently, quantum dots, create the specific colors needed for a TV image. OLED TVs are slightly different, with their organic (i.e. they include carbon) LEDs directly visible, and they create color in a different way.
MicroLED, like Samsung's The Wall and Sony's Crystal LED, are a form of direct-view LED TV. You're looking right at the LEDs -- no LCD layer required -- and those LEDs are creating the light, the color and the entire image. This is far more difficult than it sounds because of the sheer number of LEDs involved.
A standard 4K TV has 8,294,400 pixels (3,840x2,160). They actually need three times that many (24,883,200) because each pixel needs red, green and blue subpixels to create TV colors. Traditional LCD TVs, aka "LED" TVs in marketing-speak, have that many pixels on their liquid crystal layers, but far, far fewer LEDs. Even mini-LED TVs, which have far more LEDs than traditional LCD LED TVs, have thousands, not millions of LEDs.
This is because not only are LEDs relatively expensive, but they also require significantly more electricity than any other part of the TV. So 24 million of them would be a significantly greater energy hog than, say, a few hundred.
Getting LEDs small enough, and efficient enough, has been a goal for all the major TV brands, not to mention dozens of competing smaller companies you've never heard of. Their collective success is why we're already seeing mini-LED TVs, with their impressive brightness and contrast, and wall-size MicroLED TVs. Which brings us to LG's DVLED.
Direct View LED is a refreshingly self-explanatory name. You're directly viewing LEDs. But is it actually MicroLED, like Samsung and Sony's wall-sized TVs? It depends.
LG told CNET that, "All of the DVLED Extreme Home Cinema displays with the 0.9mm COB LED Package type are using MicroLED."
That number, 0.9mm, refers to pixel pitch. That's the distance from the center of one pixel to the next, which includes the size of the pixel but also the space in between. The smallest pixel pitch in LG's DVLED lineup is 0.9mm, found on a variety of models from 81 up to 325 inches and ranging from 2K to 8K resolution (those are the ones with MicroLED). There are also models with 1.2mm and 1.5mm pixel pitches. The LEDs used in those versions are small, that's for sure, but evidently not small enough to qualify as MicroLED.
Read more: MicroLED could replace OLED as the next ultimate TV tech. Here's how it works
Why these numbers are important is because of a counterintuitive characteristic of all direct-view LED tech: There's a lower limit to sizes of direct view LED displays. There's a limit to how close they can currently get the pixels, and this is true with LG's DVLED, as well as Samsung and Sony's tech. That's the reason these TVs are all wall-size, at least for now.
The smallest LG DVLED Home Cinema Display is 108 inches diagonally. With a 1.2mm pixel pitch, this means HD resolution, or "2K" as LG calls it. Interestingly, LG includes BTU specs, just like heaters and air conditioners. Remember, LEDs create heat as well as light, just in a better ratio than, say, incandescent bulbs. So in this case, they spec the 108-inch at putting out 6,288 BTUs per hour. So yeah, worst case is you can use one as a space heater if you get chilly while sleeping on your piles of money.
If 4K is more your thing, sizes range from 163 to 393 inches. You can also do dual 2K or dual 4K versions, which have a 32:9 aspect ratio for watching two or more shows side-by-side. I would absolutely use this to watch TV on one side of the screen and play a game on the other.
The 8K version, for a cool $1.7 million, is 325 inches diagonally. It weighs in at exactly one Mazda Miata. It puts out a toasty 56,592 BTUs, which I believe is just slightly less than a Falcon 9 at full throttle. Hope you've got decent HVAC, or at least several athletic serfs with palm fronds.
Joking aside, I'd like to be clear about two things. One, this isn't really a "big TV." I mean, it is, but really it's a projector replacement. It's fairly easy, and inexpensive, to get a 100-plus inch image right now with a projector. What isn't easy, basically impossible, is to get any projector that looks good in a bright room. LG claims most sizes of DVLED put out around 1,200 nits, which is similar to the brightness of a (much smaller) midrange to high-end TV today -- and many times brighter than a typical projector.
Also… this is the future. Not $1.7 million TVs (I hope), but direct view displays. OLED is the start of that, but like MicroLED and DVLED, also on the horizon are direct view quantum dots, QD/OLED hybrids and more. LCDs will disappear eventually, or at least be relegated entirely to the low end of the market.
Will there be a 65-inch 4K DVLED someday? Maybe, but more likely it will be some variation on the technology that LG was able to achieve because of what they were able to figure out by making DVLED displays today.
As well as covering TV and other display tech, Geoff does photo tours of cool museums and locations around the world, including nuclear submarines, massive aircraft carriers, medieval castles, airplane graveyards and more.
You can follow his exploits on Instagram and his travel video series on YouTube. He also wrote a bestselling sci-fi novel about city-size submarines, along with a sequel.