Samsung's QD-OLED TV might be here very soon. Here's everything we know
Samsung's rumored OLED TV with quantum dots could be coming as soon as 2022, and the new technology is set to challenge the best from rival LG.
Geoffrey Morrison is a writer/photographer about tech and travel for CNET, The New York Times, and other web and print publications. He's also the Editor-at-Large for The Wirecutter. He has written for Sound&Vision magazine, Home Theater magazine, and was the Editor-in-Chief of Home Entertainment magazine. He is NIST and ISF trained, and has a degree in Television/Radio from Ithaca College. His bestselling novel, Undersea, and its sequel, Undersea Atrophia, are available in paperback and digitally on Amazon. He spends most of the year as a digital nomad, living and working while traveling around the world. You can follow his travels at BaldNomad.com and on his YouTube channel.
Now Samsung is working on a new kind of TV that aims to combine two display technologies into something greater. It's a hybrid between OLED and quantum dots called QD Display. Samsung Display will end production of LCD panels by the end of 2021, moving to QD Display next year, according to a February report from Korea IT News. At the same time, Samsung Electronics could start selling these new TVs as early as 2022.
Samsung Display will invest 13.1 trillion won by 2025 to build "Q1 Line," the world's first QD display mass production line at Asan Campus. The new line is scheduled to start production in 2021 with an initial 30,000 sheets (8.5 generations) and will produce a huge QD display of 65 inches or larger.
At the announcement, South Korean President Moon Jae-in also referenced Samsung's rival LG in regards to Korea's place in world TV production: "It is important to maintain the top spot of the global display market with game-changing technologies," Moon said. "Following LG Display's 3 trillion-won investment in large OLED panel production in July, Samsung Display's latest investment plan brightens prospects further."
One thing you might have noticed is that Samsung is calling this "QD display," which can be confusing since this isn't direct-view quantum dots (more on these later). Since LG has spent years being the only name in town (figuratively and literally) for OLED, it's unlikely Samsung will call any version of this technology OLED. We'll probably have to wait until CES 2022 to find out how it brands the new TV.
What is QD-OLED and how will it work?
So how will it work? Nanosys, a company that makes quantum dots, has shared some details. Its CEO, Jason Hartlove, is understandably bullish on the technology, which relies on converting light from an OLED panel:
"Quantum Dot Color Conversion is a completely new way of rendering color in displays," he told CNET. "The result is pure quantum dot color with much higher efficiency as no light is lost in a color filter."
There are many advantages to this method, in theory. By using only one color or material of OLED, the manufacturing costs go way down since it's easier to build.
, for instance, uses only two OLED materials, blue and yellow, for every pixel across the entire display. Light-blocking color filters create the green and red. QDs have nearly 100% efficiency, significantly better than filters, so in theory the hybrid TVs will be much brighter. Plus, there's the possibility of even wider color gamuts at all brightness levels.
Because each pixel can be shut off, these hybrid TVs will also have the incredible contrast ratios that OLED is known for.
Since blue OLED materials still age faster than red and green, having the entire panel one color means the TV ages more evenly with no color shift. Keeping that aging to a minimum, and thereby having a TV that doesn't seem dim after a few years, is one of the key manufacturing issues. This is especially true in this HDR era of extreme brightness levels.
While this new Samsung plant is focusing on TV-size displays, the technology could work in phone-sized displays as well. Since Samsung doesn't seem to have any issue making excellent small OLEDs, I'd be surprised if it's in any rush to upset that market with something as advanced as this. Also, Samsung's phone-sized OLEDs use red, green and blue OLEDs compared to LG's blue-yellow. Samsung tried to make RGB OLED TVs and just couldn't make them profitable. What's more likely, and mentioned in the latest rumors, is they'll use this tech to build ultra-high resolution 8K computer monitors along with larger TV screens.
As mentioned earlier, it's clear Samsung believes strongly in this technology, since it's ending production of LCDs at its factories in Korea. This doesn't mean that starting next year it won't sell any LCDs. Samsung is a massive company, and the part of the company that makes LCDs, Samsung Display, is stopping production. The part of the company that sells TVs, Samsung Electronics, has made no such announcement. In fact, part of the most recent delay was Samsung Electronics needing LCD panels before they were ready to start selling QD-OLED panels. They've worked that out for 2021, and most likely going forward they'll source their LCD panels from a third party.
Into the future: Direct-view quantum dots, ELQD and more
QD-OLED seems to be right around the corner. But what about even farther-future display tech? Well, the quantum dot folks seem to think direct-view quantum dot displays are just a few years off. These electroluminescent quantum dots, or ELQD, would have all the benefits of OLED, all the benefits of QD and none of the issues of LCD or the wear and longevity concerns of OLED. A very promising tech indeed.
The other new TV tech that's already arriving on the market, the extreme high-end of the market anyway, is MicroLED. It has many of the same benefits as the QD-OLED hybrid, but doesn't muck around with those pesky organics. Affordable versions of that are still some distance off. Oh, and MicroLEDs use quantum dots too. They're a fascinating technology with uses far beyond TV screens.
In the meantime, we've got mini-LED, which is pretty cool too and far less expensive than any of these.