LG cannot be happy. The long-time OLED vendor and champion likely saw its RGB + W OLED panels relegated to the technology of yesteryear. Guilty? New OLED RGB quantum dot panels from Samsung Display.
Dubbed QD OLED, they will ship from various vendors this year, including Sony’s K 2022 series TVs and at least one Samsung TV model (a different division of Samsung Display). The only reason we know about the latter is that won an innovation award today at CES. Thanks guys. Alienware is also shipping a technology-based gaming monitor.
Why is QD OLED so important? Read on and find out.
RGB + W (brighter but whiter)
While the self-emitting OLED elements offer great color, as well as true black thanks to their ability to turn off completely, they do have weaknesses. Red, green, and blue OLED elements vary in brightness, lifespan, and other properties, so OLED panels must balance these factors and accommodate the weakest link.
Also, being organic, OLEDs are prone to burnout and will eventually fade as the material burns. The brighter you run them, the shorter their lifespan. The upshot is that older RGB OLED TVs didn’t generate much peak brightness, or at least compared to LCD types.
To overcome this shortcoming, panel makers added a fourth white sub-pixel that can be turned on to increase maximum brightness. This is RGB + W.
RGB + W boosts peak brightness and isn’t that noticeable with most material unless you’re really looking for it or measuring it. But it is not ideal because adding white to any color creates a lighter shade. Anyone want cakes?
Put more technically, color acuity suffers as brightness increases. With the advent of HDR, which requires a lot of maximum brightness, this wash effect becomes even more prominent.
Problem solved: Quantum Dot OLED
Samsung Display’s new QD OLED panel works its magic by combining OLED with quantum dots.
If you’re not familiar, quantum dots are nanocrystalline structures that re-emit light in a very narrow range in strict accordance with their size. Get the right size and you will get a red, green, blue, etc. perfect. Even better, the light source can be of any wavelength as long as it is shorter (blue) than what the quantum dot emits (red, green, etc.).
Examples: shine blue light through a quantum dot the size of pure red and you will get pure red. Shine blue light through a crystal the size of pure green, and you will still get pure green.
I chose those examples because that’s exactly what Samsung Display is doing. They are using blue OLED sub-pixels with quantum dots that emit red and green. Of course, the blue OLED element doesn’t require a quantum dot because, uh … it’s already blue.
The end result is pure RGB that is bright enough that it doesn’t require a fourth white pixel. Goodbye pastels, hello color acuity throughout the luminance range.
It looks good (we heard that)
While I haven’t tried a new RGB OLED TV, I’ve talked to industry experts who have and say the difference is remarkable. There’s a reason Sony’s outrageously expensive RGB OLEDs were the Hollywood standard to master not too long ago.
My only questions are exactly how bright these new panels are and how LG, being the OLED folks, could back down on this one. Maybe the new panels really aren’t that bright. That’s not the scuttlebutt, but we’ll see.