Samsung and LG’s new OLED HDTVs offer a peek into the future. Videep Vijay Kumar has the details
While the first batch of 4K TV sets arrives in India, Korean electronics giants LG and Samsung have been up to some hi-def mischief in other parts of the world, with Sony and Panasonic set to follow suit. Legal disputes aside, both LG and Samsung have made the first big push into the world of true next-gen display technology with new OLED TV sets — the first real evolution of the technology since Plasma and LCD displays (“LED” TVs are merely LCD sets which use LEDs for backlighting that help save space, and reduce power consumption, hence the thin and sleek form factor).
OLEDs have several benefits — lower power consumption, better colour gamut, and ‘infinite’ blacks. Granted, these features have been touted since the dawn of the HDTV, but the technology for once, is actually able to back up these claims. OLEDs create light by passing electric current through certain materials, making the entire area of your TV screen a light generation surface. Older technologies such as Plasma (which ignites gases between two sheets of glass) and LCD (which uses backlighting in tandem with liquid crystals to block or allow light to pass through) are dated in comparison.
Simply put, an OLED TV can outperform an LED TV in a brightly lit room as well as a Plasma in pitch darkness. Fortunately, it’s not just the tech-specs that will be doing the talking in the coming months, because the new OLEDs look phenomenal in terms of design. The technology also allows for a curved surface, akin to a cinema screen for a more immersive experience.
But 4K is the future, right? Yes, but not until we’ve got commercially available (and affordable) TVs that are 120-inches or larger, and there’s this word again: content. Let’s go over each of these briefly. Using AnandTech display guru Chris Heinonen’s (ingenious) 4K calculator, I was able to ascertain the ideal seating distance for a 55-inch display was 4 feet, while 4 feet 9 inches was the ideal viewing distance for a 65-inch display to truly experience the benefits of 4K. A real-word test at a local electronics store confirmed this measurement. I doubt any of us have been sitting that close to a TV set since the days of watching India-Pakistan Sharjah matches on our 14-inch CRTs (we’re more likely sitting 7-10 feet from our 1080p 42-inch LEDs today). This brings us to the next crucial element, the content. Sony currently sells 4K media servers to the fortunate few who have purchased their highest-end 4K displays pre-loaded with a select movie catalogue — additionally, “mastered for 4K” BluRay releases are on the horizon as well. But the content on offer is very limited overall, with 4K YouTube videos completing the list. Don’t expect TV broadcasts in 4K anytime soon, either.
The OLED TVs, on the other hand, are not limited by content. Tonnes of movies, TV shows and documentaries are available on physical media as well as digitally. The only potential roadblocks are the curved centre of the screen (which could put a less-than-interesting twist on sports broadcasts) and price — the first rollouts average about $15,000 (curved OLEDs from LG and Samsung). If and when they make their way to India, expect the 55-inch variants to be priced between the ‘lower-end’ 55 or 65-inch 4K TVs and higher-end 84-inch models currently available in the market.