Not one day ago we were bemoaning, via Twitter, the fact that OLED TVs were never going to happen. And then, literally hours later, Panasonic is telling us it has a new OLED TV which it hopes will be available “soon”. Of course, that’s not the same as it coming out this week, but there are some things about the Panasonic that give us a little more hope.
First, this is an R&D project with Sony. The two firms are working together to improve OLED and make the technology better and more affordable. But our understanding of the agreement is that it’s not going to cover manufacture. So that both Sony and Panasonic have 56-inch 4K OLED TVs is really only a coincidence. Which means there’s not going to be a Sony/Panasonic display company any time soon.
Panasonic says that what makes its OLED panel better than any others is the printing technology used to make the display. This method is said to dramatically reduce costs of production, increase yield rates and make the displays more reliable. It works by printing a layer, which is then sandwiched between a backing layer and a transparent cathode placed on the top. This apparently improves the light output, and ensures there are no reflections.
Panasonic claims that its printing process scales very well. So there’s no reason you can’t print both 24 and 56-inch screens using the same technology. It also says there is very little wastage of the organic material, which is another way to reduce costs.
OLED remains the goal of the whole display industry, it seems. We can sort of understand that, because OLED is basically all the good bits of LCD and plasma fused into one product. There’s the brightness and colour of an LCD panel, with the black levels and contrast of a plasma. Samsung and LG have both promised OLED TVs for some time now, but a realistically priced screen has never emerged. As yet, even an unrealistically priced one is something of a pipe dream.
While we’re hopeful that Panasonic has cracked the technology, we’re still expecting that there won’t be a working production model for a couple of years. Certainly, the demo running on the Panasonic CES stand is the usual unchallenging fare - largely static images that have little motion, and look impressive because of the contrast displayed.
Only time will tell how quickly Panasonic can get this TV on sale, but it’s fair to say we’re more excited by this than by any other OLED announcement of the past few years.