It seems that Sony is making good on its promise to deliver the first commercial Organic LED (OLED) based TV in 2007. The new XEL-1 (organic EL based panel) will be the first to go on sale in Japan this December for around $1,735. The new ultra thin (3mm) 11-inch display will boost a remarkable contrast of 1,000,000: 1 (or higher) compared to around 20,000:1 on today’s high end Plasma displays. The high contrast will result in much deeper (more realistic) black color and should also allow watching TV in a brightly lit room.
The XEL-1 has a small 11-inch display, 960 x 450 resolution, HDMI, USB and Ethernet connections as well as 2 x 1W speakers. This configuration is not intended to replace a 50′ full HD home-theater display but could be used as a high quality screen for a small bedroom or office. If this version is successful, a larger version from Sony (and possibly from other manufacturers such as Samsung, Pioneer and Philips) may reach the market in 2008-2009, offering real alternatives to LCD and Plasma displays.
OLEDs and their advantages
OLEDs are solid-state devices made out of thin films of organic molecules that create light with the application of electricity. An OLED display is composed of an emissive and a conductive layer of polymer trapped between an anode and a cathode terminal, which are all placed on a substrate and protected by a hermetic cover made of glass or sealed plastic.
OLED is superior to existing LCD technology in almost any respect. OLED has better colors, better viewing angle (almost 180 degrees), does not require backlight (since the organic material produces its own light) and so requires far less energy for its operation (good for portable devices), and, as we mentioned before, has better black colors (a problem with current LCD technology).
Until recently, OLED displays suffered from one crucial drawback – the predicted lifetime of the organic material used to create OLED displays was far too short. LCD screens have an expected lifespan of about 50,000 hours while OLED was typically capable of about 5,000 hours (that’s less than a year if operated 24/7). Recent developments hav improved the lifespan of OLED technology, and especially of the blue colors which were particularly problematic in this respect, to up to 20,000 hours (and even more, depending on the brightness used). Currently, OLED based displays are fairly expensive to manufacture, but this is due to the relatively small production capacity. As the technology matures and OLED based displays are shipped in greater volumes, prices will drop significantly. Inkjet printing technology has the potential to produce large, high resolution TVs that cost far less than existing large LCDs and plasma screens.
More information on Sony’s XEL-1 can be found on the company’s press release (via Google translate).