OLED TVs might not make it into shops in time for the holidays

Manufacturing problems and associated costs could mean that only 500 OLED TVs ship worldwide in 2012.

If you were hoping for an OLED TV this holiday season, you could well be disappointed. According to the latest report by NPD Display Search out this week, the technology that has been wowing the industry and consumers alike since its debut at CES in January is experiencing problems moving from prototype to large-scale production and could also be hampered by potentially prohibitive retail prices.

Pixel by pixel sharpness

OLED or Organic Light Emitting Diode TVs offer a sharper, clearer display than any other type of TV screen technology currently available and can already be found in many top-range smartphones. In particular, the depth of contrast and difference between colors, and in particular, shades of black, give new life to any broadcast image. They differ from LCD and LED TVs in terms of light. LCD screens need a light source, usually positioned behind the screen, to work. The brightness of this usually fluorescent lamp dictates color and contrast. LED TVs replace the fluorescent lamp by a row of LED lamps usually spread around the screen making the TV sets thinner, lighter and more responsive but they're still limited in terms of contrast and color strength. OLED screens don't require an additional light source as each pixel is an LED, capable of providing its own light source and therefore pixel by pixel sharpness and contrast.

LG and Samsung had hoped to start large-scale production in time for the London Olympics and both companies still hope to have 55-inch OLED TVs on the market before the end of the year but, according to NPD, there are currently only two production lines capable of manufacturing these big screens and they are still operating in pilot mode.

As a result, only 500 OLED TVs are expected to ship before the end of 2012 and they're expected to demand a high premium of $10,000 or more. However, it is estimated that as manufacturing costs begin to fall (mass production techniques currently only exist for the five-inch displays found in smartphones) and consumers get the chance to experience the difference in quality for themselves, the technology could account for 1 million units by 2014 and exceed 3 percent of the total TV market by 2016.

UHD TVs could steal the spotlight

It is important for OLED manufacturers to make a statement as the LCD TV market shifts to larger screen sizes and higher resolutions. According to David Hsieh, NPD Display Search Vice President, "If we do see OLED TVs hit the market within 2012, the shipments will be used primarily for retail demonstrations in developed regions like North America and Europe." Hsieh added, "UHD LCD TVs have become a focus and are currently available, and OLED TV needs to demonstrate its technical superiority."

UHD TVs were also demonstrated at this year's CES and offer a definition four times greater than current HD TV sets. However, they are based on LCD and LED technology and therefore still pale in comparison with OLED in terms of sharpness, response times and contrast.

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