Ever since we got our hands on the first production OLED TV—Sony's 11-inch XEL-1—three years ago we've been excited about this new display technology, which combines some of the best elements of both plasma and LCD TVs. The challenge has been making OLED TVs bigger and more affordable. Sony's set, for example, was only 11-inches and sold for $2,500.
At the upcoming 2012 Consumer Electronics Show, LG Electronics will be showing off what it calls the world's first 55-inch OLED TV, using a manufacturing process it says can greatly reduce costs. During the trade show LG will also unveil what it is calling an "ultra definition" 3D LCD TV with four times the resolution of current sets.
There are several reasons why TV enthusiasts—us included—are excited by OLED technology. Like LCD sets, OLED TVs can be extremely thin and energy efficient, but offer many plasma-like attributes, such as very deep black levels, fast response times, high contrast ratios, unlimited viewing angles, and a wider color gamut than traditional LCDs. And because like plasma OLED is an emissive technology—it generates its own light—no bulky backlight is required. OLED promises the best TV image quality we've seen to date, as well as a few challenges. For example, once we had Sony's OLED TV in our labs, we had to buy new test equipment to measure its black levels.
Another TV technology we expect to hear more about during CES is "4K" resolution, which promises up to four times the number of pixels as current 1080p HDTVs. While there are several different 4K resolutions, including "true" 4K x 2K (4096 x 2160), LG's "ultra definition (UD) TV has a resolution of 3840 x 2160, which is a direct multiple of the current 1080p (1920 x 1080) resolution. During CES, LG will be offering demos of its 84-inch UD TV, a 3D-capable Smart TV. The set will also have controls that allow you to adjust the depth of 3D image, plus a new 3D Sound Zooming sound system that LG claims can rival many home theater systems. LG is also unveiling a newly designed gesture-based Magic Remote that has added voice control to its bag of tricks.
While there is little 4K content available to consumers, we expect to hear more about some A/V receivers and Blu-ray players that are capable of upscaling 1080p content to quasi-4K resolutions, much the way 480p content is currently upconverted to 1080p in many players and TVs.
CES 2012 officially kicks off on Monday January 9th, but we'll be filing regular CES coverage before, during, and after the show, so keep checking back for the latest updates, including videos from the show.
—James K. Willcox