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The Looming Ultra HD vs. OLED War

Ultra HD/4K displays are launching with much fanfare, but new research predicts sales of OLED displays will outpace them by more than double in 4 years. Is this plasma vs. LCD all over again?


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Whenever there is consumer confusion about electronics, it’s a huge opportunity for custom integrators. And new data suggests consumers will be in a quandary about the feature sets of Ultra High-Definition (Ultra HD)/4K and OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode).

Yeah, another display technology war reminiscent of plasma vs. LCD (well not quite that drastic, more like smart TVs vs. 3D) that will lead consumers to migrate to informed integrators to educate them on the best solutions! (For its part, LG is playing both sides of the fence, having recently showed off both Ultra HD/4K and OLED.) Not too mention we are talking about high price points for both displays (for now).

Recent data from the NPD DisplaySearch outlines the predicted growth for both categories. According to its Quarterly Advanced Global TV Shipment and Forecast Report, the competition is heating up.

There will only be 500 OLED TV shipments in 2012, compared to 4,000 Ultra HD/4K units (as a feature set in LCDs). Victory for Ultra HD/4K. The same trend continues in 2013, when there will be 50,000 OLEDs sold and 154,000 Ultra HD/4K sets shipped. But NPD says by 2016, there will be 9 million OLEDs sold compared to just 5 million Ultra HD/4K sets. The primary market for both will be in the 50-inch-plus size.

In other words, Ultra HD/4K feature set will not be included in most OLEDs. It also means your clients will be asking: “Which should I buy?” It means integrators need to read up on the pros and cons of the two technologies helping clients analyze the super-thin, super-light OLEDs that can hang on a wall with a nail vs. the extreme clarity of Ultra HD/4K (in an LCD or in an OLED) that lacks a lot of content to watch currently.

In the long term, NPD notes that the TV replacement cycle for flat panels is just beginning to hit and will help the market.

Paul Gagnon, director, North American TV research at NPD DisplaySearch, says, “At the recent IFA Berlin tradeshow, the competition between 4K × 2K LCD TVs and OLED TVs was a hot topic. While the likelihood of a 2012 launch of OLED TVs seemed to evaporate when mass production was delayed until at least 2013,  many companies demonstrated 4K × 2K resolution LCD TVs that were already beginning production.”

The NPD report also shows that worldwide demand for TVs has slowed, but shipments of 50-inch-and-larger sets in all categories are expected to rise 13 percent in 2013.

“Worldwide demand for TVs continues to face pressure from external factors, such as slowing economic growth, high unemployment rates, and the rising household penetration of flat panel TVs,” notes Gagnon. “At the same time, internal factors, such as slower cost reductions and a greater focus on profits at the expense of volume, are leading to a lower level of retail price erosion, which is also impacting demand.”





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Article Topics

Blogs · Displays · TVs · All topics

About the Author

Jason Knott, Editor, CE Pro
Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990. He joined EH Publishing in 2000, and before that served as publisher and editor of Security Sales, a leading magazine for the security industry. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He is currently a member of the CEDIA Education Action Team for Electronic Systems Business. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California.

6 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by Cody  on  10/26  at  12:32 PM

I feel dumber having read this article. Thanks.

You do know that ultra HD is a screen resolution, right? And that an ultra HD screen could also be made from an OLED?

You aren’t comparing two competing technologies, but rather two totally disparate attributes.

Posted by RKidwell  on  10/26  at  01:13 PM

I’m sorry but I don’t understand why this can even be billed as a ‘technology war.’ Unlike the LCD vs. plasma argument these technologies are not inherently mutually exclusive. I see no reason that we won’t see ‘ultraHD’  OLEDs as the latter technology matures and for that matter look forward to laying my eyes on that set whenever it arrives.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  10/27  at  02:22 AM

Jason is referring to them as “feature sets” since we aren’t likely to see 4k OLEDs for a while ... As he says, like smart TVs vs. 3D. So if you want to spend a wad of cash and you can’t have both, which should you buy? Fortunately, I won’t have to struggle with such a decision.

Posted by Rob  on  10/28  at  06:50 AM

Resolution is not important until larger size.

If it’s a client’s main screen and is under 60”, oled or price win. Over 60” resolution or price.

I want the coolest or the cheapest at a size.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  10/28  at  12:36 PM

Yes, Rob!

Posted by Uncle Fred  on  10/31  at  09:20 PM

My next TV will be a 55” OLED 4K TV in the sub $3500~ USD range. It will primarily be used as a desktop monitor. These two features aren’t as mutually exclusive as the author seems to imply.

There is a lot of manufacturer competition in TV’s so a 4K OLED will distinguish itself pretty easily in the market. I would expect the first of these models to show up on trade floors no later than 2014.

A well reviewed $3500 USD model will probably be obtainable by 2016.

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