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Quantum Dot technology may smother OLED TVs in the crib

Lucas Mearian | Sept. 12, 2014
For the past year, manufacturers have heralded OLED ultra-high definition (UHD) TVs as a harbinger of sea change in the home entertainment industry, affording thinner and even flexible panels with higher quality pictures than today's LCD sets.

According to DisplaySearch, a 55-in conventional LCD TV costs about $400, a 55-in LCD TV with QD technology retails for about $500, while a 55-in OLED TV runs about $1,750.

The additional cost for OLED TVs can mainly be attributed to low manufacturing yields: about 40% of all production turns into scrap material, according to Gray.

"OLEDs are hard to manufacture in TV sizes. LG's selection of white OLED technology was at least manufacturable. Samsung discontinued OLED TV as over 90% of panels produced were defective," Gray said.

LG's OLED TVs add a fourth color - white - to the traditional red, green, blue color pallet offered by high definition TVs.

Quantum dot technology is a component mounted in the LCD backlight unit in front of a TV's blue LEDs (as opposed to white LEDs used by other manufacturers such as LG), according to Matt Mazzuchi, vice president of market and business development for QD Vision, maker of TCL's quantum dot technology.

Paul O'Donovan, a principal analyst with Gartner's Consumer Electronics Research unit, said quantum dot technology at the very least helps to lengthen the lifespan of LCDs as a big screen technology as the industry moves into 4K resolution and eventually beyond.

"That could be a significant factor in delaying OLED displays in terms of possible cost reduction in manufacturing as volume sales remain limited," O'Donovan said.

Toxic TVs

TCL's new 55-in. quantum dot display, developed with QD Vision Inc., is a light emitting technology that uses semiconductor nanocrystals similar to those in organic light-emitting diode (OLED) displays. But, the organic in "O"LED means it's carbon based, or non-toxic.

The displays built with quantum dot technology use a small quantity of cadmium sealed within the glass display to enhance colors. While sealed inside the glass display, cadmium is still a toxic heavy metal.

Cadmium is banned in many consumer appliances, but according to O'Donovan, there are non-cadmium quantum dot TV available as well, so "that shouldn't be an issue unless they are more expensive or not quite as efficient."

"However, I haven't seen QDs being proposed as an emissive display technology in their own right, which would be a direct competitor to OLEDS," O'Donovan added.

OLED TVs also suffer from the fact that there are still few companies developing the technology.

There's LG and Samsung doing it to some degree, but the only one really out there making them in volumes is LG," Gonzalez-Thayer said. "Even Chinese TV manufacturers aren't thinking about using LG's panels for OLED TVs."

"So, what's the consumer going to choose? The cheaper one," she said.


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