4K TV Battle Heats Up: After Poor OLED HDTV Yields, LG and Samsung Could Shift Priorities to UHD
We consistently hear that 4K won't be happening for a long, long time, especially considering plenty of broadcasters only made the switch a few years ago. I've been somewhere in the middle in thinking it won't happen tomorrow, and it will happen sooner than 10 years. Solutions are beginning to show up from RED and Sony for 4K distribution (at least as far as movies are concerned), and of course we've had the cameras capable of 4K for quite a while now -- with more on the way. Now it looks like the TV landscape could be changing drastically. LG and Samsung, two of the biggest display makers, have been having serious issues with OLED high definition panels, so instead it looks like they may be shifting focus instead to 4K panels.
Here's a bit from a DisplaySearch Blog post:
Korean TV panel makers are in the process of adjusting their priorities. The adjustment is mainly due to difficulties in commercializing AMOLED TV, but also to the fact that the outlook for 4Kx2K (ultra-high definition) TV is becoming more promising
A fundamental challenge for AMOLED TV remains manufacturing yield. Pilot production indicates that 55” AMOLED TV panel straight yield (without repair) is in single digits due to instability in the large backplanes (using LTPS or oxide TFT). Total yield (after repair) is estimated to be less than 30%. Finally, frit encapsulation is too fragile for large area TV, and is resulting in reduced panel life.
After IFA 2012, Korean panel makers lost some confidence in AMOLED, and began to feel that they could not justify a further investment into capacity expansion for AMOLED. At the same time, the visual quality of 4Kx2K became clearer to consumers. For panel makers, 4Kx2K LCD TV seems to be easier to manufacture than 4Kx2K AMOLED TV.
So what does this mean? Well, not a whole lot right at this moment, as things are certainly in flux, and if the OLED yields improve drastically in the next 3-6 months, they may ease off the 4K push and continue with better HDTVs. If that doesn't happen -- and it's looking like it won't -- it means we could see some serious development ramp up for Ultra High Definition. OLED development may continue for HD and UHD panels, but a 4K LCD TV would probably be cheaper and easier to produce over the shorter term.
I think what we could see are much cheaper panels in a shorter period of time (rather than the over $20,000 behemoths currently for sale). Manufacturers need to sell more TVs, and it has become clear to them that consumers don't care as much about paper-thin displays, and will settle for less quality if it's cheaper. OLED is expensive, and will probably remain expensive, especially since they are having difficulties scaling to larger screens. If mass producing 4K LCD TVs ends up costing a lot less, and it's much easier to scale to larger screen sizes, then it is certainly possible they may stop producing HDTVs at larger screen sizes all together in the next few years. Budget and smaller panels will still exist for a long time, but it's not like HD content can't be played on a 4K TV, so there isn't a huge downside from the manufacturers standpoint -- if anything -- they have another way to convince people that they need a new TV.
There has been a lot of backlash about not needing 4K right now and not wanting it because of increased demands on hardware, but when has filmmaking ever been about just doing enough to get by? Making movies is a constant struggle, but one of the few constants has been a focus on increasing the technical quality of the image. We got better film stocks like clockwork, lenses have gotten sharper and less flawed, and our finishing and post processes keep the image as pristine as possible all the way through to delivery -- whether that is on an HDTV or on a 4K Sony Projector. Sure, 4K in 2D is right on the cusp of diminishing returns as far as human vision goes at normal screen sizes (40"-60"), but not a single person I've talked to who has seen a 4K image on a 4K display wants to go back to 1080p if they could help it (including me). There is a depth and a clarity to a 4K image on a 4K screen that goes beyond whether you can see individual pixels.
As long as older movies shot on film can still benefit from higher resolutions, I'm still going to want to see them in the best possible quality. I know I'm probably in the minority, but even if the films of Godard, Antonioni, Bergman, and Tarkovsky aren't quite resolving 4K when you get down to it, if image clarity and the overall experience is improved, I say bring it on, especially since film prints are on their way out.
What do you guys think?
[via HDTV Test]