Overlooked war: QLED TVs are winning

Technologies for the production of panels for televisions are currently undergoing a period of transformation comparable to

with the transition from electron beam screenstubes to liquid crystal screens. Two decades ago, plasma screens competed with LCD panels, providing a better picture at the cost of a higher cost and the “burn-in” effect, which reduces the quality (brightness and contrast) of the image in static scenes and fragments (TV channel logos, on-screen menus, and so on). As a result, LCD models completely defeated plasma, but they were replaced by new technologies developing in parallel and using a new type of semiconductors: OLED (organic light-emitting diodes) and quantum dots (inorganic nanocrystals). The second technology is actively promoted under the name QLED (Quantum LED) by Samsung, which plays a major role in the global TV market. Therefore, for simplicity, we will call all such TVs QLED.

OLED TVs

The ability of organic elements toelectroluminescence (the property of emitting light under the influence of electric current) was discovered back in the 50s of the last century. In 2014, three Japanese scientists received the Nobel Prize in Physics for “the invention of efficient blue LEDs, leading to bright and energy-efficient white light sources.” By that time, OLED screens using organic materials were already in full use in mobile phone screens, but this breakthrough was necessary for the production of televisions, the diagonals of which have been continuously growing over the years. The first OLED screens for monitors appeared in 2010, these were exhibition samples. Commercial sales of the first OLED TVs began around 2012.

Advantages of OLED TVs over LCD modelseasy to see with the naked eye: smaller panel thickness, lower weight, higher brightness and contrast, the ability to create flexible panels, instant response and significant viewing angles. At the same time, manufacturers of such screens are faced with problems that manifest themselves to a lesser extent in smartphones. Like plasma screens, OLED panels are subject to the “burn-in” effect: the higher the brightness is set, the lower the lifespan of the LEDs. In addition, there is an imbalance between the service life of green, red and blue LEDs; the lifespan of blue is several times lower (note the slide from the Sumitomo presentation) and amounts to several thousand hours, while green is tens of thousands.

QLED TVs

The term was introduced by Samsung, which did notjust for the love of marketing. Manufacturer managers were not satisfied with the quality of OLED panels for TVs, which had too high a defect rate, which sharply increased their final cost. True to its traditions of quality, laid down by the founder of the company, Samsung decided to look for other solutions. The way out of the situation was screens using quantum dot technology. They were first introduced by Samsung in 2016 and I remember how the picture they displayed gave me an impression similar to the brightness of OLEDs. Although we were still talking about a different technology. A year later, the company introduced the term QLED, which greatly facilitated the popularization, if not of the technology itself, which is quite difficult to understand without delving into physics, then of a new generation of TVs, which is head and shoulders above traditional LCD TVs and directly competes with technology that is already understandable and familiar to consumers OLED, devoid of its shortcomings. Which, by the way, is relevant for the current state of the market, where TVs use the HDR standard with all their might, delighting consumers. And where there is HDR, there is an increased brightness of the image, and, accordingly, a higher probability of reducing the service life of the OLED screen.

What say sales

Research of the global TV market is conducted by the company IHS Markit, the first five TV manufacturers today look like this:

Top 5 global TV market in terms of money according to IHS for the 1st quarter of 2019

 
1Q 2018
2Q 2018
3Q 2018
4Q 2018
1Q 2019

Samsung
28.60%
29.70%
28.40%
29.50%
29.40%

LG
17.90%
17.10%
15.40%
15.50%
16.50%

Sony
9.10%
10.40%
9.50%
11.30%
8.30%

TCL
5.80%
5.50%
6.70%
5.10%
7.50%

Hisense
5.30%
5.90%
6.50%
6.20%
6.50%

If you look at the market in terms of the new technologies used (OLED and QLED inevitably generate more money for manufacturers), the picture in 2019 sheds light on the state of war:

TV sales in thousands according to IHS data for the 1st quarter of 2019

 
1Q 2018
2Q 2018
3Q 2018
4Q 2018
1Q 2019

QLED
366.7
553.4
666.3
1 104.3
912.2

OLED
470.4
589.7
558.6
895.5
611.2

That is, if in the first half of 2018OLED TVs were sold more, but already in the 3rd quarter QLED TVs overtook them in sales. And in just one year, based on the results of the 1st quarter, QLED sales increased 2.5 times, breaking the threshold of one million TVs sold in the 4th quarter of 2018.

In the dry residue

In the TV market, which is not soclosely watched, like the smartphone market, there was a quiet technological revolution that no one paid attention to. QLED technology has quietly become a defining direction for the development of television panels. And while, of course, no one will write off OLED TVs - this technology also does not stand still, and manufacturers are constantly increasing the lifespan of OLED panels. And in general, with OLED burn-in, not everything is so simple - our colleagues from the RTINGS website have been conducting OLED burn-in tests for more than a year, updating reports weekly. In their test, the TV had already worked for 5,000 hours, which is equivalent to 5 years of running the TV for 5 hours a day. And the results are completely ambiguous, leaving both reason for optimism and room for doubt. But it is QLED technology that seems to be winning in the global market, not least thanks to the strength of Samsung's marketing and better premise for the life cycle of TVs. Perhaps someday, in a few years, we will remember this story with nostalgia, along with the history of the war VHS and Betacam, HD DVD and Blu-ray or MP3 and MiniDisc