It’s no secret that OLED is doing extremely well in the high-end TV market at the moment and that LG has been enjoying this ride for the past few years.
Micro-LED has been Samsung’s answer to large OLED displays, with a first 146-inch product called The Wall demonstrated last year, and now available for commercial applications and in even larger sizes.
Micro-LED Ready for consumer products
At CES 2019, an updated version of Samsung’s Micro-LED technology was presented in the form of a 4K 75-inch television concept, which is built with a grid of 64 (8×8) sub-modules connected seamlessly. That TV proves that Micro-LED can be adapted to consumer electronics and expand its footprint from today’s commercial display business.
If you’re not familiar with Micro-LED, the technology provides many of the advantages of OLED, namely perfectly black levels, and also significant advantages such as low-power consumption, higher brightness and a lower probability of display burn-in.
It is important to understand that Samsung’s Micro-LED technology has been designed from the ground up to work by assembling small display modules as tiles, to form any desired screen size, with any aspect ratio. This LEGO-like approach is visionary and will pay huge dividends once the technology is mass-produced.
Samsung says that its current Micro-LED modules can achieve a brightness of 4000 NITs, which is approximately 6X brighter than many high-end smartphones. But the company also said that 10,000 NITs is not out of reach. That specific number is often cited to reach today’s best high dynamic range (HDR) performance for hyper-realistic movie watching.
Although it is a technology demo, this 4K 75-inch television is very interesting to study because it shows a baseline for the 2020 high-end Micro-LED Samsung TVs, assuming the technology will be mass-produced then.
The most important aspects that Samsung had to work on was the pixel density and the heat dissipation. Both have been improved to the point where Samsung is confident that consumer products will come relatively soon.
Previously, Micro-LED was reserved to huge display sizes because the pixel size was larger, which was fine for 150+ inches displays, but not for consumer TVs. As Samsung continues to miniaturize the Micro-LED base components, it will be possible to use the technology in smaller displays – perhaps even mobile phones and laptops, someday.
At the moment, the display quality seems very high, although it’s not yet possible to compare it with OLED in a side by side test, or by measuring it. The demonstration video footage that Samsung is showing is certainly impressive, and it’s possible to see amazing black levels, incredible details, and excellent color and brightness preservation at any angles.
The separation between the different Micro-LED tiles can be seen sometimes, but since this is a prototype, we’ll assume that modules will truly be seamless by the time a commercial TV product hits the market.
Some users were wondering about the sound, which wasn’t mentioned in the context of a bezel-less design. In reality, Samsung has a lot of options when it comes to audio. The TV could have a bottom-bezel with speakers, while the top/left/right remain bezel-less.
It is also possible to connect to a (Harman-Kardon?) “box” that would host all the HDMI connectors, along with integrated speakers. Finally, Sony has already demonstrated that a glass panel can be used as an effective surface speaker. The sound options aren’t THAT different from today’s TVs.
Micro OLED is extremely promising, and Samsung has convincingly shown that it could produce a consumer-sized 4K television using this technology. For LCD and OLED competitors, the logical move is to promote 8K, which is the only thing that is difficult for Micro-LED designs to achieve in a short time, because it requires reducing the pixel size by 400%.
Pricing is also a pending question, and it’s not clear how cost-efficient or price-competitive Micro-OLED will be, but the OLED TV prices probably show what the price ceiling would be. This technology seems more robust, and once mass manufacturing starts, the cost-reduction process should make such displays much more affordable quickly.
The modular nature of Samsung’s Micro-LED also means that manufacturing yields should be excellent. Very often a large LCD or OLED panel has to be discarded because of one small defect. With modular Micro-LED, only the defective module gets discarded.