Samsung’s QD-OLED Display Explained
As a long-time AV enthusiast of 30 years plus, I have seen the hobby evolve with significant inventions that have changed how we watch movies and listen to music. The VCR, the LCD flat panel TV, and DVD players are just some inventions that I feel have truly changed how we consume media. And then some innovations tweak existing technologies (mainly for the better) like Bluray players, streaming music, and OLED panels. Samsung is hoping to shake up the OLED panel market. Samsung announced they would start mass-producing QD-OLED (quantum-dot OLED, dubbed QD-Display) panels. Available in 34” (probably a computer monitor), 55” and 65” by the end of 2021 and will unveil their first QD-Display’s at CES 2022. This move is a stark departure for Samsung. Samsung was staunchly anti-OLED since the beginning. Is signaling a new direction for them? Will Samsung QD-Display be the next big thing? Let’s discuss!
So What is QD-OLED?
OLED stands for organic light-emitting display. OLED uses an organic layer to make each pixel self-emissive, as the name implies. Each pixel can turn itself on and off, which is why OLED has impressive contrast. With OLED, you have four sub-pixels. Clear, red, green and blue and backed by white light to create maximum brightness and millions of colours on-screen. And yes, I agree that this is a gross oversimplification of the process. But it is not essential to get to a super-nerd level of understanding.
With Samsung’s QD-OLED display, the organic layer is blue. The light passes through the blue organic layer and then through red and green quantum dot filters to create the colours on-screen. So, I can hear you rolling your eyes now and asking, “Why do I care?” In theory, quantum-dot filters should create more vivid images, better colour saturation, and very high peak brightness without that pesky light bleed. Samsung claims that the new QD-Display OLED will yield 1000 nits of brightness while maintaining a high degree of color accuracy in Rec 2020. Compare this to the max 650 nits my LG B9 is capable of (and it’s impressive!). All I can say is wow. Combine that with perfect black levels, wide viewing angles, near-instantaneous response time, and low input lag; there is a reason why this might be the next big thing.
Holy Crap – Take My Money Now!!
Ok, before you throw your cash on the table, let’s talk facts. First off, quantum-dot technology is not new. Samsung, VIZIO and TLC (to name a few) have all had quantum-dot technology in their LED panels for a while. They have used it as part of their marketing campaigns and naming schemes to try and differentiate their panels from others. Think Samsung QLED or Vizio Quantum X panels.
Secondly, Samsung’s QD-OLED display is new OLED technology with low yield rates from manufacturing. For one year, Samsung made their own OLEDs before they stopped. Since starting again with these QD-OLED displays, they’ve had reported failure rates of over 60% (ouch). This means there will be limited availability for these new QD-OLED panels, and prices will be high. As a result, Samsung will likely pass these costs onto the consumer, so early adopters who want to be on the bleeding edge of technology will pay a premium to be there.
Lastly, cheap, large format panels are becoming increasingly more popular. The “average” consumer will not care enough about the performance promised from Samsung’s QD-Displays. They will likely bypass them for their big panels set on vivid mode. Instead, QD-OLED displays will gain traction amongst enthusiasts and people looking to purchase superior performance flagship panels. If I were a betting person, I would expect a similar pricing as early OLED panels. But as Samsung perfects the manufacturing process, prices will inevitably drop.
How Is Samsung Going to Gain Traction?
As I said before, Samsung is stubbornly anti-OLED. They have eschewed the technology (and Dolby Vision support) in favour of LED and QLED sets. Samsung has seemingly reversed that decision with QD-OLED displays. They will start selling up to 500,000 QD-Displays in 2022 and offer up to 1.5M Samsung OLED 4k TVs (with an LG panel) alongside it. This could help Samsung sway consumers away from LG and Sony, which have dominated the OLED market-space.
In my opinion, for Samsung to gain traction, they need to offer something different than LG and Sony OLEDs. Samsung currently offers HLG, HDR and HDR10+ support. If Samsung chose to include Dolby Vision support, they could appeal to those who want the widest support of video formats. And let’s not forget multiple full-bandwidth HDMI 2.1 ports with eARC and all the latest features.
Samsung’s QD-OLED is poised to become a big deal in the AV world. With the increased popularity of OLED with gamers, enthusiasts and average consumers alike, Samsung’s QD-OLED displays could quickly gain a foothold. Samsung is entering a well-established market segment, and to topple the reigning kings of OLED, they need to hit their stride quickly. I do think that lack of a large-format panel (75”+) will hurt them at first. That is unless they plan on offering an LG manufactured panel OLED in that larger format. A decade-plus ago, Samsung was the upstart disrupter in the flat-panel market. Will history repeat itself?