TV trends and HDR
June 03, 2020
Premium TVs, defined by some analysts as those with a price tag over $1000, are often where new technologies to enhance picture quality start their product life. These new technologies present a window of opportunity for product differentiation, allowing higher margins to be accessed for the display maker and others in the supply chain.
High dynamic range (HDR) TVs are a good example of this. Taking 65” 4K TVs as an example, at the lower end of the price spectrum today you can buy a ‘vanilla’ LCD TV model without HDR for less than $500. The widespread capability to manufacture TV panels to this specification, combined with the continued huge capacity growth for TV production has led to dramatic price drops over the past couple of years. This has resulted in amazing bargains for the consumer, but display makers have been facing margin challenges.
At the other end of the price spectrum, you could opt for a 65” OLED HDR TV for closer to $4000, with very high contrast through excellent blacks, fast update and other features. LG Display has near monopolised production of these displays and can therefore command a high price.
Display technology advancements
As is often the case in many industries, and certainly for the displays industry, the incumbent technology finds ways to reinvent itself to meet and even exceed the performance of rival approaches at a lower cost. LCD has done this many times over the years, with improved speed, viewing angle, colour gamut, contrast, pixel density, brightness and almost every other attribute. In the displays industry this is often motivated by the significant LCD capacity already installed; LCD makers have a vested interest to adopt or develop improvements that can be implemented using their existing assets. Many improvements can be implemented without having to build a new line – either by changing a subset of processes on the same equipment (different liquid crystal, different pixel design), or by employing upgraded module components (improved backlight, improved optical films).
Recently, premium LCD HDR TVs have adopted several innovations that allow LCD performance to move toward and meet the pixel-level very high contrast of OLED TVs. Some of the recent technologies that have improved HDR LCD TV performance are listed below:
FALD backlight: Full array local dimming (FALD) LCD TVs have a backlight that is an array of LEDs that is divided into tens or several hundreds of zones, each of which is independently dimmable. This helps to produce deeper blacks and is a vast improvement over basic LCD panels, but can lead to some halo effects for some content.
Mini LED backlight: Conceptually this is just an extension of the FALD approach, but there are many more LEDs and therefore many more, and smaller, zones. Rather than several hundred LEDs there will be several thousand or tens of thousands. This adds more cost through BOM and process complexity, but produces even better HDR performance, and many display makers are looking at this today. In such HDR TVs the backlight can be the most expensive component in the whole unit.
Dual cell TV: A more recent development for TVs is dual cell, which, in contrast to the above approaches that focus on backlight innovation, uses cell innovation instead. This involves placing two cells on top of each other - several panel makers have shown ultra-high contrast LCDs using this approach, exceeding 1 million to 1. This novel approach is already used in premium TVs today using glass LC cells, and is likely to continue to improve in performance and cost. For example, OLCD, which is built onto TAC film and is ten times thinner that glass, allows true pixel-level dimming and significant complexity reduction for dual cell TVs.
FlexEnable will give a talk on dual cell OLCD at Display Week 2020. If you want to find out more about our technology, please contact us at email@example.com.