Is Sony finally going to launch a seriously big OLED TV? Or perhaps two? Evidence is mounting that the Japanese electronics brand is on the verge of announcing – possibly during January's CES 2017 – a brace of bigscreen OLED TVs for the living room.
OLED, which stands for Organic Light-Emitting Diode, is a costly panel technology used primarily by phone manufacturers. In the world of television it's used by only two companies, LG and Panasonic, but its eye-popping color, impressive refresh rates, and lower power consumption are fast becoming legendary. After years of singing the praises of LED TV tech, is Sony about to do an about-turn and embrace OLED?
Cut to the chase
- What are they? Sony's debut bigscreen OLED TVs
- When are they out? Probably third quarter 2017
- What will they cost? 55-inch for $1,999 (about £1,580/AU$2,680) and 65-inch for $2,999 (about £2,370/AU$4,020)
Sony OLED TVs release date
- Sony will launch two sizes of OLED TV
- On sale late 2017
Information given by The OLED Association's CEO Barry Young to John Archer at Forbes suggests that Sony will sell a couple of bigscreen OLED TVs in late 2017. Panel shipments seem set to begin in the second quarter of 2017, with the products expected in-store in the third or fourth quarter. You want proof? Sorry, we can't offer that – all we got from Sony's PR was the usual 'we don’t offer comment on rumor and speculation'. But the sources do seem particularly reliable.
TechRadar’s take: If Sony does have something imminent to say about OLED, its press conference at the CES 2017 event in Las Vegas is when it will say it. 'Save The Date' invites have already gone out to journalists for the event, which will be staged on the Sony booth at the Las Vegas Convention Centre at 5:00pm on Wednesday, January 4, 2017. As usual, TechRadar will be there to bring you all the news as it happens. If nothing is announced by Sony about OLED TVs, Berlin's IFA exhibition in September 2017 is the most likely place for an official announcement.
Sony OLED TVs screen sizes
- Sony's OLED TVs will appear in 55-inch & 65-inch sizes.
- Sony will ship more 65-inch than 55-inch OLED TVs.
Sony is making both a 55-inch and 65-inch version of its OLED display according to The OLED Association's CEO Barry Young. The Forbes article suggests that 80,000 55-inch 4K OLED TVs, and 120,000 65-inch 4K OLED TVs will be shipped by Sony. That kind of detail only serves to back-up the story.
TechRadar’s take: If Sony thinks it will sell more OLED TVs in 65-inch size than in 55-inch size, then it must have some generous price-cuts in mind since the smaller sizes usually do better. So expect some serious 'big is better' 4K TV messaging, which does make a lot of sense.
Sony OLED TVs price
- 55-inch will sell for $1,999 (about £1,580/AU$2,680)
- 65-inch will sell for $2,999 (about £2,370/AU$4,020)
Sony products are rarely cut-price, but its rumored OLED TVs look likely to at least be as affordable as LG's lowest-priced OLED TVs. The OLED Association's CEO Barry Young claims that the 55-inch and 65-inch screens will retail for $1,999 (about £1,580/AU$2,680) and $2,999 (about £2,370/AU$4,020), respectively. On the face of it, those prices seem relatively good, and would provide a direct challenge to LG's OLED55B6P and OLED65B6P, which are currently the most affordable OLED TVs around at an identical $1,999 (about £1,899/AU$1,799) and $2,999 (about £2,899/AU$4,000) respectively.
TechRadar’s take: As demand for OLED panels goes up, prices come down, which is why Sony's OLED TVs appear to be good value. So let's wait until CES 2017 is over – and when LG has disclosed details of its upcoming OLED TVs – before deciding whether Sony's OLED TVs will be competitive. It's also fair to say that prices can change at a moment's notice, so they should be taken with a pinch of salt. But since Sony is using LG Display's OLED panels for these products, a price war looks on the cards. Yippee!
Sony OLED TVs design
There's not much to go on when it comes to design, but we do have some clues. While Sony showed-off a conceptual 56-inch 4K OLED panel at the IFA 2013 exhibition, perhaps a better clue is the design of its current LED TVs, chiefly the flagship ZD9 Series of 4K HDR LED TVs, which is currently positioned to beat-off the challenge from OLED technology. Any bigscreen flat or curved OLED TVs from Sony are likely to have a similar wide-foot design, but will likely be slimmer than Sony's existing flagship TVs; with OLED it's possible to get down to stunning 4mm-slim sizes.
Sony OLED TVs now on sale
Sony is no stranger to OLED technology. It already sells its award-winning TRIMASTER EL OLED monitors – the range-topper being its 30-inch, 4K resolution BVM-X300 V 2.0 – so perhaps the debut of its OLED TV should be no surprise.
Back in 2008 Sony launched its 3mm-slim, though low-resolution, 11-inch XEL-1, the first OLED TV ever manufactured and sold, though it cost $2,500 (about £2,000/AU$3,355) and didn't last for long. There have also been some other attempts by Sony to make OLED TVs in recent years; a joint Sony-Panasonic OLED manufacturing plant in Japan was then cancelled in 2014.
Sony OLED TVs significance
If Sony does launch two big-screen TVs it will send seismic shocks through the TV manufacturing industry. So far, LG has been the only company actually manufacturing OLED panels. Samsung experimented with, but then dropped, OLED technology a few years ago in favor of quantum dot LED TV panels, and doesn't plan to start making them again any time soon.
But LG's success at selling OLED as a premium TV, and Panasonic's decision last year to start sourcing OLED panels from LG to make its 65-inch TX-65CZ952 flagship TV, mean OLED's order book has been growing. LG Display plans to increase its OLED panel output by the end of 2017 from 34,000 to between 59,000 and 60,000 sheets per month. However, to do so requires more guaranteed customers; cue Sony's involvement.
TechRadar’s take: Until now, OLED technology has been seen as a work in progress, and LG's attempt to make it a core TV display technology an experiment. If Sony embraces it and puts it marketing dollars behind it, OLED looks destined to become the TV tech that everybody wants.