MicroLED isn't a threat to OLED TVs – here's why

Samsung The Wall MicroLED TV
(Image credit: Samsung)

MicroLED TVs are increasingly being touted as a competitor to OLED TVs, but the latest forecast from analysts at DSCC – Display Supply Chain Consultants – suggests that MicroLED tech has some obstacles in its way (via OLED-info).

MicroLED is a TV panel technology that uses microscopic LEDs for incredible brightness control and contrast – resulting in a picture that can even rival the best OLED TVs – and has been quietly gaining steam in the past couple of years. 

Samsung deployed the panel tech in its massive The Wall display, and there's even been talk of Apple using it in its Apple Watch smartwatches. 

There are a few advantages over OLED, with no risk of image retention, and a panel structure that's far simpler to expand to larger screen sizes (hence the 163-inch microLED set from LG, or 292-inch screen from Samsung). But the DSCC paints a less-than-rosy picture of how the cost of microLED development is going to hold back the technology in the coming years.

The DSCC's forecast states that the MicroLED market is going to grow substantially over the next six years, from a current $25 million valuation to $228 million in 2026. These numbers are estimates, of course, but they still pale in comparison to the $2.5 billion valuation of OLED TVs last year – as a panel technology that also entered the commercial market six years prior.

The problem, it seems, is in the pricing. MicroLED is still very expensive to produce, and even the slightest misalignment of its pixel-sized LEDs can lead to uneven lighting and colors.

A separate report from IDTechEx cites "Technology immaturity, cost barriers and supply chain incompletion" as "three major hurdles in large-scale commercialization for microLED displays".

OLED wins – for now

OLED is certainly the premium TV panel technology of the moment, with prices finally dropping below the $1,000 / £1,000 / AU$1,500 barrier for entry-level or discounted sets.

It seems like it'll be a few good years before MicroLED can start catching up, though the biggest TV brands are clearly in this race for the long haul, and it's impossible to predict right now what the hot TV panel tech of the moment will be in 2030 or 2040.

MicroLED isn't OLED's only competitor, either. Samsung is reportedly working on a QD-OLED TV hybrid that utilises the strengths of its QLED TV range, though we're yet to see even a prototype of that in action. Perhaps the real change in the next few years will be in rollable TVs, like the LG Signature Series OLED TV R, though again the current price tag ($87,000 in the US, which converts to around £67,000 / AU$123,000) means it's nowhere near mass adoption.

Given how long it takes these technologies to become affordable, we expect you'll get plenty of warning either way.

Henry St Leger

Henry is a freelance technology journalist, and former News & Features Editor for TechRadar, where he specialized in home entertainment gadgets such as TVs, projectors, soundbars, and smart speakers. Other bylines include Edge, T3, iMore, GamesRadar, NBC News, Healthline, and The Times.