New OLED material breakthrough could mean cheaper OLED TVs

LG G3 and G2 OLED TVs in dark room with screen showing factory workers in yellow uniforms
(Image credit: Future)

New research coming out of the Department of Chemistry at Pusan National University, Korea, could have a big impact on the future of OLED TV production, with the net result being a drop in OLED TV prices as new, more economical materials are introduced.

The best OLED TVs are a go-to option for movie fans and gamers alike due to their crisp, high-contrast pictures with deep, detail-packed blacks. And while competing QLED models frequently show up on our list of the best 4K TVs due to more recent enhancements like mini-LED backlighting, the willingness on the part of many to pay the generally higher prices that OLED TVs command is a testament to the display tech’s popularity.

A major reason why OLED TVs are pricier than their QLED counterparts is that OLED TV production, which uses a process called vacuum thermal evaporation, is both expensive and labor-intensive. An alternative to current production methods is solution-processed OLEDs, but so far the use of that technique has been limited due to difficulty in “stacking” the component layers used in OLED panels, according to an abstract of an article in the Chemical Engineering Journal that details the research.

Specifically, Pusan National University researchers were able to synthesize a solvent-resistant hole injection layer material used in the OLED stack, one that “achieved a greater efficiency and lifetime,” according to the abstract, which goes on to characterize it as “a major step forward for the commercialization of efficient solution-processed OLED displays.”

With the new solution-processed OLEDs promising “an economical, large-scale fabrication technique,” OLED TV panels could be made more cheaply and efficiently, and at greater scale. This bodes well for OLED TV prices, which have not seen recent drops on the same level as QLED TVs, which become less expensive on a year-over-year basis.

Analysis: OLED prices need to come down for it to remain competitive 

Anyone wondering if OLED prices will be dropping in 2023 need only look at the recent LG pricing announcement for its new TVs in the US. The company’s lowest-cost 2023 OLEDs, the B3 series, are generally higher priced than 2022’s B2 series, with the 65-inch B3 model seeing a $400 increase over the 65-inch B2. 

The LG A2 series that we found to be a great lower-cost OLED option for movie fans in 2022 is also being discontinued in the US, though an A3 successor will be available in certain European countries.

The arrival of Samsung’s QD-OLED tech, which is used in TV’s like that company’s upcoming QN95C series and Sony’s A95L series, provides strong competition for LG, and that should eventually lower the prices of the company’s W-OLED offerings. But premium LG OLED TVs like the new G3 series are mostly seeing a cost increase over last year’s G2 models, with the 77-inch G3 priced $500 higher than a same-size G2 screen at launch.

Granted, the price boost for the G3 TVs is mostly due to the introduction of a new feature for that series called Brightness Booster Max, which combines an optical element called MLA with a new META light-increasing algorithm and physical heatsink to maximize screen brightness.

The new G3 OLED and Samsung and Sony QD-OLEDs will be pricey, high-end TV options for 2023. Meanwhile,  regular QLED TVs such as budget models like the Hisense U8H and TCL Series 6 are seeing great picture quality improvements through the use of mini-LED backlighting, with top sets such as the Samsung QN95C displaying near-OLED-like blacks while offering OLED-beating brightness.

Looking over the future TV landscape, it’s clear that OLED TVs will need to come down in price to remain competitive, though the opposite seems to be happening now. 

Will the research coming out of Pusan National University result in OLED TV price drops in the near future? That’s hard to predict based on a scientific abstract, but the optimism of the researchers is clear, and OLED tech clearly needs the manufacturing efficiency boost they’re claiming to remain commercially viable.

Al Griffin
Senior Editor Home Entertainment, US

Al Griffin has been writing about and reviewing A/V tech since the days LaserDiscs roamed the earth, and was previously the editor of Sound & Vision magazine. 

When not reviewing the latest and greatest gear or watching movies at home, he can usually be found out and about on a bike.