Has Sony given up on the dream of 4K OLED TVs?

4K Sony TV
4K OLED TVs with high dynamic range are what we want

OLED TV development remains a cash-hungry black hole so it's not hugely surprising to hear that Sony might have turned its back on it.

It makes some business sense for Sony because it's currently doing quite well with its LCD TVs and 4K products after years of heavy losses.

But for those of us praying for a new dawn in ultimate yet affordable picture quality, it would be a tragic shame.

That's because Sony was our great hope for OLED - its ideas for the technology were far more exciting than that of Samsung and LG, the only brands to make decent headway with OLED to date.

Sony's philosophy with OLED was to leapfrog HD, bypass the distractions of curved screens and go straight to the humdinger: flatscreen 4K OLED.

A unique approach

"Sony was our great hope for OLED, mainly because its ideas for the technology were far more exciting"

If LG's 1080p OLED TV can be this good, how brilliant would an affordable 4K OLED TV be, we ask?

For a couple of years Sony was working with Panasonic to develop a new manufacturing process for these 4K OLED panels and it was looking good.

Using a new printing technique to apply the necessary organic materials to a substrate and form the all-important electroluminescent layer, it was supposedly going to be more cost effective than existing OLED production and allow panels to be made with a 4K resolution.

The future beckoned, the Japanese giants were going to make a triumphant TV comeback with affordable 4K OLED TVs - it was actually happening.

We even got to see some prototypes as a result of this partnership, with both Sony and Panasonic each bringing the "world's first 4K OLED TV" to CES 2013. They were stunning, we were excited. Everyone was.

Dashed dreams

But the products didn't arrive and the writing was on the wall when Sony and Panasonic announced the end of their partnership back in December.

We remained hopeful that having developed the system, both companies would go forth and start producing 4K OLED TVs. But we've not heard anything since then, and now word is that Sony will instead look to buy OLED panels in from elsewhere. The dream of affordable 4K OLED is in tatters.

It's not the first time Sony has left us hanging with exciting new display technology, either. Remember Crystal LED? It was Sony's big, exciting reveal at CES 2012.

Instead of using organic materials in the panel, Crystal LED was a self-emitting system with three RGB LEDs inside every single pixel. The tech was said to produce better colours, better motion and wider viewing angles. Again, we saw prototypes and they were jawdropping. But then, nothing.

Of course, the display industry is littered with the bones of shattered dreams and dead technologies. Plasma is gone. SED and many others never made it out the door. So it's not unusual for companies to lead themselves down blind alleys of development.

But this time it feels like we're really missing out as a result. We know that LG and Samsung are working on 4K OLED TVs. But details like when they'll arrive and how much they'll cost are just dust in the wind at this point.

James Rivington

James was part of the TechRadar editorial team for eight years up until 2015 and now works in a senior position for TR's parent company Future. An experienced Content Director with a demonstrated history of working in the media production industry. Skilled in Search Engine Optimization (SEO), E-commerce Optimization, Journalism, Digital Marketing, and Social Media. James can do it all.