Iteration of display technologies has been a strong driver of TV industry. The transition from Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) to Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) has driven this industry into an era of flat-panel TV at one time. Now, with dividing preferences of enterprises, the battle among QLCD, Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) and laser technology is on: who is the display technology of the future?

Sony rolled out its OLED TV A1 at CES in Jan 2017, giving rise to a heated discussion across the industry. In late March, A1 was brought to China. With Sony’s long standing leading position in technology, this move boosts the morale of OLED TV makers greatly. In mid April, an international forum on Quantum Dot Light Emitting Diodes (QLED) was jointly organized by Samsung, TCL and Hisense to endorse QLED TVs. The development of display technologies has drawn all eyes across the industry.

OLED

“After four years of marketing, China’s OLED TV market is mature. At this point, Skyworth cuts down its price of OLED TVs to capitalize this opportunity. And this is done with real seriousness. ” Liu Tangzhi, President of Skyworth Group, says at the brand’s news conference in April, “LCDs, curved panel or quantum dot panel, are due to be out. Skyworth has faith in OLED to be the ultimate replacement of LCD.”

LG is another staunch advocator of OLED. And Changhong, Konka, Sony and Philips all have their OLED products on China’s TV market. With more makers and products in, the price of OLED TVs is slightly easing.

With self-lighting pixels, wide viewing angle and ultra-slim profile, OLED comes in flat or curved designs, and is called to be the “display technology of the next generation”. Without backlight or liquid crystal, OLED TVs stand out with simplicity.

However, limited by the amount of panel supply, the price of OLED TVs remains unreachable.

Skyworth, in collaboration with BOE, a leading panel supplier in China, and HiSilicon, a fabless semiconductor and IC design company of China’s Huawei Group, rolled out the China’s first self-developed 55-inch 4k OLED TV M1, using BOE-made large-size OLED panel. BOE has been deploying OLED panels in recent years, with an Erdos-based G5.5 production line, a Chengdu-based G6 AMOLED line, and a yet-to-be-erected Mianyang-based G6 AMOLED line. China’s home-grown brand CSOT is also committed to the R&D and manufacturing of large-size OLED. Currently, domestic panel makers have their competitiveness mainly in small-size OLED panels. When it comes to large-size ones, more breakthroughs are yet to be made.

LG Display, as a major large-size OLED supplier, is expanding its capacity. As more panel enterprises elevate their technologies, more supply of large-size OLEDs is expected to be seen down the road.

QLED

After QLED TVs were introduced on the market in 2014, OLED TVs have its match. QLED technology addresses the downsides of LCD TVs, and is called by a number of industry players as “the future of display technology”. Samsung and TCL are strong supporters of QLED technology. Hisense also turns bullish on it while deploys ULED technology at the same time. Besides, QLED is seen by Samsung as a strong weapon to survive the battle of next-generation large-size TVs.

QLED TVs, as an advanced version of LCD TVs, have a solid industry base. QLED technology is used mainly on high-end LCD TVs, charged at a price dramatically higher than ordinary LCD products, but much lower than OLED products of the same size. Pricewise, QLED has a better market prospect. Zhang Shaoyong, General Manager of TCL Multimedia Product Center, believes that, good technology offers better consumer experience, and more importantly, at an affordable price. “That’s why TCL is doing cost control through its highly efficient supply chain. We’re trying to keep the cost and price of our QLED TVs 1.1 to 1.2 times that of ordinary LEDs, to make it more accessible.”

QLED is currently in its infancy. With lighting generated by a light source, it brings the best of LCD TVs, says Gao Lei, General Manager of Najingtech. And he believes that, in the coming 3 to 4 years, the emergence of electricity-generated lighting technology would bring a revolutionary change to this industry.

Laser

TV panels are getting big. In large-size panel arena, laser technology finds its special advantages. Hisense and Changhong have started their deployment in this market. Despite traditional TV enterprises, a number of laser TV makers and Internet TV companies also rolled out laser products.

Turning bullish on laser technology, Hisense spares no effort in its deployment of laser TVs with diversified products designed for household and commercial uses. Currently, Hisense has placed on market 88-inch, 100-inch and 120-inch 4K laser TVs, and will further expand its portfolio to include 70-inch and 140-inch ones moving forward. It is learned that Hisense will make its entire laser TVs 4K in 2017.

According to Changhong, its laser TVs secure great performance in sales, and show strong competitiveness in ultra-large screen niche market with a price much lower than LCD TVs of the same size.

Considering the current market situation, it’s safe to say that laser TVs are still products for niche market and it’s not time yet for it to progress into the mainstream.

Who is the future of display technology?

With multiple technologies on the market, pace setters of LCD and OLED TV makers all claim their choice to be the future of display technology. A discussion over this has long been ongoing across the industry.

An unnamed interviewee from a domestic brand says, “I personally believe the debate over the next generation display technology only impacts the insiders. For consumers, OLED or QLED is just a term that doesn’t really affect their choice of products. Their considerations are still brands, performance and price.”

From the perspective of market size, OLED takes up less than 1% while LCD dominates the mainstream. An industry insider says, “It’s too early to call a winner. OLED still needs more time to grow.”

Considering the price, OLEDs are charged at prices about three times QLEDs of the same size. Dong Min, Vice President of All View Cloud, believes that OLED and QLED TVs target different consumer groups, and these two technologies have never really gone head-to-head.

From the perspective of technology, OLED and QLED have their common interests. Our reporter finds that both of them have put great weight on self-lighting. The future of display technology, eventually, will come down to consumers’ choice.