After eight years of broken promises and improbable ship dates, widescreen OLED televisions may finally go on sale this year.
No, really. LG began taking pre-orders for its 55-inch 55EM9700 display last week. The 1920×1080 panel is virtually identical to the 55EM9600 that won the “Best of CES 2012″ award last year, but — as predicted — never actually shipped. Why not? Pick your favorite explanation — low yields, a weak global economy, OLED lifespan, and production ramps are all valid culprits.
As in previous years, a number of manufacturers are showcasing beautiful prototypes with amazing displays, but LG’s willingness to assign a model number, take pre-orders, and set a price ($ 12,000 for the 55-inch model) says more than any PR blitz could about the likelihood of an actual launch. The company will ship the 55EM9700 to South Korean customers beginning in February, with a US launch expected for March.
Meanwhile, at CES 2013, several companies are showing off some exciting OLED panels that, if we’re lucky, might find their way to market this year. Sony and Panasonic showcased gorgeous 4K OLED panels with thicknesses that rival cutting edge tablets. Fancy a TV that’s half an inch thick? Panasonic’s UHDTV-capable display has you covered. At 56 inches, Panasonic is also claiming to have built the world’s largest OLED TV.
Sony’s new 4K OLED, meanwhile, is built on metal oxide semiconductor technology, which the company claims gives it a substantial advantage in manufacturing. We first started hearing about metal-oxide semiconductor technology about eight months ago after the launch of the iPad 3, but Sony’s decision to deploy it on panels this large is a significant step forward. Our article from last summer addressed the slow growth of high-resolution displays in computer monitors, but the move to metal-oxide manufacturing should spark an uptick across multiple models.
Samsung, not to be out done, is demonstrating a curved 55-inch OLED display. According to Samsung the curvature creates a more immersive, “IMAX” viewing experience. There are no details on resolution, how curved the display actually is, or price. Apparently it’s due out in the second half of 2013.
Still, of all the displays being shown, LG’s 55EM9700 stands out for one simple reason: It’s got a ship date. The company is taking pre-orders in South Korea now, with plans to ship on February. US availability is expected in March. And the price? A cool $ 12,000, give or take.
So yeah. For the majority of us, it’s going to take a little while before these things drop into the affordable range. But after eight years of waiting, even an insanely expensive shipping product is infinitely better than nothing at all.