When Sony showed up to CES 2012 with a Crystal LED prototype TV rather than an OLED TV like its rivals Samsung and LG, it prompted reports that the company was abandoning OLED TVs aimed at the consumer market. Sony might finally have put paid to these reports by displaying a prototype OLED TV at this year's CES. And in the spirit of one-upsmanship, Sony is touting the prototype TV as the "world's first and largest 56-inch 4K OLED TV."
Manufacturing difficulties have been a major hurdle in OLED TVs getting to market, but things are finally looking up for TV connoisseurs with LG launching its 55-inch OLED TV in South Korea next month. Sony's prototype provides an extra inch of size and boasts 4K (3,840 x 2,160) resolution rather than the 1080p of LG's offering – of course, LG's unit has the notable distinction of actually getting to market.
To overcome the difficulties faced in manufacturing large size OLED panels that rely on low-temperature polysilicon (LTPS) thin-film transistors (TFTs) to force light through the OLED layer, the prototype panel – which was developed by Sony in partnership with Taiwan's AU Optronics Corp. – uses oxide semiconductor TFTs and incorporates Sony's "Super Top Emission" technology already found in some existing Sony TVs.
Sony says these technologies overcome some of the manufacturing hurdles while enabling light to be efficiently extracted from the OLED layer to retain the high brightness, contrast ratio, rapid response times and wide viewing angles promised by OLED TVs.
While Sony has stated it will continue OLED technology research with the aim of commercializing 4K OLED TVs, it remains to be seen if and when they will become available to the average consumer. With the price of the TVs sure to be on the expensive side upon any release, Sony appears to initially be targeting professional markets "from filming to editing, content creation, delivery, distribution and display devices."
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