At CES 2022, Samsung Display unveiled its long-awaited next-gen TV tech: QD-OLED (also known as QD Display). Mixing the glorious colour of Quantum Dots (used in Samsung's QLED screens) with an OLED panel creates a screen that promises to be brighter and more colourful than the best OLED TVs, but with the perfect per-pixel contrast of OLED that even the best Samsung TVs so far can't quite match.
The technology is so new that Samsung itself hasn't actually publicly unveiled a TV with it built-in yet (though a secret Samsung TV did win an award at CES). In fact, the first QD-OLED TV has been announced by Sony: the Sony A95K (pictured above). This will be the new top-of-the-range for Sony in 2022, and we've got a breakdown of what's different between the A95K and the current A90J here.
Update: Samsung has now unveiled the Samsung S95B QD-OLED TV, and the price is not as bad as we feared! Though it's still quite high…
So: this QD-OLED tech is the new hotness, but will it cost insane amounts of money, like Samsung's microLED TVs? We don't have any official prices yet, but while it doesn't look like it'll cost anywhere near as much as those microLED TVs, early word is to expect a big price premium over current OLED TVs… and now it's clear why that is, thanks to a report in The Elec.
The report cites sources saying that the current yield rate for making QD-OLED panels is around 30%, and that Samsung is currently holding off on investing any more into improving its manufacturing to improve that.
Yield rate is, basically, the efficiency of your manufacturing process. A 100% yield rate means there's effectively no wastage: everything you try to make comes out in a good enough state to sell. This isn't really possible with advanced electronics – when you're putting together something so complex, there's a pretty good chance of something in there not working right. A yield rate of 50% means that only half of what you make is actually good enough to sell. As you can image, this affects the price that a manufacturer charges for something – twice as much resources have to be used to create one thing that works, and that has to be paid for.
A yield rate of 30% is, therefore, not great news for prices of the QD-OLED screens. OLED TV manufacturing has really advanced in the last few years, which is why the technology has seen a good 30% drop in prices recently. QD-OLED is kind of starting back at square one (not quite – but, like, square three or something).
So you should brace yourself for the 55-inch Sony A95K to start at a higher price than the £2,699/$2,799 that the Sony A90J launched at in 2021. The eventual Samsung QD-OLED screen may be a little cheaper than the Sony, but not by much.
"Ah," you say, "but today's TVs drop in price so quickly after launch! Won't that help?"
That's where the 'Samsung holding off on investing more' part comes in. The Elec's source says Samsung Display will wait to see what early reaction to QD-OLED is like before maybe investing more in the technology later in 2022. The only real way to solve yield problems is to throw money at it: make more at once to increase economy of scale, or develop better techniques so you reduce the wastage.
So here's hoping that 2022's first QD-OLED TVs are a hit with people who can afford them, enough to make Samsung Display invest in production, and maybe in 2023 the price will come down notably.
In the meantime, most people looking for an OLED experience should expect to stick with regular OLED this year. But with the LG C2 adding more brightness this year for a similar price to before – as well as being available in a 42-inch version for the first time – that's probably just fine.