I wish T3’s OLED TV predictive powers also applied to lottery numbers: our very own Louise Blain said earlier this year (opens in new tab) that while smaller OLED TVs from LG were coming, “we’re probably not going to see these rolling onto shelves any time soon.”
And lo, it came to pass that LG’s first ever 42-inch 4K OLED TV isn’t going to make it to people's homes until 2022. That’s according to the Korean Economic Daily (opens in new tab), whose well-informed but unnamed source said that the firm is delaying the launch “to maximise its marketing efforts”.
It’s a sensible move. There isn’t much 2021 left, and it's likely that LG will be launching next year's range of OLED TVs at CES in January, as usual. As much as we’d like to see a smaller, more affordable OLED model – especially one optimised for next-gen games consoles, like this LG promised to be – the timing just isn’t auspicious: the new TV would be buried underneath the launch of even newer TVs as the new year begins.
But this delay could actually turn out to be good news if you were waiting by your computer, credit card in hand, for the launch of a small OLED TV.
Why waiting for smaller OLED TVs could be good
As you know, OLEDs aren’t cheap. Smaller ones aren’t significantly cheaper than their bigger siblings because OLED panels are expensive to make, and smaller panels tend to require newer and more advanced technology. When LG added 48-inch OLEDs under its range of 55-inch models, the smaller model cost exactly the same in the UK and US as the next size up. That was with the launch of the LG CX – this year, the LG C1 has managed to widen the gap, so the small model offers a significant saving.
The reason for the size and price discrepancy is because of the way OLED panels are made. When LG first made its 48-inch panels, they were cut from the leftovers of the “motherglass” used to make pricey 77-inch panels – so to get a little panel, LG needed to make a big panel first. That meant smaller panels couldn’t be made in big volumes, and big volumes is where economies of scale kick in to drag the price down.
We know that LG intended to change its production process this year, moving to a new system where it could cut eight 48-inch panels from a single motherglass instead of waiting for the priciest panels’ offcuts. That will bring the price of the 48-inch panels down, although at first it won’t be any cheaper to make 42-inch ones: production yields of that size are reportedly worse than for the slightly larger ones, so there’s more wastage. That will improve over time, but it won’t happen overnight – hopefully, it could happen by the time the 42-inch TVs will actually go on sale, so that they can be cheaper again.
Overall, though, this is good news: the entry level for OLEDs is getting a bit smaller and a lot more affordable. That’s particularly good news for gamers who don’t want or have room for a giant OLED TV on their desk but who want a top gaming TV with low latency, deep blacks and vivid colours to show off titles such as Horizon: Forbidden West; like the LG TV, that isn’t coming until 2022 either.