The TV world is in for a shake-up this year, because we're about to see the first ever QD-OLED screens, which combine the per-pixel lighting and contrast that makes the best OLED TVs so good, with the added brightness and colours of Quantum Dots, as used in Samsung QLED TVs. It should be the best of both worlds, and the first TV announced with a QD-OLED screen is the Sony A95K.
What's strange about Sony being the first to reveal a TV is that QD-OLED technology is actually being made by Samsung Display – and it's widely known that Samsung is planning to launch a QD-OLED TV too, partly because it actually won an award at CES for just such a TV. But it hasn't officially announced a product yet.
So where is Samsung's TV? A new report from The Elec (via OLED-info.net) sheds some light on this, and it sounds like it's tied right into our story yesterday about why you should expect QD-OLED screens to be pricey.
The first thing you need to know: Samsung Electronics (which builds and sells TVs) is effectively a different company to Samsung Display (which manufactures TV screen panels), despite both being under the same umbrella. Samsung Display sells screens to lots of companies, and Samsung Electronics buys them at a price, just like anyone else who wants them.
The issue here apparently is how high the price of QD-OLED panels are. Samsung Electronics wants to buy them for the same price that it can buy regular (non Quantum Dot) OLED panels. But as our story above says, QD-OLED screens are incredibly inefficient to produce right now, making them more expensive.
Whereas Sony has presumably decided that the high cost is worth paying, Samsung Electronics has not, according to The Elec's report. So it's locked in a battle of wills with Samsung Display, insisting that the price needs to come down… and saying that it'll either delay the launch of a QD-OLED TV until later into 2022, or even push it completely to 2023 if it can't get them for the price it wants.
But this is a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario, because Samsung Display is reportedly saying that it won't decide whether to invest more money into QD-OLED production (which would bring the price down) without seeing how well the technology sells in 2022. And it's hard to see how QD-OLED could hope to sell big numbers without the might of Samsung Electronics behind it.
Why is Samsung being tough on price?
Some reports have said that Samsung is keen for its first OLED TVs to sit slightly under its Neo QLED LCD TVs when it comes to price and market position, so that its QLED brand remains the 'premium' option in people's eyes. Right now, we get the sense that a QD-OLED TV would have to be priced close to what its 8K TVs cost – or at the very least, in line with Samsung's most expensive 4K TVs.
So who will blink first? Will Samsung Display take a hit on profits in order to get QD-OLED in front of more people (and into our list of the best Samsung TVs)? Will Samsung Electronics launch a more premium-priced TV than it wanted? Or will QD-OLED just become a curiosity with a soft launch in 2022, with 2023 being the year it arrives properly?
It'll be a shame if it's the latter, because early eyes-on reports say it could be pretty stunning. But there's plenty of 2022 left for things to change…