LG’s 4K OLED TVs might have problems with the impending arrival of HDR content

by on March 6, 2015

Stephan Jukic – March 06, 2015

After LG’s new lines of OLED TVs first came out in late 2014, they were quickly recognized as being pretty much unbeatable in terms of color quality and contrast. This has stayed true right into 2015 with the even newer, improved line of models with the same technology.

However, there are voices now being raised among competitor brands that are claiming OLED to not be all that it’s cracked up to be. Specifically, these voices are saying this because of the impending arrival of the much vaunted new generation of HDR 4K content that is supposed to emerge towards the end of this year.

The problem lies in the fact that the newly developed interest in HDR (high dynamic range) technology in 4K content has also started a wider discussion on whether OLED TV displays will be able to handle the display characteristics of this new technology as it arrives.

Why is this the case? Because, according to these same expert sources, OLED, while being extraordinarily good at black reproduction and motion clarity due to its ability to actually turn off its organic LEDs (OLEDS), isn’t quite going to be capable of delivering the same brightness that normal LED TVs can provide.

Since one of the crucial components of HDR’s quality is its expected brightness, this will possibly make the powerful technology of OLED surprisingly deficient at delivering the extraordinary contrast of HDR when compared to normal LED TVs.

In turn, this could affect these TVs ability to deliver the expanded luminance and color range that HDR promises.

According to Danny Tack, an expert from Philip’s European dvision questioned by Forbes magazine in a recent blog post, the wide color gamut and much brighter light output of LCD are features that have a better position to meet the demands of HDR than OLED does.

So far, as Tack explained to Forbes, OLED (and its primary developer LG) have to first solve this light output issue before they can really meet the standard of HDR and Tack doesn’t believe that this will happen for at least two or three more years.

The point of this was underscored by some raw numbers behind both technologies: Namely, while 4K LCD TVs have managed to increase light output from 500 to 800 nits in just the last 12 months between 2014 and now, OLED has only increased its capacity by 50 nits. For each of the two generation of OLED TVs to emerge in 2014 – 2015.

While this is understandable given the revolutionary and difficult to manufacture nature of TVs with organic light emitting diodes, it also shows how the technology might face problems with HDR just around the corner in 2015.

Samsung has also weighed in on the issue and claimed that force driving the brightness of OED panels to levels that are bright enough to handle HDR will likely also reduce those panels’ life spans dramatically. Given the very high retail prices of OLED 4K TVs, this is something that potential owners definitely won’t want to hear as they get ready for HDR content to arrive from different 4K transmission services.

Netflix is just one of the 4K ultra HD content providers which is expected to start delivering HDR 4K content in late 2015

Netflix is just one of the 4K ultra HD content providers which is expected to start delivering HDR 4K content in late 2015

Currently then, LGs stake in OLED TVs is looking quite shaky as far as this goes. The company is offering very expensive TVs that are likely to deliver surprisingly inferior performance for the latest, best 4K content that’s coming while their much more affordable LED LCD 4K TV cousins make the grade!

LG is of course defending its unique OLED 4K TV technology and claims that it will definitely have and HDR OLED solution ready for later this year and that they should be ready to unveil more details about how this is expected to work in time for the IFA technology show in September.

Furthermore, a source at LG also claimed that OLED HDR will be the priority for LG because OLED itself doesn’t have any serious barriers to its nature that make it unable to cope with HDR. Furthermore, the source claimed that OLED is in fact a much more versatile platform than conventional LED technology because its individual LEDs are self-emissive (can be individually turned off) and because the chipsets that offer computing power for OLED screens are much more capable of processing the needs of HDR quickly.

Nonetheless, the current batches of OLED 4K TVs do not actually have HDR factored into their design and LG claims that this is so because HDR itself is the technology which isn’t quite yet ready for the consumer ultra HD content market.

So far it’s still too early to say anything concrete about any of these technologies and how they will interact by the time 2015 finishes up so we’ll just have to wait and see if OLED picks up the ball on HDR or if LED/LCD wins out at least for the time being.

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  • stu
    March 6, 2015 at 10:37 pm

    Ive also read that the new oled’s can not be upgraded to HDR by a firmeare release. I was going to get a 65″ as soon as it released. Now im not so sure.


  • Thomas O Riordan
    March 13, 2015 at 9:19 am

    This sounds like a ploy by other TV manufacturers to slow down OLED as they can not yet build them. HDR as a standard has not been agreed, let alone the broadcast companies being ready to deliver it. The same thing can be said of 4K there are some early 4K sets out there that are not part of the now agreed standard…. and we still are lacking 4K content … maybe we get some 4K blu-rays discs and players this year Stu go ahead and buy your Tv true HDR broadcast content etc will be a while yet,,, end of the year don’t make me laugh …what we will get maybe by then is an agreed standard (this is why LG is not in a hurry why add an expense to an already expensive TV)…anyone wanting HDR should wait a couple of years for them to iron out the kinks.


    • ddearborn
      March 18, 2015 at 6:19 am


      I think you are correct. This is all about politics and power within the industry and has little to do with serving the best interests of the customer.


  • Bob Frye
    March 19, 2015 at 10:26 am

    From my time as Product Manager at Dolby Labs for the PRM-4200 pro reference video monitor, I agree with the article re: OLEDs and limited brightness potential, especially when factored against the life span of the OLEDs themselves. OLEDs have shown differential aging, with the blue primary “going away” much sooner than the other primaries. Many OLED products artificially limit the max brightness so as to extend the life span of the OLEDs, especially the blues. HDR brightness levels of 600 to 2500 nits, even if achievable with OLEDs, would have a significant impact on lifespan. Then again, these are all well known facts in the display and color science worlds, and I’m sure companies are working on these issues.


    • jockmoron
      May 18, 2015 at 3:11 am

      Except of course the LG OLED screens don’t have blue emissive pixels, only white, with colour filters, so this criticism of the life span of blue OLEDs, whilst true, does not apply to the LG system.


      • Drew
        December 5, 2015 at 9:10 pm

        That’s a complete load. People have reported the problems he mentioned with the LG OLED’s. Along with problems with burnt images just like old plasmas


        • Uhu
          January 25, 2016 at 12:23 am

          Right, problems that appear after 10 years of running a TV 24/7? Sorry but I have friends with old plasma TVs and they look far better than anything I’ve seen on even the most expensive LCD TVs. There is no amount of motion processing that can be done to make an LCD TV looks as good as something like plasma or oled. All these things are over-exageratted “problems” that don’t come into play until your tv has been obsolete for years.

          Keep buying into whatever they want you to think is good, little sheep.


        • Ari Kambar
          February 24, 2017 at 7:38 pm

          Lies. Link me one single instance of someone complaining of blue pixel degradation on LG WRGB OLED panels. You won’t find one because A. There is no blue OLED pixel only white with blue filter and B. OLED panels have a half life of 100,000hours meaning it will be 10+ years before an owner who uses is 24 hours a day complains of degradation.


  • kritikl
    March 25, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    While competing lcd-led technology mocks oled deficiency in brightness, LG will silently keep pushing oled(s) and oled will have to make some adjustments (Just as everyone else will have to make some adjustments as 4K and HDR are not defined standards and the bar could keep pushing which I believe is going back to the drawing board theory). Black levels and fast motion would be my choice rather than the bright levels. And BTW don’t even try to convince me color saturation is better on lcd-led -It’s not. My wish list is the day I would see “affordable oleds”


  • kritikl
    March 25, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    LG must have smirk on it’s face, as LG is developing not just Oled 4k’s but also 4k with led and plasma. And so the competition trying to mock LG with one of it’s technology because they feel inadequate? insecure?


  • Me Here
    April 11, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    LCD, you sound sceerd.


  • BillK
    April 24, 2015 at 12:54 pm

    Pity even the latest QD LCDs can’t do something as simple as show dark images without either exhibiting edgelit flashlighting or FALD haloing.


  • jockmoron
    May 18, 2015 at 3:09 am

    This article is crossing several bridges even before the streams are flowing. When HDR eventually arrives will people, in their living rooms, be needing such bright screens? If the contrast only comes with brightness, they’ll all get migraines. The content isn’t even available for ordinary 4K definition TV yet, never mind HDR. In the meantime, OLED costs are reducing very quickly, in two years, it’s likely OLED TVs will be nearer half the price they are now. They’ll provide truly superb pictures on standard HD, and even now most people watch TV at less then this quality, which LED/LCD technology still won’t match, QD notwithstanding. There’s nothing “shaky” about OLED.


  • rhett
    February 3, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    I bought an LG 55″ Oled TV for Christmas, just out of the warranty period by about 3 days it is now being repaired by the vendors because the main display needs replacing. This TV cost £2k and has failed before I even got my ultra HD sky Q box. Luckily I have the all encompassing Currys insurance but I am so disappointed that after a failure within a year does not qualify for a new replacement. Buyers beware!


  • Ari Kambar
    February 24, 2017 at 7:40 pm

    HDR is the new 3D. Give it 5 years and many fucks won’t be given.


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