Sound Advice: You might want to hold off on buying an OLED TV

  • Article by: DON LINDICH
  • Special to the Star Tribune
  • May 17, 2013 - 11:49 AM

Q: Do you think the new OLED TVs will be better than the best plasmas?

A: If OLED TVs are going to be commercially viable they will have to be better. What would be the point of paying between $5,000 and $10,000 for a 55-inch OLED television that does not look as good as a 55-inch plasma TV selling for under $1,500?

I have seen prototype OLED TVs under show conditions and the picture is indeed spectacular, with pure, perfect colors and incredible sharpness.

Early on in my career I was told by an industry veteran, “Try not to go too much on what you see at electronics shows.” I soon understood what he meant. The prototype TVs you see at the show are tweaked to perfection and showing demo material specifically edited and processed to make the TVs look their best. It is a level playing field at the show since everyone is playing by the same rules, but when dealing with new technology I’d rather see a production sample playing real-world material in my own home before I make a determination of how great a television is or isn’t. Still, when it is widely available I do expect OLED to have a better picture than plasma.

There is another factor to consider with new technology, that of longevity and reliability. OLED technology has been around for a while in small sizes so I do not anticipate any problems, but it may be smart to wait until prices drop and long-term durability has been established. I can speak from experience here.

Years ago I went into my local TV specialty store and the owner, who has been in business more than 50 years, was raving about a new TV called the Sony Qualia 006. It was a $13,000 70-inch HDTV using Sony’s then-new SXRD technology. I got to see it in his store a week later and was flabbergasted. The picture was so stunning I probably would have sat there for hours looking at test patterns if that is all that was on. It was a lot of money but, according to Sony, I would only have to change the lamp every few years and the TV would go on indefinitely. It seemed safe so I went ahead and bought one.

A few years later, the Internet was flooding with reports of Sony SXRD sets failing. With use over time, the SXRD optical block degrades and green blobs appear on the screen. It took time for the problem to manifest and it was not discovered during R&D, so no one saw it coming. My Qualia is not showing green blobs yet, but I have been told it is inevitable. I use the TV sparingly because of this, mostly for watching Blu-ray movies in my completely dark home theater. If I would have known the long-term prognosis back then it is unlikely I would have bought the Qualia, but I must admit I have really enjoyed it in the time I have had it.

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