When buying a TV, there are currently two types of screen technology LCD and OLED. However, between 2021 to 2025 and beyond, that’s going to change as several core TV technologies are either ready for market or in development that may add to, or replace current TV choices.
Although most consumers are happy with what is available (as well as the continuing lower
prices), there are some weaknesses with current TV tech that can be improved.
- LCD-based TVs(which include LED/LCD, mini-LED, and QLED) need additional processing to render fast motion, suffer from narrow viewing angles, and can't produce absolute black which is the foundation for displaying the best color and contrast.
- OLED TVs, which currently use self-lighting organic white self-emitting pixels, combined with RGB (red, green, blue) color filters can display excellent color due, in part to its ability to produce absolute black, but can't display the high brightness levels that LCD-based TV tech enables. OLED TVs are also susceptible to screen burn-in over time when displaying static images.
As a result, scientists and engineers are working on several solutions that may look outwardly the same as the current LCD and OLED TVs, but inside employ new technologies designed to solve deficiencies in current TVs.
Let's take a look at what several new TV technologies and refinements to current technologies offer.
One innovative new TV technology is MicroLED. Instead of using LEDs as backlights as they are on current LCD-based TVs (this also includes miniLED and QLED TVs), each MicroLED functions as a pixel that emits its own light and produces the image and color. As their name implies, their size is microscopic.
A MicroLED pixel is made up of red, green, and blue elements (referred to as subpixels). Just as with OLED TV technology, pixels can be controlled individually (dimmed, turned on/off). The MicroLEDs are then placed on-screen panel surface. There is no need for an LED backlight or LCD layer.
Another aspect of MicroLED technology is that instead of having made several TV sizes to offer consumers, modular construction is supported.
This means that by using smaller panels (referred to as modules), a TV can be custom assembled onsite at a home or business without having to be concerned whether the TV will "fit through the door". The manufacturer decides on what size modules to make and the range of assembled TV screen sizes to make available. TV manufacturers that support MicroLED TV technology include Samsung, Sony, and LG.
In addition to the modular assembly approach, a manufacturer can opt to make a MicroLED TV of a specific size(s), just as TVs are sold now. One example is a 110-inch Samsung model introduced in the fall of 2020 for the Korean market. Samsung has also indicated that 99, 88, and 76-inch screen sizes may be forthcoming.
MicroLED eliminates the weakness of both LCD-based and OLED TVs by providing excellent color, absolute black, high brightness, wide viewing angles, no burn-in susceptibility, and scalable screen sizes when using modular assembly.
However, the main drawback (so far) is that MicroLED modules and screens are very difficult to mass-produce due to the microscopic precision needed to place each MicroLED on a panel or screen surface. Making MicroLEDs small enough to fit the approximately 8 million needed for a 4K TV or 33 million to make an 8K TV smaller than a 100-inch screen size is an expensive technical obstacle. Ways to simplify construction are being explored.
That being said, MicroLED is being used where very large screens are practical such as digital signage and movie theaters. Even if microLED doesn't take hold in the consumer market, it may replace the use of projectors in the commercial cinema environment.
QD-OLED combines Quantum Dot (used in QLED TVs) and OLED TV tech. The way it works is that a layer of OLEDs placed on the back of the TV emits blue light. The blue light strikes a layer of quantum dots to produce green and red-colored light, while a portion of the blue light from the OLED layer travels through to the screen. As a result of this process, no LCD screen panel is needed as the blue OLED light and the green and red light produce the images that are displayed on the screen.
One downside of this approach is that the blue organic OLEDs are unstable and have a short lifespan. To compensate, three layers of blue OLEDs are used.
You may see QD-OLED TVs on the market in 2022.
QNED (Quantum Dot Nanorod LED) is similar to QD-OLED but instead of using an organic Blue-OLED layer, Non-organic Quantum Nano Emitting Diodes (essentially micro-LEDs) are used to produce the necessary blue light source – with quantum dots doing the green and red color conversion when hit with the blue light.
The advantage of QNED over QD-OLED is that since the Quantum Nano Emitting Diodes are inorganic, they should provide a longer-lasting blue light source.
Industry discussions are ongoing, but it is anticipated that QNED TVs will appear on store shelves by 2023 as an alternative to LCD-based and OLED TVs, as well as a better alternative than QD-OLED. If this happens, QNED may halt the need for QD-OLED TVs to reach the market.
LG and QNED: LG has adopted the trademark "QNED" for its line of high-end LCD-based 2021 (and presumably going forward) NanoCell LCD TVs. However, this is not the same QNED tech as described above.
For its "QNED" (aka QNED mini-LED) labeled TVs, LG has placed a layer of Quantum Dots between a mini-LED backlight system and NanoCell LCD display layer. Although this brings the performance of LG's NanoCell TVs in line with QLED TVs and closer to OLED TVs, it doesn't eliminate the need for an LCD display panel as true QNED does. It's possible that the term QNED may need to be further clarified in the future.
Further down the TV Tech roadmap that may end up being the holy grail of TV tech is QDEL (Quantum Dot Electroluminescent) aka ELQD (Electroluminescent Quantum Dots), AMQLED (Active Matrix Luminescent Quantum Dot), or QD-LED (Quantum Dot Light Emitting Diode).
This technology consists of self-emitting quantum dot diodes that provide the light source, image, and color. This eliminates the need for a supporting LED backlight or LCD panel. Also, the Quantum Dots are not susceptible to burn-in or low brightness issues as OLED is. The self-emitting Quantum dots are made via an inkjet printing process on a special sheet, which simplifies production, potentially lowering cost.
Prototypes, such as a 55-inch UHD set demonstrated by China-based panel maker BOE, prove that the images displayed are excellent. However, more fine-tuning needs to be made with the inkjet printing process, stability, and temperature sensitivity issues when placing Quantum Dots closer to the screen surface before this technology is ready for mass-production and the consumer market – perhaps by late 2023 or early 2024.
Dual Cell LCD
Although the goal of the TV tech discussed so far is to eliminate the need for LCD TVs, Hisense has come forward with a new take on LCD TV technology that may extend its life in the marketplace.
Hisense has released Dual Cell (aka Dual Layer) LCD TV technology (Hisense branded as ULED XD). What makes Dual Cell different, and innovative is that this TV technology utilizes two LCD panels bonded together.
The two panels consist of a 4K LCD panel in front and a second 1080p panel behind that produces a 1080p B&W version of the image. As an LED blacklight goes through the 1080p B&W LCD layer it effectively creates 2-million dimming zones supporting what you see on the TV screen.
The result is that the black levels of a Dual Cell TV are the closest to the absolute blacks that can be produced by competing OLED TVs so far and at less cost. The first model outside of China has been released in Australia, but if all goes well, Hisense may be able to justify a full worldwide release, including the U.S. in the near future.
One downside of Dual Cell LCD is that since the backlight has to travel through two LCD layers, image brightness capability is lower than on many high-end LED/LCD or QLED TVs. However, it can display brightness levels higher than OLED TVs.
For example, the current iteration of Dual Cell LCD TV can display up to 1,000 nits, which is brighter than most OLED TVs at 700-800 nits, but not as bright as many LED/LCD and QLED TVs that may be able to display up 2,000 nits or higher.
It’s too early to tell if Dual Cell LCD TV tech can head-off or compete with some of the other new TV technologies being introduced, but using currently available mass-production infrastructure and technology, it is less expensive for consumers.
Note: Panasonic has also demonstrated its own take on Dual Cell/Layer LCD TV branded as MegaCon, but has not indicated when, or if, it will be brought to market.
SLED (Super Luminescent Diode) TVs are LCD TVs that use an LED backlight, but instead of using traditional white LEDs in the backlight, red, green, and blue LEDs are used. These are combined to create more pure white light than traditional white LEDs. The pure white light passes through an LCD panel and red, green, and blue color filters to display more precise colors.
The goal of SLED is to provide similar picture quality as a QLED TV (LCD TV with LED backlight and a layer of quantum dots) and OLED TV – but at a lower cost.
The concept of "SLED" TV technology is not new, Sony offered a few TV models several years ago that used a similar approach, but were discontinued. It appears this new version may be more refined. SPD is the company that developed the current version of SLED technology in partnership with India-based brand Realme.
SLED TVs are currently marketed Realme and are available primarily in India and other select markets. There is no word if this LCD TV technology variation will become available in the U.S.
Check out a more detailed analysis on how SLED stacks up against QLED and OLED at this point.
Complimentary TV Technologies
In addition to advancements in screen display technology, there are also continued refinements that further support TV performance. These include wider adoption of:
- HDMI ver 2.1: After several delays and limited implementation, for 2021 going forward, you will see more features of HDMI ver 2.1 implemented across most TV models. This includes wider bandwidth and transfer speed (up 48 GBps) to 8K resolution, 4K/120 fps, and VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) for improved gaming. HDMI eARC is also included for access to more audio formats.
- HDR: More TVs will support increased light output beyond 1,000 Nits for a more precise and consistent display of HDR (High Dynamic Range) content. Also, it is hoped that all TVs will eventually support all HDR formats.
- ATSC 3.0/Next Gen TV: More local TV stations will adopt this new digital TV broadcast standardand more TVs will feature built-in tuners for receiving the broadcasts and services that specific TV makers choose to offer within the ATSC 3.0/Next Gen TV platform, such as 4K resolution, multiple 1080p sub-channels, enhanced emergency broadcast services, and content tie-ends with internet services.
- Streaming: Currently, there is no single streaming platform that offers all possible apps, but, as streaming demand continues, more TV brands will offer an increasing number of free and subscription streaming services.
- AI Video and Audio Processing: More TVs will include AI (Artificial Intelligence)-supported video and audio processing to fine-tune image and sound quality in real-time, without the need for the viewer to make manual adjustments.
- Voice Control Options: The trend of TV compatibility with Alexa, Google Assistant, and other control systems will continue and expand to lesser expensive models.