After more than a decade of research and development, OLEDs have finally begun tiptoeing towards the mass market. While OLED TVs remain significantly more expensive than their LCD counterparts, their vibrant colors, low lag, and perfect blacks are appealing to videophiles and gamers alike. LG has just announced its bringing a new OLED display to CES 2018, and the new panel is a doozy.
Some of you may remember when Sony launched the first 11-inch OLED TV, the XEL-1. That tiny display ran $2,500 despite its chunky base, early technology, and limited resolution (960×540). This 88-inch LG panel is a sort-of cousin to the XEL-1, in much the same way that a Chihuahua is technically related to a Great Dane. With a resolution of 7680×4320, it packs 4x more pixels than a 4K display, and 16x more pixels than a 1080p panel.
LG says OLED panels are ideal for high-resolution displays because shrinking aperture ratios, which impact how much light from an LCD backlight ultimately makes it out of the display, makes OLEDs superior to LCDs as resolutions increase. This may be true, but the cost improvements clearly aren’t all that large — LG’s 77-inch 4K OLED TV, which you can currently purchase, is $20,000. An 8K panel that’s even larger isn’t going to sell for cheap.
If you have to sit closer to the TV than the TV is wide, how much of a benefit is this?
The problem for 8K TVs is simple: There’s no proof that 8K, in and of itself, will ever improve the viewing experience for anyone not possessed of top-notch eyesight. If we round up to 90 inches, the only TV viewing distances that show a benefit between 4K and 8K are those that are less than six feet. That means you’re literally sitting closer to the TV than the TV’s own diagonal width. Most people don’t like having to literally turn their heads to watch TV; the number of people who sit less than six feet away from a 90-inch TV is likely to be very small.
Nonetheless, showing off an 8K TV is a great way to boost branding, which is why a number of electronics companies bring these sets to CES each year. But the practical benefits of 8K broadcasts will be small to nonexistent for consumers. Features like HDR and the quality of OLED panels themselves are more likely to drive the next round of upgrades, and there’s no timeline for any kind of 8K introduction in the US. Right now, the first 8K broadcasts are expected to be timed to the 2020 Olympics in Japan.