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Paper-thin, 55-inch TV could show the future of monitors

Even though Microsoft announced that this would be its last year doing the keynote and having a large presence at the Consumer Electronics Show, CES is still a great place to discover new and exciting products.

This year, the biggest buzz at the conference, to be held Jan. 10-13 in Las Vegas, might be from a decade-old technology that could finally be coming into its own, the OLED screen.

The O stands for organic, and the screens are very impressive despite what has been to date one very huge flaw.

They are able to produce images directly on their membranes without the use of a backlight. That means that it can render almost a true black — a total lack of color — and  achieve a very high contrast ratio. They can also be paper-thin, with monitors only needing to be the size of the actual membrane and some type of frame to hold it.

I first saw OLEDs at CES more than 10 years ago, only they were sheets of paper that illuminated a single color, like blue and red. Eventually I was told that the OLED technology would allow notebook screens to simply roll up out of the computer and take up no real space and hardly any weight.

The biggest problem with the organic screens is that, like most organic things, they die. The early ones I saw lost 20 percent of their brightness in just 24 hours of use, not something you want as the centerpiece for your computer or entertainment system.

However, LG Electronics says it has licked that little problem and will reveal a 55-inch OLED TV at CES this year that is just 4 millimeters thick and weighs just 16 pounds. Can you imagine a 55-inch display that you can lift with one hand?

LG has not said how long the panels will last (if they fixed the whole organic dying problem), nor has it addressed the bigger question of how much it will cost.

But the company has invested millions in a new OLED manufacturing facility, so it seems to be serious about this technology. And even if we can’t afford OLEDs initially, it should drive the cost way down for that “old” tech — you know, the normal LED and LCD screens. Life is good!

 

About the Author

John Breeden II is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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