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Samsung showcases holy grail of TV tech, kickstarts comeback story at CES 2018

By Ng Chong Seng - on 29 Jan 2018, 9:00am

(Image source: Samsung.)

Large, fancy TVs filled with acronyms and marketing terms defining their technical and design feats are common sightings at CES. Samsung "The Wall" TV could easily be categorized as yet another example this year, but on this ginormous TV, I also see another thing: Samsung TV division's comeback. Or at the very least, a comeback in the making.

To briefly recap, The Wall is a modular TV. Modular in the sense that instead of one single panel, it's made up of many display modules, each of them 9.37 inches and bezel-less. Samsung made The Wall a 146-inch TV for CES 2018, but really, it could in theory be constructed into any size.


MicroLED > OLED + LCD?

For me however, The Wall is exciting for another reason, and that's its underlying microLED display technology. Based on LEDs that can turn on or off individually without needing a backlight, this potentially makes for a TV with infinite contrast and crazy-deep black levels. If all this sounds familiar to you, yes, these are exactly the strengths of OLED. Coupled with brightness up to 2,000 lumens (according to Samsung) that currently isn't possible on OLED, and the use of an inorganic material (e.g., gallium nitride) for improved lifespan, microLED has every chance to combine the best of both LCD and OLED worlds. To me, it's obvious microLED is the reason Samsung stuck with its QLED TVs (basically quantum dot-enhanced LED-LCD TVs) instead of investing in OLED to compete with cross-town rival LG. Sure, Samsung continues to lead in worldwide TV sales, but the sentiment in the last few years that OLED rules the roost in the picture quality department couldn't have sat well within the company.

Notice how the pixels on a microLED panel (right) are so much smaller than the ones on a conventional LED panel (left). (Image source: Samsung.)

To be clear though, Samsung hasn't completed its (perception) comeback yet. The fact that The Wall was the only announcement that we've with regards to microLED TVs and it being module-based suggest to me that Samsung hasn't quite yet figured out how to manufacture microLED panels in a size and/or quantity suitable for the consumer TV market. Throw in things such as 4K resolution, which will affect how close each of the sub-pixels are to one another and thus throw up new technical challenges, and you'll understand why I think a, say, 65-inch 4K HDR microLED TV is at least two years away. Other than the wow factor, new cutting edge displays at CES are usually very big for a good reason: smaller high-res panels are just so much more difficult to make than bigger panels of the same resolution.

But credit where credit's due: Samsung has arguably made the future of TV today with The Wall, which unlikely many products announced at CES, is actually shipping this year. OLED is safe for the time being, but I think LG should start looking over its shoulders from now on.

(Image source: Samsung.)

Additional read:

Ng Chong Seng

Ng Chong Seng / Contributing Editor

I write about tech. I also fix things.