What’s On Display

Screen innovation is exploding in a very big way.


Displays provide the window between consumers and the information universe. There is no place like CES, held recently in Las Vegas, to see the most exciting new and future displays. Beyond traditional technologies like television, displays also featured prominently in many of the big trends at the show: AI (Artificial Intelligence), automotive, virtual reality, IoT (Internet of Things) and connectivity.

OLED continues to be a major display technology trend, with larger screen sizes, improved 8K (7680 x 4320 pixels) resolution and new form factors. The “LG OLED Canyon” utilized 246 of LG’s Open Frame 4K OLED display panels for commercial signage, and it showcased all the benefits of OLED technology: superb contrast, color and resolution from all viewing angles, combined with form-factor flexibility.

LG OLED Canyon. Image courtesy of CES 2018 Photo Gallery, Copyright Consumer Technology Association.

In TVs, LG Display showed a 65-inch “rollable” 4K OLED—when you’re done watching it, you just push a button and the display rolls itself up into a convenient base for easy storage. And while some people may question the need for a TV that rolls into a box after each use, it will certainly be easier to transport a 100-inch-plus TV into your home if it comes rolled up like a carpet. LG Display also featured an 88-inch 8K OLED TV.

An increasing number of companies, including Sony, Panasonic and multiple Chinese brands, showcased OLED TVs. However, the current high cost of manufacturing OLED TV displays means that we will not see mainstream adoption without significant technology breakthroughs—particularly breakthroughs that drive manufacturing cost down and OLED materials’ lifetime up. This is an area of great interest and opportunity for Applied Materials.

In LCD TVs (including QLED), screen sizes are increasing, and companies including Samsung exhibited improved quantum-dot backlighting, 8K resolution and HDR (high dynamic range) signal processing. Samsung’s new 85-inch 8K Q9S QLED shows how far quantum-dot LED backlighting has come: it has impressive color and brightness, and improved off-angle viewing. It also features Samsung’s AI-based technology to upconvert a 4K signal to an 8K image, so consumers can enjoy the resolution of an 8K screen now—despite the limited availability of true 8K content.

While OLED is gaining traction in high-end TVs, Samsung is pushing the limits of inorganic LED technology—a point underscored by its “Samsung City” showcase featuring its new line of HDR billboard-sized LED displays.

The “Samsung City” showcase featured HDR billboard-sized LED displays.

It is important to clarify that there are two distinct types of LED display technologies that are easy to confuse. The first is LEDs in backlights that serve as the light source for LCD TVs. TV makers are incorporating larger numbers of small LEDs in the LCD backlights to enable more sophisticated local dimming: this provides a better dark-light contrast ratio. The second, and more revolutionary, LED display technology puts tiny “mini LEDs” or “micro LEDs” directly into the pixels of the display. MicroLED (or µLED) might compete with OLED in ways LCD cannot: like OLED, it is an emissive display technology, meaning each pixel has its own light source. This creates deeper contrasts and richer colors, improves off-angle viewing and reduces power consumption.

MicroLED technology was prominently exhibited by Samsung. They featured a display called “The Wall,” a monster 146-inch 4K MicroLED display made up of small panels that can be customized to fit any space.

Samsung’s “The Wall”

While it is a very promising technology, we mainly expect to see these huge MicroLED screens in public display applications (where size and brightness are important, but viewers are far enough away to not notice individual pixels and panel edges) and not in TVs (where close viewing and lower cost are important). Our analysis of LED display cost-structure suggests it will be difficult for MicroLED technology to penetrate the TV market anytime soon; however, over the next few years we do expect MicroLED adoption to begin in wearables and automobile displays—where the brightness and form factor benefits are needed and the resolution requirement is not too high.


In other TV trends, HDR is becoming an industry standard. Sony, for example, showcased an A8F 4K OLED lineup that supports both Dolby Vision and HDR10, two different versions of “high dynamic range” processing for improved color, contrast and brightness. New image processing combined with higher resolution backlights enables local dimming, which also supports HDR on LCD displays. At the same time, there’s a push to make LCD TVs brighter: Sony displayed its 85-inch 8K HDR capable of 10,000 nit brightness, which is roughly five times brighter than anything else currently available.

And the TV marketplace is getting more diverse: for example, Chinese brands like TCL, Hisense, Konka, Skyworth, Changhong, BOE and Haier continue to improve their range of offerings and the quality of their products. Changhong, Konka and Skyworth all presented Crystal Sound OLED TVs, and Skyworth showed a Wallpaper OLED reminiscent of LG’s OLED W7 from last year’s CES. There were impressive new LCD TVs, too—including a Hisense 75-inch 8K QLED with Local Dimming and a Konka 65-inch 8K with HDR.

Skyworth Wallpaper OLED

Chinese companies also featured prominently in another major trend this year: automotive technologies, which mainly revolved around AVs (Autonomous Vehicles).

Byton, a Chinese electronic car company owned by Future Mobility Corporation, said it plans to sell its first AV in China in 2019 and later begin sales in the US and Europe—and they debuted their concept vehicle at CES. Byton introduced its cockpit that features a 49-inch touchscreen with 3840 x 720 resolution and 1,000 nit brightness—with Amazon’s Alexa cloud-based voice service already onboard, too.

Byton Autonomous Vehicle. Image courtesy of CES 2018 Photo Gallery, Copyright Consumer Technology Association.

This was part of a bigger trend involving automotive displays—because if people aren’t driving, they have time to engage with onscreen content. Digital Cockpit, the first post-acquisition, automotive electronics collaboration between Harman and Samsung, showed one vision for the near future of display in autos.

Digital Cockpit

Across the board, automakers and auto-electronics companies showed more (and larger) displays built for ease of use, personalization and connectivity. Toyota’s e-Palette Concept Vehicle showcased the future of AV mobility services, such as food delivery, roving offices or mobile restaurants—and it showed car windows becoming display panels for information or entertainment. Toyota also announced that Amazon Alexa is becoming a standard feature in select Toyota and Lexus vehicles.

Toyota’s e-Palette Concept Vehicle

CES is so vast and so full of people. In my two days there, I could see only a fraction of the display devices and technologies exhibited. While there were many interesting mobile devices and displays as well, there will be a lot more of these to see at next month’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona (stay tuned for a new blog after that show). However, from this glimpse at CES, it is clear that in 2018 the important display trends will continue: bigger sizes, more applications and ever-increasing technological complexity. At Applied Materials, these trends only reinforce our excitement for the future. Bigger sizes and more applications require more display factory investments, and innovative technologies create new challenges that we can help our customers solve.

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