CES 2022 display review (Part 1): improved OLED, more miniLEDs, projectors and more

I had concluded my 2021 review of a fully virtual CES by expressing hopes for upcoming vaccines and the certainty that life would be back to almost normal for the 2022 edition. Optimism was indeed in the air all the way through mid-December, but the virus invited itself again in Las Vegas this January. While the last in-person CES in 2020 had drawn 171,000 attendees and 4,400 exhibitors, the holiday week leading to the 2022 edition involved those same 171,000 people emailing each other’s to ask if they were still going or not. The typical answer? “I’m not sure yet, are you?”.

Yole Développement is partnering with System Plus Consulting, Piseo and DXOMark to perform detailed tear down, cost, and performance analysis (contrast, halo, brightness, crosstalk, energy efficiency etc) of leading miniLED displays. This will provide an unprecedented understanding of miniLED backlight architectures, design choices, cost and performance tradeoffs for a broad variety of devices (TV, monitors, tablets) and manufacturers (Apple, Samsung etc…). Two devices have already been completed and we found a lot of surprises. Stay tuned: more to come on this topic in i-Micronews in the following weeks!

Part 2 of the CES 2022 display review is now available: click HERE.

For more information about our related products & services, click HERE.

Armed with a stack of N95 masks and covid auto-tests, I decided to take a chance and make my way to Vegas to be among the 45,000 attendees who visited some of the 2,300 exhibitors present this year.

It felt, smaller and quieter for sure, but certainly not as bad as the pictures of the (normally gigantic) LG booth would make you think. Some booths such as the one of Samsung felt as lively and crowded as usual although attendance probably peaked on the 2nd day. Ultimately, I’m glad I went. Almost all my meetings took place as scheduled and were very productive. Many of the people I encountered shared my impressions: it was nice to be able to see and touch the products, have the time to talk, not being shoved or having to shove people every 10 seconds, not have to wait 15 minutes to get an elevator to the private suites at the Venetian or 30 minutes to get a beverage at the coffee shop. Ultimately, it’s hard to blame companies like LG which decided not to show up, but it’s likely they missed out on a good event.

The LG booth looked like the company shifted its business toward making plywood – Picture by Yole Développement, CES 2022

Samsung and the QD-OLED psychodrama

A big draw for display enthusiasts and industry analysts this year was to finally see Samsung’s QD-OLED TVs in person. Too bad: they were, at first, nowhere to be seen, neither in the booth not in Samsung Electronics’ keynote and 2022 list of product announcements. Yet, the fact that a Samsung 65” QD-OLED TV, referred to as “QD-Display” by the company, won a “Best of Innovation” award indicate that the company had initially planned to make a show of the new panel technology developed by Samsung Display. Sony filled in the vacuum though and introduced what will be remembered as the first ever QD-OLED TVs, the 55” and 65” A95K, announced for this summer. QD-OLED panels were also formally introduced in a Dell / Alienware 34” monitor, the AW3423DW curved gaming monitor, and later on, by Samsung for another curved 34” monitor, the Odyssey G8QNB.

Apparently, Samsung Display (SDC) which manufactures the QD-OLED panels used in Samsung, Sony and Dell’s TVs and monitors was not happy with its sister company decision to keep the new technology under wrap for this CES. Within 24 hours, videos from prominent tech bloggers which had been flown by SDC to experience the first TVs and monitors surfaced on the internet. That same day, the company invited media and analysts to a private briefing in a private booth at CES.

The absence of QD OLED TV in Samsung Electronics’ booth and official announcement off course started the rumor mill. The most likely scenario is that, with QD-OLED sizes being limited to 34”, 55” and 65” and available panel quantities likely to be less than 1 million units in 2022, the company needs to complement its offering with WOLED panel from LG Display (LGD) to make a real push on OLED.

Samsung was apparently making headways in negotiations to procure around 2 million WOLED panels from with LGD, but, as discussion stalled late December, it became impossible for Samsung to announce a complete lineup of OLED TVs at CES. LGD and Samsung seem to have since reached an agreement and we now expect Samsung to soon announce what will probably one of the most complete, yet confusing TV offering of its history. How will marketing explains the different technologies to consumers and position them into a cohesive offering will be interesting to watch. Due to their high cost/price, microLED will be a luxury category of its own (see part two of this CES review). For the rest, here’s our best guess as of January 2022:

Courtesy of Yole Développement, 2022

WOLED vs QD-OLED the battle is on

Those who saw Samsung display’s QD OLED panels were unanimous: they represent a markable improvements compared to WOLED, first in brightness: Samsung claims 1500 Nits on a 3% window compared to 1000 Nits for WOLED. The comparison though was made against 2021 WOLED panels. Starting in Q2 2022, all LG WOLED panels should feature the new “OLED.EX” panels featuring the deuterium enhanced fluorescent blue OLED materials from Dupont which should boost brightness by up to 30%. What made the difference most noticeable is QD-OLED’s color saturation and color volume, as well as the significantly improved viewing angles, thanks to the Lambertian emission of the quantum dots. To illustrate the gain in color performance allowed by the narrowband emission of the Quantum dots, Samsung uses the BT2020 color gamut to pit its panels against WOLED (the difference in the smaller DCIP3 gamut is less remarkable).

Comparison of 2021 WOLED and 2022 QD-OLED panels – Courtesy of Samsung Display, 2022

That said, don’t burry WOLED too fast: QD-OLED is a new technology, production just started, yields are still low, costs likely to be very high and sizes are, for now limited to 55” and 65” for TV and 34” for monitors. In addition, production capacity will initially be small, at less than 1 million panel on the first Gen 8.5 QD-OLED line. Those are not intrinsic limitations, yield will improve, and cost go down and if successful, SDC could decide additional investments and use different MMG (Multi-Modal Glass) size combination to create more sizes, just like LG Display is doing. Indeed, LG display, which had an almost decade long head start on OLED TV production, added 42” and 97” to its already broad offering of panel sizes. In addition, with its new Guangzhou fab in China now fully ramped up, the company should be able to produce in excess of 11 million panels this year (depending on the size mix).

LG TV/monitor WOLED size offering. Note that the 88” inch offered in 2021 is not on the list, although it was still shown in a different presentation by LG – Courtesy of LG Electronics, 2022

MiniLED and QDs: a match made in heaven?

Entering the world of OLED with QD-OLED is a great success for quantum dot companies. But for the time being, their bread and butter remains LCD combined a quantum dot conversion film (QDEF). With QDEF cost decreasing and even more cost efficient extruded QD diffuser plates now offered by Nanosys and CYD, quantum dots TVs and monitors are expanding their reach from flagship toward mid-range products.  For flagship models, pair QDEF with a high quality miniLED backlight and you get tier-1 devices that can compete against OLED.

2021 was the year of miniLED. Beside the high-profile win in Apple’s 12” iPad Pro, every major TV brand adopted miniLED backlights into their flagship LCDs. Notably absent though was Sony. The gap is now patched, with the Japanese company announcing miniLED backlights on its new range of Z9K (8K series) and X95K (4K series) LCD TVs.

The miniLED TVs pioneer though is unarguably TCL. Its 2022 flagship the X925 pro will feature the company’s OD Zero ultra-thin design with 1920 zones on the 85” version that is only 10 mm thick (0.39”). The image looked truly impressive, even on the brightly lit TCL booth. The company also demoed its 4th generation miniLED in a 75” 8K TV only 3.99 mm thick (0.157 inch)!

Samsung’s miniLED Neo QLED TVs are evolving. The Korean company claims improved hardware with more LEDs and more dimming zones in a thinner design but didn’t share details. What could be noticeable in term of picture quality are improvements in the AI dimming algorithms. Other TV makers such as TCL or Sony also touted improved miniLED backlight control algorithms. What could set Samsung apart this year is the color depth increasing from 12 to 14 bits. This means finer brightness graduation, increasing from 4,096 (12 bits) to 16,384 levels. In other words, rather than just blinding the viewer, the premium brightness delivered by miniLED LCD TVs can be used to deliver more details in both very dark and very bright portion of the image, significantly increasing its overall depths.

Improvements in Samsung’s miniLED backlights algorithms and bit depths – Courtesy of Samsung, 2022 – Picture by Yole Développement, CES 2022

All in all, essentially all brands now have adopted miniLED for their top tier LCD models: Samsung, LG, Sony, TCL, Hisense, Vizio, Skyworth, Huawei, Xiaomi, Philips, Changhong, Sharp, Konka etc. Not all miniLED backlights are created equals though. There is a vast array of design and technical choices possible: different types of LED chip architectures, packaging, substrates (PCB, glass), optics and diffusers, driving methods (active or passive matrix), driver architectures (TFT, discrete mini-ICs) etc. Each choice leads to different cost vs performance compromises, with dimming algorithms as an extra layer driving performance.

From top left: Bird eye optical view of Samsung’s Neo QLED miniLED backlight, SEM cross section of the miniLED die, Optical view of the miniLED driver IC – Courtesy of System Plus Consulting, 2022

Where did dual cells go?

Interestingly, unless I missed it, Hisense didn’t show any dual sense TVs this year. This could be a sign that miniLED is winning the battle of the “supercharged” LCD for consumer devices. Dual cells however were still present in automotive displays on the BOE booth. For TV, the challenge probably lies in cost and energy consumption, especially for 8K models. The pros and cons of miniLED vs dual cells are discussed extensively in our TV technology report: Next Generation TV Panel Technology and Market Trends 2020.

At its automotive booth. BOE showed a miniLED panel using its glass substrate as well as a 10.25” dual cell panel with 1000 nits peak brightness – Courtesy of BOE – Picture byYole Développement, CES 2022

Gaming, NFT, foldable, projection: other notable innovations

I will save microLEDs and direct view miniLED for the second part of this CES 2022 review. But there was still a lot more to see this year:

Hidden in a corner was TCL’s 8K 265Hz LCD panel made using CSOT’s 4 mask a-Si 1G1D backplane. The set looks impressive, but it remains to be seen if, and when the technology will hit the market. TCL CSOT is no longer the only one though: at its annual event in December, rival BOE also showed a 75” 8K a-Si 1G1D TV panel with a refresh rate of 288 Hz. I’ll be looking forward both companies hopefully demonstrating those technologies at Display Week in May.

Foldable smartphones were off course visible in Samsung booth. TCL showed a foldable clamshell concept phone, currently named “TCL Flex V”. The device uses a 6.67” panel from CSOT and is powered by the Snapdragon 765G. I was able to play with the device and the hinge mechanism felt pretty solid. The crease at the fold however was off course visible. There is no commercialization date, but TCL expects to be “soon” in a position of offering it, or a similar design for $600-$700, possibly toward the end of 2022. LG Display showed a 17” foldable panel for laptops and Asus demoed its Zenbook 17 Fold, using a 2,560×1920 4:3 aspect ratio panel developed by BOE. Price is not available, but the company promised a mid-2022 release date.

Asus Zenbook 17 Fold – Courtesy of Asus, 2022

In term of image quality, LG Display also introduced “IPS Black”, a new LCD technology for IT products boasting higher contrast with a black level 35% deeper than previous products. TCL announced that after focusing on pixel quality (contrast, color), their focus was now on delivering artifact-free motion, with their “Truecut” ecosystem developed in partnership with Pixelworks

Gaming was a big thing for TV at CES 2021. The trend consolidated at this 2022 edition. Gaming performance were key points in all TV makers’ keynote presentations. 120 Hz to 144 Hz refresh rates are now common in tier 1 TVs, and monitors are inching up to 175 Hz or more. All TVs have special gaming modes, often with with Variable Refresh Rates (VRR), G-Sync and/or Free Sync etc. Samsung added a “gaming hub” that displays FPS (Frame per second), HDR status and other info in real time when playing. The hub also brings gaming streaming platforms together in one place. Off course, to deliver the bandwidth, all are equipped with 2 to 4 HDMI 2.1 connectors. Beside the gaming hub, Samsung also added an NFT platform on its series of microLED, Neo QLED and The Frame TVs. It allows browsing, purchasing, and trading of digital art. Most are still unfamiliar, if not unaware of the NFT revolution. Maybe enabling easy access on the living room TV will further accelerate the frenzy and propel the price of tokenized digital art at even craziest levels than they already are.

Samsung also showed some improvement on “The frame”, with an improved anti-reflection treatment that goes a long way toward making your TV look like an actual painting. It’s hard to describe in writing but glare is indeed eliminated and the effect quite remarkable.

Samsung’s “The Frame” TVs bring canvas texture to your screen – Courtesy of Samsung, 2022 – Picture by Yole Développement, CES 2022

The frame offers a broad collection of artworks to choose from and display when not watching TV, allowing the device to serve as a piece of art in your living room. While the idea is alluring for those who don’t like having a large dark slab dominating their living room, environmentally conscious consumers might be concerned about letting the TV full-on all day.

Short throw projectors remain a credible option for those who want a large (100” or more) image. Samsung and others showed new models, but Hisense still leads. It’s new series of its Trichroma “Laser TV” all use RGB laser sources, which narrow spectral width allows to covers more than 100% of the BT2020 gamut. Hisense is also making good progress in reducing the projector size and power consumption while increasing image size and maintaining brightness.

Hisense new L9G Pro short throw projector delivers 3000 lumens peak on a 120” screen with a 107% BT2020 Gamut – Picture by Yole Développement, CES 2022

Hisense also showed a first 8K projector, although we believe that the DLP powering the beast is a 4K one doing some pixel shifting (a common techniques used to increase the displayed resolution of a DLP).

Hisense’s first 8K short throw projector – Picture by Yole Développement, 2022

Projection can be a good option in various use cases, but for the first time, I found it hard to be impressed when comparing image quality to the best OLED, miniLED LCD or microLED TVs showed this year.

Gimmickier is Samsung’s “Freestyle”, a tiny. Fully portable 1080p projector. The device weighs less than 2 pounds, and features a 180-degree cradle stand which, combined with an impressive autofocus and automatic keystone correction, allows projection onto any surface (walls, screens etc.) at up to 550 lumens of brightness and 100” in size. The device can even be screwed in a light bulb socket and doubles as a smart speaker powered by Alexa or Samsung’s own Bixby. The projector was hard to miss, with the surrounding of the Las Vegas convention center and the Strip swarming night and days with an army of cool kids recruited by Samsung’s to demonstrate multiple street-type use cases for the device. The company apparently succeeded in creating the buzz, with the device selling out within a few days of CES (Update: back in stock as of January 19th).

Samsung’s Freestyle portable projector – Courtesy of Samsung, 2022

Hopefully, I’ve already convinced you that CES 2022 was worth it. Stay tuned for the second installment of our two-part CES coverage where I’ll discuss specifically microLED direct view miniLED displays. For now, let’s conclude by saying that QD-OLED made a strong first impression and that miniLED continue being adopted in all flagship LCD with each manufacturer adopting different architecture and delivering different cost to performance trade offs in a bid to compete with OLED. For an indepth understanding of those trade off and the cost structure of miniLED backlights, keep an eye on our partners’ detailed tear down, cost and performance analyses of various flagship miniLED devices that will be released through the year.

About the authors

Eric Virey, PhD. serves as a Principal Display Market and Technologies Analyst within the Photonics, Sensing & Display division at Yole Développement (Yole).
Eric is a daily contributor to the development of the Display activity at Yole, with a large collection of market and technology reports on display technologies, Quantum Dots, MicroLEDs, TFT backplanes as well as multiple custom consulting projects: business strategy, identification of investments or acquisition targets, due diligences (buy/sell side), market and technology analysis, cost modelling, technology scouting, etc.
Eric has spoken in more than 50 industry conferences worldwide over the last 10 years. He has been interviewed and quoted by leading media over the world including: The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Fox News, CNBC, Bloomberg, Financial Review, Forbes, Technology Review, etc. He is also a regular contributor to various display industry media and organizations.
Previously Eric has held various R&D, engineering, manufacturing and business development positions with Fortune 500 Company Saint-Gobain in France and the United States.
Eric Virey holds a PhD in Optoelectronics from the National Polytechnic Institute of Grenoble. He is currently based in Portland, OR.

Zine Bouhamri, PhD. is Team Lead Analyst, Imaging & Display Activities at Yole Développement (Yole).
Zine is managing the expansion of the technical expertise and the market know-how of the company.
In addition, he actively assists and supports the development of dedicated imaging collection of market & technology reports and monitor as well as custom consulting projects.
Prior to Yole, Zine oversaw numerous R&D programs at Aledia. During more than three years, he developed strong technical expertise as well as a detailed understanding of the display industry. He is author and co-author of several papers and patents.
Zine Bouhamri holds an Electronics Engineering Degree from the National Polytechnic Institute of Grenoble (FR), one from the Politecnico di Torino (IT), and a Ph.D. in RF & Optoelectronics from Grenoble University (FR).

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