CES 2022, the world’s biggest tech show even in these pandemic times, is right around the corner and several manufacturers have already begun making announcements in that context (presumably in fear of these minor ones being overlooked during the event when dozens of other announcements will be made daily). One of those was made a few hours earlier by LG Display, the company making the panels that LG Electronics — among others — uses for its various television models. LG Display also happens to be, by far, the most important provider of OLED screens in the world, so its work on this particular display technology is just as important for the TV market as a whole.
It may come as no surprise to many, then, that what LG Display announced is exactly what OLED TV enthusiasts have been asking for the better part of a decade: panels capable of delivering a brighter picture overall. LG Display calls the tech these panels will be making use of “OLED EX”, “EX” standing for “Evolution” and “eXperience”. According to the company “OLED EX displays combine deuterium compounds and personalized algorithms to enhance the stability and efficiency of the organic light-emitting diode, thereby improving the overall display performance”.
The “deuterium” part is kind of complicated, but the “algorithm” part isn’t: what LG Display basically claims is that machine learning is used to “predict” which parts of the picture (and when) need more light “to more accurately express details and colors” and that the panel supplies the necessary energy to the pixels involved in order to deliver it. That way, LG Display promises, OLED EX panels can enhance the brightness of the picture by “up to 30 percent compared to conventional OLED displays”.
Machine learning aside — which is a rather interesting topic all on its own when applied to image processing — LG Display’s claim is… conveniently vague. That “up to 30%” promise…? We already know what it probably means in practice: “25%-30%” in rare occasions and extremely specific conditions, with “15%-20%” being much more realistic and common (in the best case scenario). But what does “compared to conventional OLED displays” refer to, exactly? Are these the 2021 “Evo” panels that LG had already promised they would deliver “up to 20% higher brightness”? If that’s the case, then the OLED EX panels are expected to deliver 10% higher brightness than those? Or does LG Display refer to pre-2021 OLED panels?
The extra pinch of cynicism here is, of course, the result of an already broken promise. We now know for a fact that the “Evo” OLED panels announced by LG in CES 2021 can indeed deliver a somewhat brighter picture, but that the brightness increase is nowhere near that claimed 20% — especially if one refers to the only modes of operation that an OLED TV should be using: Movie or Custom. Hitting more than 1100–1200 nits in Vivid Mode on an OLED TV is pointless since colors are inaccurate. Even the best OLED TV of 2021, the Sony Bravia A90J with its specialized cooling solution, barely breaks 850 nits in Movie Mode — a worthy achievement but a small step up compared to the 750 nits of 2020 Bravias in the same Mode.
So forgive yours truly for setting the expectation bar quite low regarding LG Display’s announcement about these new OLED EX panels. The new tech sounds interesting, yes, but until there’s concrete proof that it can deliver on its promise in real-world testing with actual products, it’s more of a branding thing than anything else. LG claims that it will start using OLED EX panels “from the second quarter of 2022”, which means that its first batch of OLED TVs — which usually appears in April or May — will not be making use of the new screens. What the implications of this will be in LG’s 2022 OLED line-up as a whole remains to be seen, of course, but we’ll know more during the first week of January. Well, probably.