LG adds 3D to its 55-inch OLED TV

LG combines a technology everyone wants with one that almost no one does

LG's monster 55-inch OLED television attracted a crowd of photographers when it was unveiled Thursday at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin, but that doesn't necessarily mean it will attract a crowd of buyers when it hits stores.

OLED screens are much thinner than current LCDs (liquid crystal displays) and PDPs (plasma display panels), the images are brighter and more vibrant, and they handle fast-moving images like sports better. Just about anyone who sees one wants it in their living room, but there's a problem.

While manufacturers have begun mass production of small screens for handheld devices, TV and monitor-size screens remain very expensive to make. The first production OLED TV, now discontinued, was a Sony 11-inch set that sold for about $2,500 in 2007.

Demand couldn't be more different for 3D. Launched several times over previous decades, the most recent push came in 2010 when TV makers trumpeted 3D as the next revolution in broadcasting and home entertainment. That may eventually turn out to be true, but so far consumer response has been tepid.

Sales of TVs with 3D have been rising, but it's unclear how many consumers are actually using the technology, rather than buying a TV that happens to offer it as one of many features.

Thursday marked one of the first times the LG television has been shown in Europe at a major electronics show, so it was a big draw at IFA. (See video of the impressive OLED TV on YouTube.)

The LG screen is based on a proprietary panel design that adds a fourth white pixel to the normal red, green and blue pixels. The screen also includes something called a color refiner that is said to ensure colors are consistent across the screen no matter what the viewing angle.

Both these technologies mean the panel can be made at a lower cost than using traditional manufacturing processes, LG said. But the company didn't explain how the manufacturing differs and why it can be cheaper.

The result is a 55-inch OLED TV that costs around ¬9,000 (US$11,290) in Europe. That's a big drop per-inch when compared to the Sony 11-inch set but much more expensive than LCD or PDP screens of the same size.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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