Samsung and LG Display reportedly giving up on MicroLED TVs

Mike Wheatley
Samsung and LG Display reportedly giving up on MicroLED TVs

Samsung Display and LG Display are reportedly scaling back their ambitions for MicroLED display technology, which has often been touted as a supposed “OLED killer”, due to its superior picture quality.

The technology is said to offer the best aspects of both OLED and older LCD display tech, while eliminating all of the negatives of those two technologies. At least, that has been the claim since the first MicroLED displays launched back in 2018 with Samsung Electronics' enormous and hugely-expensive “The Wall”, which was aimed at commercial installations.

LG Electronics has also tried to bring MicroLED to market, launching its 163-inch “Magnit” display back in 2020, once again aimed at commercial customers.

The advantages of MicroLED include higher brightness, sharper images and more realistic colours and contrast, plus wider viewing angles than either OLED or LCD. They stem from its use of tiny, non-organic LEDs that are brighter and offer more control than the organic light emitting diodes used in OLED displays.

Another benefit of MicroLED is that the technology is modular, with the displays essentially made up of numerous building blocks, which means it is theoretically possible to create them in any size or resolution, as the pixel density can be maintained no matter how small or large it is.

However, it seems the two display makers have decided that these benefits are just not worth the incredible costs involved in manufacturing MicroLED. One of the key challenges faced by both companies involves squeezing those tiny, non-organic LEDs into smaller size displays that are suitable for people’s living rooms. They have tried for years to come up with a way to do this, but have so far not been successful. To date, Samsung’s smallest commercially available MicroLED weighs in at 89-inches and costs an eye-watering $100,000. It has previously said it aims to bring a 76-inch model to market, but has so far been unable to do this.

Now, analysts say that both companies have decided that it will still be many years before they can get MicroLED ready for mass production.

The Korean language websites Money Today Korea and ETNews this week reported that both Samsung Display and LG Display have shelved their MicroLED production plans, though the former will continue with its research and development efforts.

"According to reports from Korea and Taiwan, both Samsung Display and LG Display have decided to slow down their microLED business plans," MicroLED-info said in a report.

The South Korean publications said Samsung Display plans to keep up its MicroLED R&D efforts for the time being, but has delayed its previously stated plans to mass produce the displays. Meanwhile, LG Display has not only abandoned production, but is also dramatically scaling back on R&D, and will instead shift most of its research teams that were working on the technology to advancing OLED.

The reports suggest that the prospects of MicroLED TVs becoming common in people’s living rooms in the near future are extremely slim. Analysts have previously said that MicroLED might be four or five years away from being properly commercialized, but ETNews said that Samsung Display recently held a workshop with partners, where it explained the need to slash production costs by as much as ten-times before the technology becomes viable.

**What will Samsung Display do next? **

With OLED set to remain the display tech of choice in TVs for many years to come, it raises questions about the focus of Samsung Display in the coming years. In April, reports from South Korea suggested that the company was seriously considering abandoning its own flavor of OLED, known as “QD-OLED”, due to technical challenges that make it difficult for the company to keep up with advances in LG Display’s alternative WRGB OLED technology.

Samsung Display hasn’t yet made any official announcements on the future of QD-OLED, but there are signs that it might shift its focus to another new technology, known alternatively as QD-LED, QD-EL, NanoLED and QDEL.

QD-LED display technology differs from any other in that electricity is applied directly to the Quantum Dots, without using either LEDs or OLED pixels. It was originally known as “QLED” technology, but that changed when Samsung “stole” that name to market its more advanced LCD displays.

In May, Samsung unveiled a number of prototype QD-LED displays at SID Display Week, a move that suggests it may be edging closer to realizing the technology. Among those prototypes was an 18-inch model that supported a 3,200x1,800 resolution and 250 nits brightness.

Those specifications suggest Smasung still needs to do some work before the tech is ready for mass production, certainly if it intends to use it in televisions. But it definitely sounds like it’s worth pursuing, as QD-LED promises to deliver OLED-like quality in terms of colour, contrast and black levels, but without the degradation that comes with OLED pixels, which deteriorate over time. The tech also promises to be more energy-efficient than OLED.

Samsung Display said its prototype QD-LED displays were manufactured using an Inkjet Printing process, which could also result in lower production costs compared to OLED.

QD-LED is still very much a prototype, but Nanosys, the company that first invented the technology, was notably acquired by a Japanese conglomerate called Shoei Chemicals last year. Shoei said at the time it intends to double down on QD-LED development, and claimed it could launch its first displays in mass production by 2025 or 2026.