After years of Samsung resisting OLED TV technology and sticking with increasingly advanced versions of its own QLED tech for its high-end TVs, it looks like the winds have well and truly changed, and Samsung's first OLED TVs will launch in 2022… and I'm not talking about next-gen QD-OLED TV displayed at CES. Regular OLED.
At CES 2022, Samsung announced that it would be introducing a new range of QLED and Neo QLED TVs that are exactly what we expected: a boost in image quality from its advanced mini-LED backlights, better image processing, and some other nice new features.
Samsung also showed off its new QD-OLED screen technology – which merges OLED with the Quantum Dot colour reproduction of Samsung's QLED TVs – but didn't actually show off a TV. (The Sony A95K was the only QD-OLED TV announced.)
But reports have said for some time that Samsung was looking for a big push into OLED this year, and expected QD-OLED to only make up around a third of its OLED TV sales, meaning that it expected to launch bigger-selling regular OLED TVs too.
Now a new report out of South Korea in the The Elec (opens in new tab) says that this is finally on its way to happening: that Samsung has officially started buying OLED panels from LG (which is the world's only maker of regular OLED panels for TVs) and will starting making OLED sets for launch in July 2022.
For Samsung to get TVs made that quickly implies that it's already finished developing the products, and was just waiting on an agreement about the price of the panels. The report says that Samsung will pay the exact same price to LG Display as LG's own TV-making arm does.
(The politics and economics of these giant businesses is… complicated. LG Electronics pays LG Display for its panels. Samsung Electronics will be paying Samsung Display to use its QD-OLED displays. Sony is buying its QD-OLED panel from Samsung Display, and looks set to actually beat Samsung Electronics to market.)
I'd expect this means that Samsung will use the same image processors as it does for its Neo QLED TVs, just tuned for the different HDR performance of OLED. In fact, I think the OLED TVs will look exactly the same as Samsung's Neo QLED TVs – a snippet of Samsung's CES marketing said that its QD-OLED screen will use that design, so it makes sense if the regular OLED TVs do as well.
Where does OLED fit in Samsung's line-up?
I've no doubt that Samsung can make its OLED sets good enough to challenge the very best OLED TVs, but the big question is where these new TVs will fit in Samsung's finely honed TV line-up.
The price of OLED TVs puts them right in competition with Samsung's high-end Neo QLED TVs… is it a good idea for Samsung to offer to different screen technologies at the same prices? LG does this, but its higher-end LCD TVs tend to get lost behind the popularity of its smash hit OLEDs – in particular, the LG C1. I'd say that's partly because it makes the line-up confusing, and it's easier for buyer to understand that the LG C1 is a very premium TV for a good price, and to ignore the the LCD ones.
Samsung has always operated a simple bottom-to-top line up. The Q90A is better than the Q80A, which is better than the Q70A, and so on. That will have to change.
My guess is that Samsung will launch the new OLED sets with clear and different model numbers, and will have three different tiers of OLED: an entry-level model, a more expensive and brighter model using OLED Evo tech, and then QD-OLED at the very top end, which promises even better image quality than regular OLED (at a higher price).
I'm certainly looking forward to the idea of a Samsung OLED that includes the company's Object Tracking Sound+ tech (ie: speakers all around the edges) and its Q Symphony feature, which helps to improve the audio from Samsung soundbars. But will its first attempt at OLED really be the best Samsung TV of 2022, or will its updated QLED TVs keep the crown? I can't wait to find out!