Sony is showing off a new prototype 4k Ultra HD OLED TV at IFA 2013, and the company isn’t short on hyperbole about the new set. The 56-inch panel is both brighter and more colorful than either of the OLED TVs on sale from Samsung and LG, Sony told us, as well as being bigger, at least by an inch. However, there’s a hitch: right now, Sony isn’t producing it, and it isn’t quite sure whether it could.
The problem is the type of OLED manufacturing process that Sony is using. The prototype set relies on a more technologically-intensive system than either of the South Korean firms have opted for, and while that allows the Sony set to pull ahead in terms of picture output, it also raises big questions about not only cost but yield and panel lifespan.
So, Sony explained to us, while the prototype works, the company can’t be sure that – if it were put into production today, and customers stumped up the likely premium price for one – pixels wouldn’t start failing in a year’s time.
However, Sony and its manufacturing partner Panasonic may have a solution, or at least the proposal for one. The two firms have been working together on printable OLED panels since announcing a collaboration back in mid-2012, with the new system having better yields, lower production costs, and more stable results overall.
Unfortunately Sony couldn’t give us any indication of when that process might go live, and nor would it speculate on how much more its OLED TV might be compared to the sets already on sale from Samsung and LG. Given Samsung’s curved OLED TV comes in at $9k, that likely puts any potential Sony rival well out of most TV-addicts’ price bracket.
We can’t help but hope that they figure out a way to raise yield and lower price, however, as the quality is very impressive. Ultra HD TV is already eye-watering in most cases, a clear step up over 1080p – even if content availability is only recently getting addressed – the Sony set looks particularly crisp and impressive, especially with the colorful festival footage the company was using to demo it.