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LG’s 55-inch OLED arriving early for the Olympics

While we’re generally reluctant to jump on the rumor mill bandwagon, this one is just too good to pass up. According to Maeil, a South Korean business publication, LG plans to unleash its first 55-inch OLED TV in May during an event to be held at the Cannes film festival in France. The report disclosed the price at “nine million Won” which, according to current currency exchange rates, works out to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $8,000 US. That’s a whole different kind of 8k. 

Maeil indicated that LG originally intended to lay out its new OLED models sometime in the second half of this year but that the company since recognized an opportunity with the summer Olympic games on the horizon and decided to capitalize on it. By getting its OLED TVs out in May, prospective buyers will have a chance to scoop them up before the games begin. We’re pretty sure that beating Korean arch-rival Samsung to the punch has something to do with the pushed up release date, too. 

As for the price: Sure, $8000 is a big chunk of change, but, frankly, we’re not all that surprised at the lofty price tag. What TV manufacturers desperately need right now is a luxury product with some big-time margin. The price erosion that has taken place with TVs over the past few years has brought the public to expect bargain prices, even on top-tier plasma and edge-lit LED displays. In order to to justify charging big-time bucks again, the performance margin needs to grow proportionately. OLED provides that opportunity. 

For those not familiar, OLED stands for organic light emitting diode. The technology is similar to plasma in that it requires no back-lighting. However, rather than using rare gasses the way plasma does, it utilizes electrical current to activate tiny red, green and blue diodes. OLED also shares plasma’s ability to produce outstanding black levels and genuinely amazing contrast, but that is where the similarities end. Unlike plasma, which encases the its rare gasses in a heavy sandwich of glass, OLED’s panels are extremely thin and pliable and, therefore, not subject to breakage. They are also extremely light. In the end, what you get with OLED is superior picture quality in a razor-thin, ultra light package with none of the limitations of either LCD or plasma displays. And it looks spectacular. 

We, along with just about every other CES 2012 attendee, spent a fair amount of time gawking at both LG and Samsung’s OLED displays. They truly are a quantum leap forward in home display technology and it should be expected they will be priced accordingly. Don’t worry, though; OLED won’t be out of reach for the 99% for too awfully long.  Word is that if the $8000 OLEDs don’t start flying off the shelf fast enough, that price will start dropping until they do. 

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