There are both similarities between OLD and plasma TVs, as well as differences. Currently, plasma TVs offer superb picture quality, are available in large screen sizes and have good prices. OLED being an emerging technology, while it outperforms plasma television in the picture quality department, it is not available in large sizes and costs a lot. Also, at this point the OLED TV lifespan is much shorter than that of a plasma TV. Specialists are working on this though, and in a couple of years we can expect OLED to have a similarly long lifespan as a plasma TV.
Because of the fact OLED TVs are not mass produced at this point, and because OLED is not a mature technology, we will approach this OLED vs Plasma discussion from a slightly theoretical perspective. There’s no point in comparing the existing displays of each technology, as currently there is no real market for OLED or enough OLED displays to base our comparison upon. So we will discuss from a technological perspective, comparing the technologies instead of actual displays. We will of course, present pertinent data where available.
OLED vs Plasma Lifespan
Plasma TVs have a lifespan of around 60,000 hours. That is a lot of time. OLED on the other hand, has a very short lifespan at this point. The organic particles, especially for the blue phosphors, are to blame for this. At the beginning they ware lasting just a few seconds, consuming themselves completely in this short time span. Great improvements have been made to the OLED technology and specialists are working round the clock to develop long lasting organic particles for the OLED displays. At this point, the lifespan of the particles that generate blue color is the shortest, measuring just a few thousand hours. By the time OLED TVs will approach the prices of current popular displays like plasma and many OLED TVs will hit the market, we think their lifespan will be comparable with that of current plasma TVs.
OLED has a better refresh rate than plasma, which at this point has the best refresh rate of any flat-panel HDTV. That means both OLED and plasma are able to display a crisp picture even in the case of fast moving scenes. The fact the OLED has a better refresh rate than plasma has no real-life practical advantage, the refresh rate of both displays being too high for us to discern any differences.
The viewing angles of both OLED and plasma are great, allowing you to watch them from a side without noticing any color alteration. Both technologies implement the pixels as light emitting sources and because of that the picture will remain of high quality no matter what angle you are watching from (both horizontally and vertically).
At this point plasma TVs have the best black levels of any HDTV. They come very close to absolute blacks. OLED TVs are also able to reproduce very deep blacks and by the time they will be mass marketed, they will probably be able to produce absolute blacks. Note that while the best performing plasma TVs have exceptional black levels, not all perform this good. The black levels help the HDTVs produce very punchy colors, improving the contrast and making the whole picture look more vivid.
Power consumption is an area where OLED is expected to outperform any other type of display. Today’s flat-panel TVs, plasma included, are real power hogs. Their power consumption can go above 500W. OLED on the other hand, will consume much less energy. At this moment OLED displays are successfully being used in mobile devices (phones, PDAs, etc.) due to their low power consumption and exceptional picture quality.
Plasma TVs suffered greatly in their early days from this problem. Today the top models are burn-in resistant (not burn-in proof though) and this is no longer a serious problem. OLED, using a similar approach to producing light – phosphors that fire up to produce light – are also theoretically predisposed to burn-in. We’ll have to wait and see how resistant they will prove to be to this problem.
Plasma TVs are not being produced in small sizes. Smallest size of a plasma display is 42 inch. OLED, on the other hand can be easily manufactured in small sizes without any technical or economical impediments. OLED displays are already being used in cell phones and PDAs, the problem with them at this moment, being with larger sizes not with small ones. For now it is not reliable to manufacture OLED screens of large sizes, but this will change in a few years and we expect them to be available in sizes comparable with current plasma displays.