CES Candy Store for Display Nerds

Each year at CES, LG Display’s by-invitation-only suite, which was in one of the Las Vegas Convention Center’s North Hall meeting areas this year, is a candy store of new display technologies and products. Even better, extensive data is usually provided, and LGD’s engineers and translators are usually happy to talk and answer questions.

LGD frequently shows what is under the hood of the products its sister company LG Electronics is exhibiting on the show floor, which is useful since the LGE reps on the show floor usually aren’t technical and can’t answer the questions on which they haven’t been briefed. And LGD often shows products and technologies that are under development.

Front and center was a 77-inch OLED panel that is only 0.95mm thick. This is the panel used in LGE’s “Wallpaper” OLED TV, more formally know as the LG Signature OLED TV W. This is LG’s top-of-the-line OLED TV. The 65-inch version is available now at an MSRP of one cent less than $8,000. The TV itself is 5mm thick, with the electronics is in a separate box that’s connected to the set with a cable.

The set incorporates all of the high-end features you would expect and then some, including an HDR system that supports HDR10, Dolby Vision, and hybrid log-gamma (HLG) HDR. The internal audio system supports 4.2 audio and Dolby Atmos immersive sound. But the primary distinguishing factor of the W is that it is so thin and light (at only 27 lbs/12.2kg.) that it can be mounted directly on the wall like – you guessed it — wallpaper. The separate AV box weighs another 28 lbs (12.7kg). It is impressive.

LGD was also showing its Crystal Sound OLED, which incorporates transducers that produce sound by vibrating the entire display panel. This idea is not new. At the beginning of this decade the British company NXT was working with the same idea, and showed prototypes of notebook computers using the technology. NXT customers produced a variety of thin speakers which were sold commercially. (Actually, Ken, Display Monitor first reported on NXT’s technology in 1996! BR)

LG Display AudioLG Display’s Audio was shown vibrating particles and uses the actuator on the right. Image: Chris Chinnock

One problem NXT discovered was interference between the screen’s pixel structure and screen vibrations at lower acoustic frequencies. The solution was to cut of the frequency at 150 Hz and use a separate woofer, which presumably made the approach less attractive for laptop computer makers. We will soon see how LG has dealt with this issue. On the show floor Sony was showing 65- and 77-inch 4K HDR OLED sets using the technology, which Sony calls Acoustic Surface. Sony reportedly did a good job of exploiting the technology’s ability to localize a sound at any point on the screen and have the sound come from the image element that is supposedly producing it. Reportedly, Sony has done a good job of co-locating the origin of the sound and image content with a good deal of precision.

The LGD folks did a good job of explaining IPS Nanocolor and IPS Nanocolor II, and we’ve discussed that in a previous Display Daily. (LG: “We don’t need no stinking quantum dots.”)

LGD showed a 55-inch FHD OLED with 45% transmittance. The combination of transparent clarity and color saturation was impressive. The panel is not a product yet, but LGD is exploring the technology for other applications.

One of them was an automotive see-through head-up display (HUD) mounted to the top of a mock-up car dashboard. In the well-lit demonstration area, the images were bright and clear, and without the optical and viewing-angle limitations of projection HUDs. There is a problem, though. The NHTSA specifies that any HUD must have a transmittance of at least 70%. An LGD engineer said they are hopeful they can get from today’s 45% to 70%.

A clever use of the transparent OLED was to lay it over an LCD instrument cluster. Warnings were directed alternately to the LCD and the OLED, giving the impression of the numeral or idiot light jumping toward and away from the driver, which was attention-grabbing. The OLED was also used to overlay speedometer and tachometer pointers and some digits.

A plastic OLED was used to make a wave-like display over the entire dash with a convex portion of the wave over the instrument cluster, concave over the center, and convex in front of the passenger. This display dash looked continuous but it used three tiled panels. pOLED is a growing market and, we were told, LGD is well positioned to participate in this growth thanks to a G4.5 and a G6 fab. (We were not permitted to take photographs of the automotive OLED displays.)

Another demonstration was of LCD “Art” pillar panels, displays with extreme aspect ratios for high-end signage installations. These panels were fabricated directly on the mother glass, not resized from displays with traditional aspect ratios, an LGD engineer said.

LGD’s “Art Pillar” displays have aspect ratios as high as 58:9, luminance of 700 nits, and a color gamut of 100% of sRGB. (Photo: Ken Werner)

Last year, LGD showed its S(uper)-IPS panel, which used the classic technique of rubbing with a soft cloth to texture the substrate and establish the surface alignment of the liquid-crystal molecules. In the very early days of twisted-nematic LCD fabrication, this rubbing was done by hand, and it was found that some operators had “the touch” for doing it and others didn’t. Now, the rubbing is mechanized, with a rotating roller doing the rubbing, but it’s still an oddly 19th-century-looking process to be found in a 21st-century high-tech factory.

This year, LGD was showing off its U(ltra)-IPS technology, which delivers better viewing-angle performance, a LGD rep said, thanks to creating the alignment layer with ultraviolet light, patterning, and a polymerizable layer instead of rubbing. UV alignment was developed many years ago, but has only fitfully been used in commercial products. The sentiment has often been that “rubbing is good enough,” but this is a competitive world and sentiments change.

This Display Daily hasn’t exhausted all the sweets in LGD candy store. I’m already looking forward to next year’s visit.

Ken Werner is Principal of Nutmeg Consultants, specializing in the display industry, manufacturing, technology, and applications, including mobile devices and television. He consults for attorneys, investment analysts, and companies re-positioning themselves within the display industry or using displays in their products. You can reach him at [email protected].