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This is a Watershed Moment for OLED TVs

By Steve Symington - Aug 23, 2014 at 4:30PM

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On Monday, chances are you'll see something new at your local Best Buy.

This Sunday, you might consider taking a stroll through the television section of your friendly neighborhood Best Buy. Why? Because chances are you'll see something new and exciting prominently displayed on the end-caps.

Best Buy is planning to use more than 1,000 of its U.S. locations to introduce the masses to OLED TV. Specifically, it'll all start with this 55-inch curved OLED beauty (model 55EC9300) from the folks over at LG Electronics:

Priced at $3,499, LG's 55-inch curved OLED TV will make its way into Best Buy stores this Sunday, Credit: LG Electronics

Why OLED TV is so special
While this isn't a detailed technical review, but it's worth exploring what makes LG's latest OLED set the "ultimate display."

Start with its infinite contrast ratio. Put simply, contrast ratio is the difference in luminance between the set's brightest whites and darkest blacks. Because OLED isn't a back-lit technology, but instead has pixels which emit their own light, this means individual pixels can literally be switched off to achieve the deepest blacks possible.

OLED TV also uses much less power than traditional plasma and LED back-lit LCD competitors, helping the 55EC9300 secure a CES innovation award for Eco-Design and Sustainable Technolgies this year. Its simpler internal structure also allows it to be just 0.17" thick at its thinnest point, or roughly the same thickness of a pencil. And though not everyone's convinced the curved form factor is all it's cracked up to be, LG insists it makes for the most immersive home theater experience yet.

LG's OLED TVs are pencil thin, Credit: LG Electronics

In fact, PC Magazine's Will Greenwald even described this television's predecessor -- which was showcased at only a handful of Best Buy Magnolia Home Theater stores starting this time last year because of limited production -- as "a technological marvel and the finest display I've ever tested." For nearly $15,000, it was fair to expect nothing less.

But here's the biggest kicker: Thanks to research and development, and manufacturing efficiencies achieved over the past year by the folks at LG Display, the 55EC9300 will hit Best Buy's shelves for "just" $3,499. What's more, those prices should fall even further going forward, as LG Display recently invested $788 million to ramp production capacity at its new OLED television facility in Paju, South Korea.

How you can invest accordingly
OLED TV is arguably the biggest leap forward since flat panel displays were first popularized over a decade ago. As a result, and because this is the most widely accessible consumer introduction to OLED TV yet, you can bet Best Buy, LG Electronics, and LG Display are hoping it will improve margins and jump-start the sluggish television market.

But they aren't necessarily the best ways to play this as an investor. For that, look no further than OLED technologist Universal Display Corporation, which both licenses its OLED-centric patents and sells crucial OLED materials to suppliers like LG Display. I've made no secret the past couple years of my fondness for Universal Display, as well as my preference for patiently waiting for its growth prospects to bear fruit. 

Until now, however, the lion's share of Universal Display's growth has been driven by its inclusion in millions of tablets and smartphones from Samsung. But Samsung also ran into production difficulties earlier this summer that caused it to temporarily abandon plans to build its own new large-screen OLED television manufacturing facility. Nonetheless, Samsung subsequently redirected those investments into a new small and medium-sized OLED display plant. And just last week, Samsung management insisted they can still "respond quickly" to the U.S. OLED TV market -- but only if they see consumer demand is there.

So for now, LG and Best Buy will happily serve as the market's guinea pigs for Universal Display's promising technology. As prices fall further and consumers realize the benefits OLED TV brings, I'm still convinced early investors have time to step in and reap the rewards.

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Stocks Mentioned

Apple Inc. Stock Quote
Apple Inc.
AAPL
$141.94 (0.20%) $0.28
Best Buy Co., Inc. Stock Quote
Best Buy Co., Inc.
BBY
$72.93 (-2.36%) $-1.76
LG Display Stock Quote
LG Display
LPL
$5.99 (0.59%) $0.04
Universal Display Corporation Stock Quote
Universal Display Corporation
OLED
$112.95 (-0.63%) $0.72

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