DSCC TV Cost Report Highlights Battle Between OLED and MiniLED

Published February 22, 2021

DSCC has released its Q4 2020 update of our Advanced TV Display Cost Report, with updates to OLED and LCD cost profiles. This quarter’s edition includes cost models for new sizes of OLED TV panels to be introduced later this year, along with updates to other OLED and LCD sizes including LCD with MiniLED backlights, which will compete with OLEDs for the premium TV space.

The cost report provides detailed cost profiles of 96 distinct LCD products, including combinations of screen size, refresh frequency (60Hz/120Hz), backlight (conventional /QDEF/MiniLED), gen size and manufacturing location (Korea / China) and including open cell models. The report covers 62 distinct OLED products, ranging in size from 31” to 88”, with resolutions from FHD to 8K, and manufactured on Gen 8.5 and Gen 10.5 in China and Korea.

LGD is continuing to improve production at its Gen 8.5 White OLED (WOLED) fab in Guangzhou, China. While our cost report shows that total panel costs from China production in 2020 were higher than the costs for comparable panels made in Korea, by this year the advantages for China production allow lower total costs. China has lower costs for depreciation, personnel, indirect, and SG&A, leading to lower total costs even though yields in Korea will remain higher than China. We estimate that 55” total costs in 2021 in China will be ~14% lower than Korea production, with a similar advantage for 65”.

WOLED TV Panel Cost for China in 2021

Source: DSCC Advanced TV Cost Report

New for this quarter, we include cost models of 83” UHD panels, produced in an MMG configuration on LGD’s Gen 8.5 fab in Guangzhou, China.

LGD hopes to sell 7M to 8M OLED TV panels in 2021, compared to 4.4M in 2020, and to help this effort it will introduce new screen sizes that can allow lower price points. Whereas prior to 2020 LGD’s lowest cost OLED TV panel was a 55”, the cost of 48” UHD panels is 20% lower than 55” UHD. This will allow LGD’s customers to introduce OLED TVs at lower price points which will broaden the market. Similarly, while the 83” model is not likely to generate high unit volumes, it allows WOLED to better compete with LCD TV products at the 80”+ screen size.

In our prior update to this report in Q3 2020, we introduced MiniLED cost models for the first time, and the Q4 report updates these. The report allows for comparison across the wide range of performance (and cost) within LCD, from conventional LCD with 60Hz refresh to 120Hz to QDEF panels and finally MiniLED + QDEF. Combined with the OLED cost models, the report allows a complete comparison of the cost of all large-screen TV types.

The next two charts here show the cost profiles for 65” panels, comparing MiniLED LCD with WOLED, in the most cost-effective fabs (China Gen 10.5 for LCD, China Gen 8.5 MMG for WOLED). The WOLED product in 2021 costs less than the MiniLED, but we expect the cost of MiniLED to decrease faster than WOLED, so the cost premium declines from 7% in 2021 to cost parity in 2025.

65” UHD 60Hz LCD Module Cost on Gen 10.5 in China with MiniLED and QD

Source: DSCC Advanced TV Cost Report

Bottom Emission 65” UHD WOLED Panel Total Cost on Gen 8.5 in China with MMG

Source: DSCC Advanced TV Cost Report

MiniLED and OLED will compete in the marketplace, and the cost profile of the two technologies shows they are both much more expensive than conventional LCD. This suggests that MiniLED TV products will compete at retail price points similar to WOLED TV, and that’s what we’ve seen from Samsung’s early pricing for its QD Neo MiniLED TVs.

MiniLED will have many variations across brands and product lines, with different levels of cost/performance depending on the number of LEDs. The highest-performance MiniLED TV panels will have even higher cost than our estimates, but there will also be some less expensive MiniLED designs on the market. For a more comprehensive overview of MiniLED panel costs that highlights these variations, see DSCC’s MiniLED Backlight Technology, Cost and Shipment Report.

With the pandemic-fed surge in TV demand, TV makers have been solidly profitable despite rising LCD TV panel prices. Those higher LCD prices may boost the prospects for OLED TV, but MiniLED models will compete with OLED at premium price points, and this may eventually lead to a price war between these competing technologies.

As noted above, subscribers to the Advanced TV Cost Report receive cost profiles of all major product configurations competing in the premium TV space in both LCD and OLED. The report includes Excel files with the detailed cost models in tables and in graphical form, and a PowerPoint which outlines the main findings of this quarter’s update. The PowerPoint includes comparisons of competing technologies (such as WOLED vs. Inkjet Printing, or LCD vs QDEF) and differing manufacturing platforms (Korea vs. China, Gen 8.5 vs. Gen 10.5). DSCC Weekly Review readers interested in subscribing to the Advanced TV Cost Report should contact gerry@displaysupplychain.com.

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Written by

Bob O'Brien