OLED: Live Fast, Die Young

Without question, Sony's XEL-1 is one sweet TV. Its OLED display, the first in a commercially available TV, is wafer thin, its colors are vibrant, and the contrast ratio is outstanding. Be sure to see it, and don't wait too long. Because it might not last very long. The knock on active matrix organic light emitting technology (AMOLED), aside from its staggering expense ($2,500 for the 11-inch XEL-1), is its relatively short lifespan compared to traditional displays. Sony stated that the XEL-1 should last about 30,000 hours. Good, not great, but acceptable. Not so fast there, spanky - that's what market research firm DisplaySearch is saying...

Their studies predict a much shorter panel lifespan of 17,000 hours, about half of Sony's spec. Their report is not kind to the XEL-1. It says, "The RGB architecture is very sensitive to the image and has a 5,000 hour lifetime for white and a 17,000 hour lifetime for the typical video image, well below the published specifications of Sony." The report concludes, "Moreover the panel suffers from differential aging: After 1,000 hours the blue luminance degraded by 12 percent, the red by 7 percent and the green by 8 percent." Pulling no punches, the report clobbers the XEL-1 as being significantly short-lived, even compared to the other relatively short-lived AMOLED screens available from other manufacturers. In short, DisplaySearch wonders, is Sony's OLED TV ready for prime time?

Not surprisingly, Sony was not amused. A spokesman told industry trade publication TWICE that the 17,000-hour figure is "simply untrue - our quote of 10 years or 30,000 hours to half life is accurate."

I guess it all depends on how much TV you want to see. Even if the 17,000-hour figure is accurate, that's still more than 4-1/2 hours per day for 10 years. How many episodes of Lost can one person watch?-Ken C. Pohlmann