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What You Need: OLED TV


Get ready to have a brand new case of television envy, even if you just dropped a small fortune for the latest and greatest. We’ve recently had some eyes-on time with what may be the single most stunning new device of 2012: a 55-inch television built using a new technology called OLED, or organic light-emitting diode. (Don’t worry, there won’t be a quiz.)

Sure, there are plenty of impressive 55-inch and larger TVs, but this one is a mere four millimeters thick — that’s a few credit cards stacked together. Put another way, it’s too thin to even plug an HDMI cable directly into it — instead a slender wire leads out to a breakout box for connections.

Look at one of these from the front, and the bright, clear image blows any current plasma or LCD out of the water. Walk around to the side, and it’s shocking just how thin the chassis is — when the screen itself has a 55-inch diagonal footprint, four millimeters is like something straight out of Minority Report. In fact, Sony and other companies are currently working on next-generation flexible versions of the technology — potentially allowing you to roll up an OLED screen like a newspaper and take it with you. Where’s our hovercraft already?

Last month at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, both LG and Samsung demoed real-world versions of these new beasts for the first time. Prototypes have been floating around for a couple of years, but the largest commercially available OLED TV to date has been a mini 11-inch monitor from Sony that cost a whopping $2,500. A handful of phones and other small devices also have tiny OLED screens already (including Sony’s new PlayStation Vita), but those top out at about five inches. Here’s some video we shot of this thing on the CES floor, in all its impossibly skinny glory.

Of course, there are some potential problems: Little is known yet about the lifespan of these big OLED screens, and the color reproduction is not as accurate as other TV technologies. As tempting as it may be, you may not want to be the neighborhood guinea pig on this one, and the biggest drawback is very old-fashioned and low-tech: price. Although the final release dates and prices haven’t been set yet, expect to pay $7,000 or more when the first 55-inch OLED models, from LG and Samsung, roll into stores sometime late in the year.