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TrendForce Says Pursuit of Wider Color Gamut Will Drive Up Production Costs of LCMs by 3% to 10%

The fierce competition in the TV market has driven brand vendors to continually improve the image colors and qualities of their respective product models. In recent years, South Korean panel makers Samsung Display (SDC) and LG Display (LGD), along with their Taiwanese counterparts, have developed various technologies to enhance features such as wide color gamut (WCG) for their products. Because of their ongoing efforts, WitsView, a division of TrendForce, expects the production costs of liquid crystal display modules (LCMs) for TVs will go up. Depending on the solution type for achieving WCG, the cost increase could range from 3% to 10%.

WitsView points out that resolution, contrast and color saturation are the three interlocking elements that make up a high-quality display. Regarding the progress towards higher resolutions, the penetration of the 8K models in the TV market has been slow because SOCs specifically for 8K LCD panels are still mainly under the development phase. Also, the lack of content hinders the widespread adoption of 8K TV sets. Therefore, 4K will remain the mainstream resolution specification in the TV market during these two to three years.

As for image contrast, HDR is now a common feature in the high-end TV market due to the maturation of the specification standards for this capability. Different hard- and software solutions as well as design innovations have allowed displays to achieve higher brightness and contrast.

From the perspective of enhancing color saturation, each panel maker has its own solution. To achieve vivid colors, Taiwanese panel makers have modified the green color resist in the color filter layer and use LEDs packaged with KSF phosphors in the backlight unit.

South Korea’s LGD, on the other hand, has introduced the Nano Cell technology that is specifically for LCD TVs featuring WCG. Nano Cell at its current form is to include a light absorbing material into the adhesive that is layered between the front polarizer and the glass panel. This can help filter out surplus light wavelengths, ensuring purity of each color shown on the display and resulting in a more complete gamut.

As for SDC, the heavily promoted Samsung QLED TVs have nanometer-size Quantum Dots that cover the optical film of the backlight unit (this film is also known as Quantum Dot Enhancement Film or QDEF). Quantum Dots will interact with the light as to bring about better colors via quantum effects.

WitsView’s analysis on the aforementioned technological breakthroughs vary greatly in production cost, and this is reflected in panel quotes. Taking a 55-inch 4K TV set as an example, the LCM for such a device generally uses direct backlight, and its production cost is around US$260. If this LCM incorporates Taiwanese panel makers’ solution for achieving WCG, its production cost will go up by about 2~3%. Using LGD’s Nano Cell will increase the LCM’s cost by about 6~7%. Samsung’s QDEF is the most costly solution as its inclusion will raise the LCM’s cost by as much as 10%.

The cost differences among technologies for attaining better colors will also reflect on the prices of the whole TV sets. Thus, Samsung’s QLED TVs will likely have the highest pricing, followed by TVs using LGD’s Nano Cell. TV sets that adopt solutions from Taiwanese panel makers will instead have the lowest pricing compared with counterparts based on South Koreans’ technologies.

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