While LG and Sony have pushed OLED for their premium TVs, Samsung has pursued another display technology: MicroLED. It relies on tiny self-emitting LEDs to deliver the same deep black levels and extreme contrast you get from OLEDs, but without the limited brightness and burn-in potential. After debuting on Samsung's enormous "The Wall" set, the company is finally ready to bring MicroLED TVs to general consumers at CES, starting with the previously announced 110-inch model, which will be followed with 88-inch and 99-inch versions.
So sure, these new MicroLED TVs are still huge, but they're more manageable for retailers and shoppers. You can just pick one up from the store and install it in your home, without any help from custom installers. That's in stark contrast to The Wall, which requires professional setup and potentially days of work to connect its modular MicroLED panels. Clearly, that TV was never meant for normal shoppers (especially when you factor in a potentially $300,000 cost for a 146-inch unit).
With these MicroLED TVs, Samsung is taking a more familiar approach. The thin panels are pre-assembled, so all you need to do is lift the screen out of the box (using the bundled installation handles), and mount it on your wall. In the interview above, Samsung executives Mike Kadish and Dan Shinasi tell us that you'll definitely need a few extra hands to deal with such large screens. These TVs are meant to be wall-mounted, but you can also purchase a stand separately if you prefer using a console table. Even though they’re pre-configured, there’s the potential for the MicroLED panels to slip out alignment over time, the execs tell us. But you should be able to readjust them with a screwdriver, should the need arise.
As for how these sets will look, Samsung claims they'll have an even finer dot pitch than early versions of The Wall. They're all 4K screens, as you'd expect, and they support HDR10 and Dolby Vision. Since the panel itself is thin and delicate, the MicroLED TVs rely on an external breakout box for connectivity, much like Samsung's recent premium sets. The company hasn't confirmed yet if they'll support HDMI 2.1 or a 120Hz refresh rate, but I certainly hope so, as you probably wouldn't want to upgrade these beasts anytime soon. Similarly, there's no word yet about response times or support for variable refresh rates.
In true Back to the Future 2 fashion, you’ll be able to watch up to four inputs at once one these MicroLED sets with Samsung’s Multi-View mode. A 110-inch screen could effectively be turned into four 55-inch panels. It’s a cool parlor trick, though I wonder how useful it’ll be in practice. The feature is also only limited to displaying individual inputs, you won’t be able to throw the TV’s built-in Netflix or Hulu apps into different windows. (Though that’s something the Samsung executives say could be added over time.)
If you're wondering, no, we don't know what these MicroLED TVs will cost yet. This isn't unusual -- most TV companies show off their new lineup at CES and follow up with pricing and availability details in the spring. But in this case, I'll be intrigued to see how they compare to large QLED and OLED TVs. LG's 88-inch Signature ZX 8K OLED TV goes for an eye-watering $30,000, and I wouldn't be surprised if Samsung's pricing starts around there, even though these are 4K sets. MicroLED is still a fledgling display technology, after all, so it's likely tougher and more expensive to produce than OLED, which LG has been steadily churning out for years.
The real question will be if any deep-pocketed consumers jump on Samsung's large MicroLED sets when large OLEDs have already proven their worth. It's one thing to be an early adopter for something like folding phones or dual-screened PCs, it's another to spend tens of thousands on a first-generation display technology. As impressive as these MicroLED TVs sound, I'd wager the audience that wants to spend a ton on a large screen may be better off with OLED, or alternative options like ultra short-throw laser projectors.