Sony unveils 17-inch, 25-inch professional OLED monitors

The 25-inch model will go on sale in May and the 17-inch one will follow in July

Sony's 25-inch OLED monitor on show at a Tokyo news conference on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011

Sony's 25-inch OLED monitor on show at a Tokyo news conference on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011

Sony will soon begin selling a professional monitor that contains the largest commercial organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screen yet produced.

The monitor, which is aimed at the TV and film production industries, will go on sale on May 1 and has a 25-inch OLED screen. A second model with a 17-inch screen will follow on July 1.

OLED is a flat-panel screen technology that rivals liquid-crystal display (LCD). OLED screens have pixels that contain an organic material that emits its own light, so screens using the technology can be made thinner than LCDs and are more power efficient. OLED also handles fast-moving images better and colors appear richer on the screens than on LCD, but large-size OLED panels are expensive to produce.

Sony is positioning the monitors for use in editing bays, satellite trucks and broadcasting control rooms. A high-quality picture is required for these so-called "reference monitors" and Sony said the OLED panels produce an image superior to LCD.

During a demonstration at its Tokyo headquarters, Sony played identical video footage on the new 25-inch OLED monitor and an LCD broadcasting monitor placed side-by-side.

The picture from the OLED screen was noticeably better, with richer and deeper colors. When the screen faded to black, the OLED monitor showed nothing but the LCD monitor continued to glow a light shade of grey because of its backlight.

Like a lot of equipment used in the broadcasting industry, the new monitors won't be cheap. The 25-inch model will cost ¥2.4 million (US$28,840) and the 17-inch model will cost ¥1.3 million. But while they appear expensive compared to consumer-grade monitors, the OLED screens cost only about 10 percent more than the LCD monitors they aim to replace.

Sony's launch of commercial 17-inch and 25-inch OLED monitors is a step forward for the display industry, which has made a habit out of promising bigger OLED screens then failing to deliver.

Despite several technical advances, flat-screen makers have had a hard time perfecting OLED production to the stage where it can reliably make large, flawless screens. Smaller size screens around 3-inches have proved no problem and can be found in many cell phones and portable gadgets, but larger screens have remained a hurdle.

The difficulty was most vividly demonstrated in late 2007 when Sony launched the industry's first -- and still the only -- OLED television. The XEL-1 had an 11-inch screen yet cost US$2,500, which was significantly higher than much larger LCD televisions on the market at the time. Monthly production was set at just 2,000 units.

A few months after the XEL-1 launched, Sony CEO Howard Stringer promised a 27-inch model "fairly soon," but it never appeared. Competitors including Samsung and LG Electronics also showed prototypes and also made promises, but they never got an OLED television to market.

On Wednesday, Sony didn't disclose any plans for OLED TVs.

Martyn Williams covers Japan and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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Martyn Williams

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