Last week in New Delhi, Samsung unveiled a jumbo line-up of 44 TVs for India. The most interesting announcement was the new technology that Samsung is ploughing, into what it calls 'SUHD', to improve the picture quality of an Ultra High Definition or UHD TV. This is also known as '4k' because, with a screen resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels versus the 1920 x 1080 pixels of a High Definition or HD screen, it is 4 times sharper. Do the maths and you will find a 4K screen has over 8 million dots, compared to 2 million of a full HD screen.
With those heavy Plasma screens on the way out, most flat screen TVs today use LCD or Liquid Crystal Display, lit from the back by LEDs or Light Emitting Diodes. Both Samsung and LG, experimented to improve the quality of the LCD-LED image. Along with Sony, they toyed with an alternative technology called OLED or Organic Light Emitting Diode, which unlike LCD, does not need back lighting by LEDs, because the screen itself is made of LEDs. This gave a very superior image with tremendous depth i.e. the range between full black and full white. The problem was that OLED was not easy to manufacture in large sizes: TVs these days, are 100 inches diagonal and more.
Samsung decided to go slow with OLED which would have priced TVs out of the mass market and instead offers an enhancement to existing LCD-LED TVs called Quantum Dots: essentially a marriage of TV displays to nano technology.
Why nano? Quantum dots are tiny crystals of a material called indium, each of them one-ten-thousandth the thickness of a strand of human hair with one interesting property: shine light on them and they can be made to glow with different colours depending on their size. A bigger quantum dot glows red, a medium sized glows green and the smallest dot turns blue -- these three colours are used by all TVs to combine and produce a colour image. Samsung added a layer of quantum dots on top of the LCD screen so that the resulting image was even sharper and brighter than before. And since LCD screens inherently suffer from distortion if one views from the edges, they curved the screen to increase the viewing area.
Samsung are not the only ones who have embraced nanotech like quantum dots to make LCD-LED TVs look almost as good as a OLED TV at a third of the cost. They are just the first into market in India with them. Expect more to follow.
They claim that a quantum dot display, delivers 64 times more colour shades than a conventional UHD TV and can "express" up to 1 billion colours in detail. We don't know what 'express' means and we didn't even begin to count a billion colours -- but we can say, the image from a good source like Bluray is quite stunning with even the deepest shadows revealing some detail. This goes hand in hand with their other touted technology -- high dynamic range (HDR) -- which in dummy's language means a 1000-fold difference in the contrast between lightest and darkest images.