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Take a peek inside Sony's OLED TV

Posted: 05 May 2008  Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Sony OLED TV  backlight  organic material 

Sony's first OLED TV code named XEL-1 offers amazing technical specifications in an extremely small form factor

Sony released the first commercial OLED TV in December of 2007 with the code name XEL-1 that offered amazing technical specifications in an extremely small form factor. This is a great piece of technology, and really shows what the world can expect in the coming years. At this time, the screen size is only 11 inches diagonal, which is a bit tiny for most people's needs, but Sony also announced and demonstrated a 27-inch version at CES in January with a 16 x 9 aspect ratio and a 960 x 540-pixel resolution.

The technical specifications are quite impressive. First off, the contrast ratio, which is the ratio of the luminosity of white, the brightest color a TV can display, to black, the darkest color, is 1 million to 1. To put that into perspective, most TVs available on the market have somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 to 1 ratios. So we are looking at about a 100x improvement.

The screen itself is only 3mm thick. And that includes the panel, not just the screen itself. It is actually kind of funny as the remote that controls the TV is 10mm thick—three times the thickness. Again, for perspective, a typical TV is 10 cm or more thick. However, the base that provides the functionality is considerably larger than the screen, which makes the 3mm measurement a bit misleading.

For connectivity, there are HDMI, USB, Ethernet and two cable inputs, but no other video input sources, like composite, component, or S-Video. It can accept Sony's memory stick media cards.

Backlight-free
So great, we know it is a TV with a sharp screen and that it is made from an OLED. But how does it work? Basically, instead of having a backlight, you have a layer of organic material between two conductors. When power is applied, the organic material produces a bright light. The big difference here is that the light is only produced when it is needed instead of being on all the time like a backlight is. This can save considerable power, as blacks are produced by not turning on the pixel, so no power is used, at least by the screen. The base however, still consumes power, estimated to be between 18- and 24W.

There are two types of OLED—small-molecule OLED and polymer OLED. Sony chose to use the small-molecule type because it has a longer lifespan, estimated to be about 10 years of 8-hour-a-day use.

Screen and base
The TV comes in two distinct pieces: the screen and the base. The two are connected via a single arm. Let's start with the screen. After taking off the back plating and removing the arm, we can see the PC. Inside there is the Altera Cyclone II FPGA, which uses a 90nm TSMC process. In conjunction with that is Altera's EPC16, which is 16Mbit of flash memory that serially configures the Cyclone. There is also a Thine 90MHz 30bit color LVDS receiver, the THC63LVD104A. It also contains Oki DRAM. Interestingly enough, the Fujitsu 16bit USB controller is located here as well. This is interesting, as the USB input is in the base.

Speaking of the base, let's see what's in there. First off, there is a large heat sink covering most of the PCB. There are cooling wires running to the fan. There are a considerable number of heat pads—one for almost every major device found on the board.

Standard components
The first component we have to look at is the Sony CXD9903. I am guessing that this should be the image processor that drives the picture onto the screen. This is the same controller that Semiconductor Insights found in one of Sony's 26-inch LCD TV, the KDL-26S3000, last year.

The next large component is the NEC D61162 MIPS-based MPEG decoder for digital TV. It has a quad CPU architecture. The main CPU is a 654-MIPS processor running at 327MHz. The second CPU has 236 MIPS performance at 196MHz. And there are two audio CPUs running 236 MIPS at 196MHz.

A second NEC component is an integrated three-host controller with a USB 2.0 transceiver in a single chip. There is a Fujitsu MB91305, which is a single-chip MCU with a 32bit RISC CPU and I/O for embedded controllers.

Memory support comprises 2Mbytes of flash from Fujitsu, a pair of Samsung 256Mbit SLC NAND flash chips, a pair of Elpida 512Mbit DDR2 memories, 128Mbit of Samsung GDDR SDRAM and 16Mbit of Spansion boot-sector flash memory, I would guess that this has all of the default start up information stored on it.

The TV tuner contains two main components. This is a fairly standard canned tuner interface. The Toshiba device is the demodulator with error correction, and analog-to-digital converter and some memory. The Sony part is likely the tuner chip to receive the signal. Texas Instruments has a 10W stereo Class-D audio power amplifier.

On the flip side of the board we have a RealTek gigabit Ethernet controller and an Altera MAX 3000A-family low-cost CPLD.

Finally we have the Sony CXD9890. This should be the digital audio processor with analog interface. We also seen this part on the Sony TV I talked about earlier and if it is the exact same, then the die is actually fabricated by TI.

So having seen the boards, there are two quick things that I noticed. First, there are a lot of components. And second, most of these components are standard off-the-shelf solutions. I think both of these points can be written off as the fact that this is the first OLED TV in the market, and was designed more as a prototype than a mass commercial product for Sony. I'm guessing they were focusing more on getting the screen working properly and turned to chips and technologies they knew or could find out easily, which is why there are correlations between this and the Sony KDL-26S3000. I would guess that the 27-inch OLED that I saw at CES will have fewer components in order to optimize the design and likely will have more Sony branded devices that will make their functionality more difficult to discern.

- Gregory Quirk
Technical Marketing Manager
Semiconductor Insights





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