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This just might be the best television ever made.

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OLED TV. The XEL-1 is the first organic (based on carbon) light-emitting diode television. Sony calls it "the next big thing" in television technology. Sony means big in terms of quality, not size. OLED TVs are actually amazingly thin.

Sony's breakthrough design boasts a 3 millimeter-thin panel and mind-boggling picture quality with amazing contrast, outstanding brightness, exceptional color reproduction and a rapid response time.

The XEL-1 is tiny. It measures just under 12 by 10 by 5.5 inches overall and weighs a little more than 4 pounds. The small, super-thin screen measures just 11 inches diagonally in the standard 16-by-9 ration widescreen format. The display's native resolution is 960 by 540 pixels.

The set is capable of handling progressive and interlaced video signals from 480 through 1080. Sony says that even though the screen measures 960 by 540 pixels, the OLED TV yields the same pixel density as a 40-inch (measured diagonally) 1080p LCD TV.

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This little TV set crams all sorts of goodies inside the enclosure, like Auto SAP, Dolby Digital sound, virtual surround sound, a 3D comb filter, one analog and two HDMI inputs, a memory stick slot to view photos and the like, plus lots more. Sony includes a nice-sized, nifty remote control as well. All in all, it's a pretty neat package.

Although super small on the outside, this OLED looks better than any TV I've ever seen in my home. Sony says it has a lot to do with the set's contrast capabilities. The breakthrough technology is capable of completely turning off pixels when reproducing black (unlike other video technologies), resulting in more outstanding dark-scene detail, and a contrast ratio of 1 million to 1 is light years ahead of the competition.

And to my eyes, OLED also creates astounding color and detail for smooth and natural reproduction of fast-moving images like those found in sports and action movies.

Another thing: light-emitting diode technology eliminates the need for a backlight, so it can achieve a high level of energy efficiency. According to the experts at Sony, under normal viewing conditions, the XEL-1 11 inch diagonal OLED TV can result in reduced power consumption of up to 40% per panel square inch compared to conventional 20-inch LCD panels. That's why no backlight is used with the organic materials.

The only downside of this TV, as with all bleeding-edge technology, is that you pay a pretty price to embrace it. Right now, the XEL-1 sells for $2,500 on Sony's Web site. That's a lot of money for such a mini-TV set. But qualitywise, it's probably just about right. As with all electronics, you're going to pay a huge premium to be an early adaptor (I remember how much my first LED TV cost just a few years ago). But very quickly I expect to see larger OLED TVs at much more reasonable prices.

When the XEL-1 was introduced early this year at the Consumer Electronics Show, Sony was also showing a prototype of a larger, possibly 20-inch version of its OLED technology. With the 2009 CES coming up at the beginning of the year, followed by the expected rush to purchase new TVs in time for the mid-February switchover to digital broadcasts, I think we'll be hearing (and seeing) a lot more about OLEDs from all the major manufacturers.

Gary Krakow is's senior technology correspondent.