Getting a new television is a major purchase that requires careful consideration before pulling the trigger. However, the TV industry is filled with technical jargon that is liable to confuse the average joe.
While you can safely avoid learning about most of these specs, it pays dividends to learn about the three ways a TV can be lit. Knowing the difference between QLED, OLED, and LED TVs will make your buying decision that much easier.
QLED vs. OLED vs. LED
As mentioned above, these acronyms refer to how the TV is illuminated. More specifically, they explain the source of each TV backlighting solution. The way a TV lights up is one of the biggest factors that influences the screen’s overall picture quality.
What is an LED?
LED, or light-emitting diode, is by far the most common form of television is the world. If you have a flat panel TV in your living room, it is most likely running on an LED. These models are often mistaken for being a competitor to LCD. However, liquid crystal display and LED technology are essentially the very same.
That being said, LCDs are considered to be outdated due to how much energy they consume. This is because of the liquid crystals that rotate polarized light to illuminate the entire screen at once. LED displays consume less power since they use a set of LED lights to backlight key portions of the monitor. They can either be in clusters behind the panel or arranged along the sides. The side configuration is most common as it allows the TV to be as thin as possible.
Both LCD and LED displays get their illumination from an external source. This means that the extra components will always result in a larger box than ones powered by OLED technology. Another issue is present whenever you watch an LED tv in a completely dark room. If you look closely, you can see that the brightness isn’t uniform throughout the display. On some older models, you may even notice patches where the light doesn’t shine properly. In shadowy scenes, you also lose tons of detail when compared to newer technology.
The good news is that many LED TVs still provide excellent picture quality and brightness. The display is generally filled to the brim with color. Plus, most LED screens are still flat enough to mount on a wall with ease. You also can’t beat the value for the price. LED TVs are fairly inexpensive, even if you opt to go for huge screen size.
What is OLED?
When you get your first glimpse of an OLED display, your jaw will drop at just how exquisite the picture quality becomes. This is especially true when watching a program that was filmed at a native 4K resolution. It can be tough to go back to your LCD screen and settle for HD quality. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should upgrade your TV immediately.
Organic light-emitting diodes are used to power this type of display. The first thing you will notice is just how skinny these televisions are. They look like you might get a paper cut if you run your finger along the edge too fast. The thinner size is achieved by producing light directly from the diodes themselves. This eliminates the need for any bulky components that you’ve become accustomed to all these years.
Since each pixel can illuminate independently, it gives you total control of how your display looks. When configured properly, you can control the brightness down to every single pixel on the screen. By sliding organic film between each of the semiconductors, you can run an electrical current to any pixel you choose. If all of that sounds too complicated, there are tons of preset options that look great right out of the box.
OLED technology consumes far less power than LED displays since not every pixel needs a charge at once. It is especially impressive considering just how much brighter these monitors are. Plus, OLED technology allows you to display flawless images that are completely black. You won’t find any inconsistencies in how darkness and shadows are displayed in a dark room.
You’ll really start to notice the difference in scenes with high color contrast. For instance, a starry night sky will look incredibly realistic when powered by an OLED display. The brightest whites and the darkest blacks can be achieved with ease. Each individual pixel can run the entire spectrum of each color as well. The result is an image with virtually no limit to what colors can be accurately presented.
OLED displays also require rapid response times to keep up with videos that quickly jump between different scenes with various levels of brightness. Nearly all OLED TVs out in the wild have been rigorously tested to ensure the electrical current can keep up with the action on the screen. The result is a high refresh rate that is perfect for watching sporting events or playing video games.
Unfortunately, there are a few drawbacks you should be aware of. All newer technology comes with a pretty heft price tag. OLED displays are no exception, and prices exponentially increase if you want a massive screen size. They also haven’t been around long enough for experts to determine how long OLED panels will last. If you want your TV to last as long as possible, this lack of data may be a dealbreaker for you.
You also might contend with burn-in if you leave a static image on the screen for too long. Burn-in occurs most commonly when a channel logo or menu interface remains in the same spot for too long. It takes several hours for this blemish to take effect. As long as you vary up the programming every few hours, you won’t have to worry about this issue. Just keep it in mind since you won’t be able to fix a display that falls victim to this phenomenon.
There is one last piece of good news though. Creating OLED displays is far more environmentally friendly than traditional LED panels. OLED technology abandons the need to use Nitrogen Trifluoride during the manufacturing process. This greenhouse gas can harm the environment when emitted in large amounts. You can get a stunning display and do your part to keep Earth healthy.
What is QLED?
QLED stands for quantum dot light-emitting diode. This is the latest technology to hit the market. While it sounds very similar to an OLED, changing one letter makes a huge difference in how the image is displayed. QLED displays actually return to using sets of LEDs strewn about the edges of the screen. However, there is a key difference that makes the picture quality vastly superior.
The quantum dot color filter is used to create the brightest images you can currently find. Color is king when watching anything on a QLED display. Each color can be displayed in an endless configuration of different hues. However, the contrast is a bit worse than on an OLED. You will notice that bright whites and dark blacks won’t display quite as nicely. That being said, QLED still offers a solid contrast compared to a regular LED model.
Since the technology is still so new, you can expect QLED manufacturers to hone their craft over the next few years. After all, both LED and OLED displays have seen massive improvements since they were first introduced. At CES, a few QLED displays that use local dimming to backlight the monitor were announced. This should create an even brighter image while allowing a wider range of contrast between light and darkness.
Much like with OLED TVs, the price of a QLED is still extremely high. If you want a large display for your home theater, you can expect to pay a small fortune for it. Unless you absolutely love vivid colors, you may want to hold off on QLED displays for a bit. They will ultimately improve and come down in price over the next few years. The refresh rate is also a bit slower than a powerful OLED. If you play a ton of video games, you may not get the performance you are looking for.
QLED vs. OLED vs. LED: The Final Showdown
Many of you still may be wondering which display technology to choose for your next TV set. Truth be told, that comes down to your situation. If you just want a reliable TV that looks good, an LCD is all you will really need. LCDs are also great for sticking to a budget when shopping. You can find an abundance of value-priced LED sets that often go on sale to boot.
If you want the brightest display you can find, then a QLED is the way to go. These panels also display the most eye-popping range of color variations. They are great for a variety of programs and take animation to the next level. Just be warned that you will have to fork over a premium to get one of these in your living room. Depending on how much you watch videos on your TV, it just might be worth it to spring for one of these models.
If you want the absolute best TV you can buy right now, then go with an OLED display. They have been around for several years and have seen massive improvements since being first introduced. You get excellent visual fidelity and enough contrast to make any scene more realistic. There is a great balance between crisp visuals and seamless performance when playing video games or watching sports. While you will have to pay a pretty penny for one of these panels, it is well worth it if you have the disposable income for it.