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OLED vs QLED: which display tech should you choose?

A closer look at two of the market's leading display technologies

Updated: Aug 11, 2022 11:19 am
qled vs oled

When it comes to buying a new TV, understanding the technical specifications couldn’t be more important. One of the main specs that separate some of the leading panels in todays market is OLED and QLED.

While OLED vs QLED only differentiate by a single letter, the viewing experience they provide varies dramatically. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a gamer, content consumer, or everyday user, you’ll want to understand the pros, cons, benefits, and flaws of each display technology to ensure you choose the best for your needs.

Fortunately, we have a tonne of experience when it comes to display technology, giving us great confidence in our ability to comprehensively compare QLED vs OLED. We’ll be looking at everything from picture quality to gaming performance and everything in between, concluding with which technology you should buy.

We have also compared NanoCell vs QLED, mini LED vs OLED, and NanoCell vs OLED.

OLED vs QLED: quick summary

If you’re looking for the main differences between OLED vs QLED TVs, here’s a quick summary:

Samsung Logo

Samsung Neo QLED QN900A

Samsung QN900a

Sizes

65″, 75″, 85″

Screen Technology

Mini LED LCD (1344 – 2340 zones)

Resolution

4K Ultra HD 3840 x 2160p

Refresh rate

120Hz

Panel type

VA (QD)

HDMI standard

HDMI 2.1

Pros

Not as expensive as OLED

Improved color accuracy and vividness

High peak brigthness

Excellent reliability

Cons

Suffers blooming

LG

LG C2 OLED TV

LG c2 OLED

Sizes

42″, 48″, 55″, 65″, 77″, 83″

Screen Technology

OLED

Resolution

4K Ultra HD 3840 x 2160p

Refresh rate

120 Hz

Panel type

WOLED

HDMI standard

HDMI 2.1

Pros

Perfect blacks

Incredibly fast response time (0.001ms)

Incredibly thin

Stunning picture quality

Excellent gaming performance

Cons

Expensive

Peak brightness is limited

Lifespan and burn-in issues

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What is OLED

OLED, or organic light emitting diode, is a type of display technology which – unlike generic LED panels – doesn’t require a backlight for operation. Instead, OLED displays feature an organic compound layer which consists of thousands of tiny OLED pixels that produce their own light and color.

These self-emissive pixels are unique to OLED panel technology and help create a truly stunning visual experience. As each pixels acts independently, an OLED TV or monitor can produce an infinite contrast ratio. This occurs thanks to each pixel having the ability to shut down its light source entirely – creating perfect blacks directly next to high luminance. This isn’t possible in TVs that use a backlight as even the newest mini LED displays don’t offer the local dimming zones required for infinite contrast ratio.

The LG C1 OLED in a well-furnished room.
(Image Source: LG)

At present, only one company produces OLED TV panels, and that’s LG Display. While the majority of their panels get sold to sister company LG Electronics, other brands are starting to incorporate the technology as well.

What is QLED?

QLED is a display technology used by numerous display manufacturers thanks to qualities that include more accurate colors and higher peak brightness when compared to generic LED sets. The ‘Q’ in QLED stands for Quantum Dot – a nanoparticle layer which enhances the color and brightness of a generic LED panel.

samsung QLED TV 2
(Image Source: Samsung)

Unlike OLED displays, QLED panels do require a backlight to operate – meaning they can’t offer the same spectacular blacks and contrast ratio as OLED. That being said, when comparing QLED to normal LED panels, QLED clearly offers a much better visual experience overall.

OLED vs QLED: which technology should you buy?

Below we’ll be looking at all the key visual factors that are present in modern-day displays. To get a better idea of which display technology suits your needs, we’ll be comparing OLED vs QLED across a number of different areas that range from contrast ratio and peak luminance to gaming performance and viewing angles.

Contrast ratio

Contrast ratio is the difference between the brightest bright and the darkest dark. It’s a hugely important factor when purchasing a TV as it affects the overall picture quality you experience.

When looking at the differences in contrast between OLED and QLED, there’s really only one winner – OLED.

Thanks to OLED’s ability to shut down individual pixels, you can create true black directly next to maximum brightness – creating what is known as infinite contrast ratio. OLED displays aren’t handcuffed by local dimming zones and backlights, meaning they’ll always be able to outperform alternatives that do.

Unfortunately, QLED displays don’t offer this functionality – instead, having to dim individual sections of the backlight in order to produce dark shades. Annoyingly, as the local dimming zone isn’t as small as an individual pixel, it ends up covering thousands of pixels – all of which are affected by the dimming of the zone. This, ultimately, leads to lower levels of contrast and can introduce screen artifacts such as light bleed, blooming, and haloing.

Peak luminance

Peak luminance is exactly what is says on the tin – the maximum brightness a monitor or TV can display at any given moment. Peak luminance often affects the daytime viewing and HDR quality a display can provide – so it’s a relatively important feature for most.

That said, due to the backlight a QLED TV utilizes, it offers a considerable performance increase in this particular department.

As QLED pixels don’t self-illuminate, they require a backlight to display color and light. That backlight is often much more powerful than the organic pixels in OLED, resulting in a much brighter display. This is great for QLED users as daytime viewing can be extremely vibrant. By contrast, OLED’s can’t produce the same luminance levels, meaning vividness of color is affected.

LG say this isn’t too problematic as OLED’s can produce perfect blacks – making bright regions seem slightly brighter. Furthermore, OLED TVs definitely offer an easier viewing experience due to this lack of peak brightness – resulting in less eye fatigue over extended periods of time.

Color accuracy and gamut

Color gamut is a term used to describe the range of colors a display can reproduce. As you can imagine, most users prefer displays that feature a wide color gamut as it has the ability to reproduce better HDR performance and greater realism in general.

It’s pretty close when comparing QLED to OLED in terms of color, mainly thanks to the enhancements made by utilizing the Quantum Dot nanolayer in QLEDs.

That said, Samsung claim that QLED technology is better as it provides greater levels of color accuracy, better brightness, and better saturation.

Gaming performance (response time, refresh rate, input lag)

Gaming performance is often broken up in to three main factors – response time, refresh rate, and input lag. For that reason, panel type doesn’t really play a huge role in this department.

That said, there are some subtle differences that can be drawn when choosing between OLED vs QLED for gaming purposes. Firstly, OLED TVs offer up exceptional response times thanks to the organic nature of the pixels it utilizes. While QLEDs are becoming faster, OLED is still the one to go for in this regard. Furthermore, OLED TVs also feature more natural contrast ratio, wider color gamuts, and sensational HDR performance – thanks to perfect blacks. With HDR performance becoming more popular and widespread, this could be a key consideration when choosing a game TV.

Alternatively, there are many similarities to be drawn from using QLED and OLED technology for gaming. They both feature fast refresh rates, VRR technology (for G-sync and FreeSync systems), and performance-enhancing settings like ALLM and adaptive sync. That said, QLEDs do get brighter than OLEDs, making them better for daytime gaming.

All considered, we gave this point to OLED – but only just.

Viewing angles

Viewing angles are a particularly important factor to discuss when comparing panel technologies – especially if you’re purchasing for a large family. With numerous people viewing a TV from various positions, you want the viewing angles of your new set to be as good as they can be.

When comparing OLED vs QLED in this department, once again, there is only one winner – OLED. QLED screens fall victim to brightness and color degradation when viewing from wide angles – with the effects increasing as the angle becomes more obscure.

In contrast, the viewing experience is barely changed when watching an OLED TV from obscure angles. Even when viewing an OLED TV at up to 85 degrees, the visual experience is still pretty good overall.

For this reason, the OLED TV gets the point for this category.

Picture quality

Picture quality is something that, again, spans a variety of factors when discussing TV technology. To have great picture quality, we must factor in specifications such as resolution, color space, pixel density, contrast ratio, maximum luminance, and HDR.

Fortunately, both OLED and QLED panels feature stunning picture quality overall – however, one of these panel types does edge it.

Firstly, let’s look at the similarities. Both QLED and OLED can feature 4K/8K screen resolutions, wide color gamut, and decent pixel density. This alone is enough to score both highly on the picture quality scale. That said, when you add the high-end benefits of OLED to the equation, it’s hard to argue against it for general picture quality.

OLED, as we’ve already mentioned, features perfect blacks and infinite contrast ratio, resulting in a stunning visual experience that is hard to beat. Both these specifications also translate to exceptional HDR performance as well

Lifespan & potential burn-in

Starting with lifespan, LG has stated in the past that a user would have to watch one of its OLED TVs for ‘five hours a day for 54 years’ to see a 50% degradation in brightness. Unfortunately, there’s no way to corroborate these claims as OLED panels have only been around since 2013.

Furthermore, OLEDs have the constant risk of burn-in over time – a factor QLED panels don’t have to worry about at all. Burn-in is when an image is constantly burnt into the pixels of an OLED TV, destroying the visual experience and overall picture quality the OLED TV can produce.

Despite OLED TV manufacturers developing methods to try and counter these annoying shortcomings, they’re still a risk every OLED TV owner has to worry about. LG pay particular attention to the care of the panel in their latest OLED TV series (C2 range) – showcasing a tonne of ‘OLED Care’ options to reduce the chances of burn-in.

By contrast, QLED TVs are even newer – meaning the life expectancy is equally unknown. That said, thanks to the LED backlight technology that sits at the heart of every QLED TV, we’d be incredibly confident to say that QLED TVs will outlive OLEDs. LED backlights have an extensive track record when it comes to reliability, with very few issues surrounding the longevity of their design.

All things considered, there is only one winner here – and that’s QLED.

Price

Lastly, we have price. Price is hugely important when it comes to any hardware purchase – even more so when you’re potentially investing thousands of dollars in a product.

With that in mind, the price differences between OLED vs QLED have reduced exponentially over the years, with modern offerings (from both QLED and OLED) being much more reasonably priced. Having said that, 2022 looks set to be a bumper year for OLED-based TVs, with almost every manufacturers releasing their own variants.

As you can imagine, with the increase in manufacturing volume, price will naturally fall with it. That being said, the range of pricing that attaches itself to QLED TVs is much broader – meaning you can theoretically pick up a QLED TV for much cheaper. Having said that, picture quality, motion handling, features, and processing performance does vary dramatically as well – with many of the cheaper QLED variants falling way behind OLEDs when referencing performance.

Regardless, QLED still just about takes this point – but only just.

What about QD-OLED?

OK, so before we finish, we best touch upon the latest technology in the 2022’s TV hamper – QD-OLED.

As you may have worked out, QD-OLED is a combination of both QLED and OLED technologies. The newest form of display technology is set to hit shelves in 2022 and will feature the benefits of both Quantum Dot and OLED technology.

At the heart of these TVs, manufacturers will make use of OLED for its light source, while layering it with a Quantum Dot nanolayer for far greater peak luminance and stunningly vibrant colors – kind of like what LG are doing with its Evo OLED lineup. Right now, there are only rumors of a couple of company’s utilizing the new QD-OLED technology (Samsung and Sony’s A95K), with pricing still up for debate.

Having said that, if OLEDs initial release pricing is anything to go by, the new QD-OLED TVs will be hugely expensive.

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