What’s the Difference Between OLED and QLED TVs?

If you go into a Best Buy or look on Amazon for a television, there is a high likelihood that you will come across the terms QLED and OLED. Manufacturers brag about these acronyms and talk them up, with each promising that theirs is the best. And they are correct, in some ways. But there are some key differences between these technologies, and the differences can have a huge impact on which screen is the best for you.

Differences Between OLED and QLED

The differences between the two are vast. Not only are they both better in certain aspects than the other, but the technology behind the two is completely different.

OLED

OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode. It uses organic film, sandwiched between two conductors that send light when current is passed through it. This is a completely new technology. While LED and QLED screens actually use an LCD layer to produce the image and LED lights to light it, the OLED screen itself emits the light. Because of this, you may see OLEDs referred to as self-emissive.

OLEDs are a lot thinner than typical LED or QLED screens. They also consume less energy than QLEDs, and they have quicker refresh rates. Many manufacturers support OLED, such as Philips, Sony, and Panasonic. 

LG produces most of the OLED screens, even those for other manufacturers. This lack of competition and lower volume of production has caused OLED screens to cost more than QLED screens. Despite this, some of the advantages the OLED screen has over QLEDs make it a good choice for some people. 

QLED

QLED stands for Quantum-dot Light Emitting Diode. This is not a new technology, as the OLED is, but rather an evolution of the standard LED that has been used for years. It is not self-emissive, and requires the LED backlights to produce their light. The main improvement over the standard LED comes from the introduction of a color filter between the LED lights and the LCD screen. Samsung, the creator of the technology, calls this a quantum-dot color filter. They originally referred to this technology as SUHD, but they changed the name in 2017.

QLEDs offer a lot more contrast and better color vibrance over standard LEDs. Most would agree that their image is much better than the standard LED screens, though more costly. They are not, however, as expensive as the OLED televisions. Typically, they are much brighter than the OLEDs, especially in a bright room. 

Several companies support the QLEDs technology, including Samsung, Hisense, TCL, OnePlus, Vu, and more. Despite being just an evolution of existing screen technology, they still have some advantages over OLEDs, which you’ll see below.

OLED Vs. QLED Features Compared

When it comes down to it, these are both just a type of television. One technology or the other may work better for you, but not for someone else. 

Both OLED and QLED are modern alternatives and improvements over older LED technology that has been used in televisions for many years. They both come with a premium cost compared to standard LED televisions, as well. How they go about their improvements are vastly different, though. 

The main commonalities between these two competing technologies are the things you would find common in all modern televisions, such as the audio and video input connectors, the general design of how the television looks, and the overall way the user interacts with the television. Their main differences, and improvements, come in the design of the screens themselves.

Color Quality And Contrast

One of the things that you may notice most when looking at a television is the color. If a screen does not properly represent the colors you expect to see, the image is never going to look quite right to you. In this respect, both OLED and QLED do well under many circumstances.

There are, however, areas where OLED outperforms its QLED counterpart. One area that is especially obvious is the blackness level of black spaces on the screen. OLED screens have a true black color for those areas, where QLED does not. This is because OLED screens have no backlight, with each pixel emitting its own light as needed. That allows the screen to completely shut off certain pixels, providing the deepest blacks and the closest thing to true black as possible.

With QLED black spaces in images can only be so dark. This is because the backlight behind the LCD will always shine through the group of pixels that are black. Instead of a true black you get a washed-out dark gray at best. It isn’t always completely noticeable, since the black areas are still much darker than the surrounding areas, so the black pixels are close to black by comparison. It is noticeable, though, and especially so when you have subtle gradients across an image.

Where QLEDs really shine– literally– is in color vibrancy. OLEDs can produce spectacular and vivid colors. The QLED screens can produce a wider range and more accurate color than OLEDs can. While OLEDs are getting close, the QLEDs still lead here. 

There is some debate about whether OLED or QLED provides better contrast. While the OLED can offer nearly infinite levels of color, in practice that seems to have limits. Part of that is that the OLED often has a cutoff point in near-black grays where everything beyond that level shows as black. The limited brightness levels of OLED also means slightly less vibrancy on colors that are very accurately represented in their bright and vivid form on a QLED. But the QLED can’t represent the darker colors as well. In the long run, other factors are going to place a bigger part in how you experience the screen than the contrast will.

Brightness

OLED televisions may produce beautiful images, but they suffer in bright environments. They don’t produce nearly as much light as the QLED screens do. The backlights on the QLED can be adjusted up to produce a brighter, stronger image in a well-lit room, but OLEDs can’t reach a bright enough level to counter the brightness of strong lighting in the room. Instead, they can look dim and washed out. 

QLEDs are simply much brighter, and offer a wider range of brightness. Their backlights work very well in bright areas, and they can also be dimmed to work well in dark spaces. This makes them a much better choice if you watch television or movies with the shades open during a sunny day, for example. It also makes them much better suited if your overhead lights are bright. 

OLED will be fine in a dimmer room. In fact, for most cases it would probably be fine in a lit room, though it may start to wash out a bit. For regular viewing of the news or a sitcom, you’ll likely be fine with that, as long as you are willing to accept the limitations.

In a dark room, the OLED often produces a superior image to the QLED. QLEDs still look good, but the color and brightness range for OLED beats it in a darker space. 

Viewing Angle

Viewing angle is one area where the QLED simply cannot compete with the OLED. If you often view the screen from a location that is very far off to the side, you’ll notice that QLED screens don’t look nearly as well as they do from the front. On the other hand, the OLED screen will still maintain a great picture, even if viewed at extreme angles.

Imagine a situation where you and half a dozen friends spread out across the living room, watching a movie or sporting event on the television. With a QLED, the people able to sit directly in front of the screen all get a great view, but the people along the sides may not see the details or the image may seem washed out and lackluster. At the same time, an OLED image still has great image quality for those sitting off to the side, so everyone gets to enjoy the show as well as those directly in front.

QLEDs are making gains in this, and the difference may not be enough for it to matter to you, but it is still an area where OLED beats the QLED handily.

Eye Comfort

When it comes down to it, bright blue light can cause eye strain. QLED screens produce significantly more light, and a large percentage of that is blue light. The OLED produces less blue light, and less light overall, which means they are usually more comfortable for your eyes. However, a washed out image can also make things on the screen harder to focus on, so the QLED may be a bit easier on the eyes in a particularly bright room. Still, you are better off with the OLED screen, if you look only at this factor.

Durability 

When looking at the durability of these screen technologies, what you really need to think about is the number of hours you can use the screen before it degrades. While it is true that both OLED and QLED screens will dim over time, they also both are relatively long lasting.

OLEDs seem to dim more, and quicker, than the QLED. This isn’t usually a concern, since most people will replace the screen long before the 100,000 hours that LG says their screens will last, but it is something to keep in mind. 

The technology behind the lighting aspect of the QLED has been around for a very long time, since it still uses the same LED lighting as older screens. They have been used for many years, and have proven their reliability. 

If you have to pick a winner in this category, this proven durability may be enough reason to tilt your decision toward QLED. While the OLED is theoretically very durable as well, it is a newer design, and hasn’t yet proven to have the lifespan in real-world use that LG claims their screens have. Time will tell, but both should work well for you.

Screen Burn-In

If you remember the old CRT screens, you probably know what this is. It is a section of the screen where an image literally burns into the screen, and will always appear lightly no matter what the screen is showing. 

Burn-in was common for computer monitors and arcade systems back when CRTs were the primary display used.  It could even happen in home television sets, where someone constantly viewed a single channel and that channel had a logo on the corner. Even after they changed channels, the logo would continue to show lightly on screen. This even remained after switching a screen off and on, and left a permanent mark where that logo appeared.

LED screens, and by extension QLED screens, very rarely suffer from burn-in. OLED screens can be susceptible to it, though. This won’t be a problem for a lot of people, since the image on the screen is always changing and is never showing one thing long enough to burn-in. The situation in which this can happen is when someone constantly watches one channel, such as ESPN, and that channel has a logo along the bottom. On many channels, the logo remains in place, even as the rest of the image constantly switches around. In most homes, this isn’t an issue, but it could be a problem if you place an OLED television in a waiting room and show only one news channel, or if you watch CNN all day, every day at home. 

The advantage goes to QLED for this, but it’s probably not an issue for most people.

Price

While the prices are getting closer, QLED televisions are much cheaper than OLED televisions. Though this varies based on manufacturer and features, there is typically a drastic difference. The larger the screen size, the larger the difference. In the smaller screen sizes it is possible to find OLED televisions that compete on price with some of the most expensive QLEDs, but it’s not common. For most sizes, the QLED costs around two-thirds, and sometimes less than half, of what a similar OLED television costs.

Which Is Better, OLED Or QLED?

Whether the OLED or QLED is the better screen for you is a question only you can answer. Consider the factors listed above and decide which are most important to you, then purchase based on that.

From a strictly image-quality standpoint, the OLED is better. This is especially obvious in a darkened room. However, the QLED is not far behind, and actually outperforms the OLED in brighter spaces.

If you are purchasing a larger television, the QLED is drastically cheaper. The two types of television are close enough in quality that the price alone will be the deciding factor for many people choosing larger televisions. If price is not an issue, and you plan to watch in a dim room most of the time, the OLED typically produces a superior result.

In the end, the quality of both OLEDs and QLEDs are outstanding, and you can’t go wrong with either one. If you can’t decide which to select after reading the differences above, let your budget and the overall features of specific televisions be your deciding factors, not whether it’s an OLED or QLED.

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