OLED vs QLED – Which is better?

If you’re looking for a proper 4K (or even 8K) TV with great HDR performance you’ll probably face the question: Which one is better, OLED or QLED?
What are the advantages / disadvantages of those technologies?
There is loads of opinionated content out there, so we will try to stick to the basic technological differences in this article.

The technological difference between OLED & QLED

The main difference between the two types of panels is the type of lighting or better, where the light is coming from. QLED, like normal LED (LCD) TVs relies on a backlight while each OLED pixel emits the light by itself.

How OLED works

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The abbreviation “OLED” stands for organic light emitting diode. While the LED doesn’t need much further explanation it’s interesting to look at the “organic” part. Of course this has nothing to do with organic foods. It derivates from the chemical meaning of “organic” which is used for describing materials containing carbon atoms. This is in contrast to the “crystal” in LCD and a better way of saying it’s plastic. So every pixel consists of 4 subpixels (white, red, green, blue) which can emit light in their color in different intensities or not at all.

How QLED works

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A QLED panel actually is a more fancy LCD panel. It just adds its name-giving (photo-emissive) Quantum Dot layer in front of the LED backlight. These quantum dots split up the backlight into monochromatic red, green and blue lights resulting in more brightness and a better color gamut. The same technology is named differently by different manufacturers. Sony calls it Triluminous, LG NanoCell and Samsung, TCL & Hisense (QLED Alliance) call it QLED.

The main differences between OLED & QLED

PanelOLEDQLED (VA)
Light sourcePixelBacklight
BlacksPerfectDepends on Local Dimming
ContrastInfiniteDepends on Local Dimming
Viewing angleVery wideNarrow
Pixel Response Time<1ms3-6ms
Brightness300-600 Nits500-900 Nits
Peak Brightnessup to 1000 Nitsup to 2000 Nits
UniformityExcellentDepends on backlight
Color VolumeGoodGreat
Burn InPossible with static contentNo
ThicknessExtremely thinDepends on backlight
Best forMost people, especially for dark roomsBright rooms

OLED TVs

OLED, the kings of HDR

The biggest advantage of an OLED panel is the (almost) perfect blacks it can produce and the resulting infinite contrast.
Due to the almost instantaneous response of the pixels motion looks very crisp.
Color accuracy is great, there is no clouding, no banding and no black crush.
HDR details look amazing on an OLED TV, especially bright details in very dark scenes.

Brightness issues?

It’s a common misconception that OLEDs can’t get very bright. Looking at 2018 OLED panels this isn’t really true though. Most panels reach about 300-400 Nits with SDR content and 700-900 Nits with HDR content. This might not be the same levels a QLED can reach but it is bright enough for most surroundings. Cheaper TVs like a Samsung NU7100 struggle to get up to 300 Nits and still perform ok.
In scenes with large bright areas all pixels get dimmed down (Automatic Brightness Limiter: ABL) but as more pixel emit light at the same time this isn’t a huge issue. It is a little downside that the ABL cannot be disabled.
With most OLED TVs having a high-end reflective coating they deal very well with bright lights in the room or windows by day. For the usual customer reflection handling is way more important than the brightness of a tv.

Burn-In risk

The problem with OLED TVs is the risk of static content burning in. For content to be critical it needs to have a certain minimum sitze, be very bright and static for a long period of time. This isn’t a deal for most consumers but if one is planning to display a station like CNN (with lots o static, bright content) 24/7 an OLED probably isn’t the right choice.
The manufacturers install certain softwares to further prevent Burn-In. The screen can be shifted a few pixels to the side for example or logos can be dimmed down automatically. When in stand-by the TVs can also run a pixel refreshment program.
The Burn-In is cumulative so it doesn’t matter if the same content is displayed continuously.
With the brightness not set to the maximum it takes thousands of hours for most types of static content to burn in so most users should be fine.

OLED for gaming

Already in the 2018 line up OLED TVs are a great choice as a display for console gaming. The close-to-perfect motion handling and the extraordinary picture quality make them a good fit. In 2019 LG even supports a variable refresh rate with the Xbox One S / X on the B9, C9 and E9. In 2018 this could only be found in Samsung TVs from the NU8000 upwards.

LG Display

All TV panels are manufactured by LG Display. LG Display offers its panels to a bigger group of companies though. OLED TVs are available form LG (like the LG OLED B8), Sony, Philips, Panasonic, Hisense, Grundig, Loewe, Bang & Olufsen and more. The different companies try to overcome one another by better picture processing, sound quality, supported formats or price.

Philips 55OLED803/12
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QLED TVs

QLED, Triluminous, Nano Cell, etc

Sony KD-55XF9005
€ 936
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If one is being correct, the Quantum Dot technology is not only found in QLED TVs. You can find the same principle in Sony TVs with a Triluminous Display or LG Nano Cell Displays. But with most other brands than Samsung or TCL also selling OLED TVs other companies do not necessarily put so much effort into photo emissive quantum dots.

The QLED Alliance

In 2017 Samsung, TCL and Hisense formed the QLED Alliance with Samsung allowing the other two to use the term QLED as well. All three companies weren’t selling OLEDs at the time. Hisense never used QLED in marketing their TVs and announced in 2018 to sell an OLED TV as well.

Brilliant colors

Probably the most notable feature of a QLED TV is its brilliant, saturated colors even in high brightness levels. While normal LCDs and OLEDs struggle to get a proper saturation in very bright colors for quantum dot panels this is not the case.

Maximum brightness

With the light source of a QLED TV being the backlight there is less limitations for its brightness. The flagship TVs like the Samsung Q9FN reach a peak brightness of almost 2000 Nits. This is above the required standard for normal HDR and can perform much better with very bright highlights of HDR10 and the dynamic formats HDR10+ or Dolby Vision.
Gleaming highlights are so bright that they can be visible quite clearly even in the brightest daylight.

Local Dimming

With a QLED TV relying on its backlight it is also important how the backlight can be dimmed. In cheaper TVs only an Edge Lit Backlight can be found. This can only dim vertical strips so there might be some artifacts depending on the content.
With Full Array Local Dimming (FALD) different zones ca be dimmed. The number of zones varies from 36 to a staggering 480 in high-end TVs. The higher the number the more details can be displayed precisely. Yet some problems still remain. If you are watching a cinema with an aspect ratio of 21:9 for example the upper and lower part of the actual movie appear a little darker than they should.

Summary

It is difficult to name a winner for every situation. Due to its superb performance in dark rooms and its overall great picture quality for most people an OLED is the better choice. It doesn’t really matter what you are planning to use the TV for. Video Games, Movies, Streaming and television all look amazing both in SDR and HDR.
If you are one of the few people who should be cautious about the Burn-In or you plan to use the TV in a very bright room, a top notch QLED might be a better choice. Note though that only FALD QLEDs come close to an OLEDs picture quality.
Another reason to pick QLED over OLED can be the wish for bright, saturated colors. This applies for animated movies or video games in particular.

The easiest way to find out which TV fits your personal needs the best is to use our tvfindr – the best way to find your perfect fit!
Just try it out!

This post is also available in: deDeutsch


* Approximate price incl. VAT, plus shipping costs // Last updated on 23. October 2019 at 6:09. Please note that prices shown here may have changed in the meantime. All data without guarantee.
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