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

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.

LG OLED65C97LA, OLED TV, Schwarz / Silber
Price not available
Price incl. VAT., Excl. Shipping

How QLED works

LG OLED65C97LA, OLED TV, Schwarz / Silber
Price not available
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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. More affordable TVs like a Samsung RU7100 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 due to HDMI 2.1 functionality. Most 2019 Samsung TVs also support this feature.

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 B9), 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.

QLED TVs

QLED, Triluminos, NanoCell, etc

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.

LG OLED65C97LA, OLED TV, Schwarz / Silber
Price not available
Price incl. VAT., Excl. Shipping

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 Sony Z9G reach a peak brightness of almost 4000 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. More affordable usually use Edge Lit Backlight. 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 720 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.

So, OLED or QLED?

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 have mixed feelings about Burn-In or 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 best OLED TVs of 2019

LG C9

The LG C9 is one of the best TVs of the year 2019, with a fantastic OLED panel, HDMI 2.1 functionality and all its advantages. These include HDMI eARC, 4K @ 120 Hz as well as VRR and Auto Low Latency Mode. Part of the lineup is still the cheaper LG B9, which however has a weaker processor.

LG OLED65C9PUA
$ 2999 $ 2096
Price incl. VAT., Excl. Shipping

Philips 804

Philips 804

The Philips 804 uses the same panel as the LG C9 because Philips TP Vision uses LG Display for its panels. The 804 features the P5 Picture Engine chip for fantastic image processing. It also supports all dynamic HDR formats, namely HDR10+ and Dolby Vision. Coupled with perfect black and endless contrast, this TV is ready for any HDR adventure.

Sony A9G

The Sony A9G also uses a LG display OLED panel. Its strengths are Sony’s fantastic image processing, which most people seem to prefer, and first-class sound features. If you have a surround system at home, you’ll love this OLED TV. In combination with an AV receiver, it can be integrated into the surround setup as a center speaker, so that the sound comes directly from the picture. Loudspeakers are located behind the panel, so this effect is not simulated. The Sony A9G brings home the most authentic cinema experience.

Sony XBR65A9G
$ 3499 $ 3298
Price incl. VAT., Excl. Shipping

The best QLED TVs of 2019

Samsung Q90R

Samsung QN65Q90RAFXZA
$ 3497 $ 2597
Price incl. VAT., Excl. Shipping

The Samsung Q90R is one of the best QLED TVs of the year. Its brightness is incredibly high, so it can even be used in very bright rooms. The contrast is also extremely high at 11000:1. At the same time, its black level is very uniform and low, which looks great in dark rooms. However, it sometimes shows colors with more contrast than they really are – but many people like that. This is especially great for animated films. It’s also a great choice for gaming.

Sony X950G

The Sony X950G Bravia is a Triluminos TV that scores particularly with its flexibility. It comes in different sizes, can be used in bright and dark rooms and can handle both movies and game consoles very well. If you need a television for every purpose, you will find what you are looking for here.

Sony XBR65X950G
$ 1799 $ 1398
Price incl. VAT., Excl. Shipping

LG SM9970

The LG SM9900 is the only NanoCell TV from the current lineup that delivers 8K resolution. This makes it one of the very few televisions. It has an IPS panel with full array local dimming – and is therefore more suitable for bright rooms with many light sources. Due to the IPS panel, the black level is not quite as uniform in dark surroundings. Nevertheless, the panel is fantastically sharp with 8K resolution.

Samsung Q900R 2019

Also the Samsung Q950R is a 8K TV. However, it has a VA panel, which is why the viewing angle is limited, but black level and brightness as well as contrast achieve very good values. It largely corresponds to the Samsung Q90R, except that it delivers 8K resolution instead of “only” 4K.

Samsung QN75Q900RBFXZA
$ 6997 $ 4997
Price incl. VAT., Excl. Shipping

Looking for a new TV?

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: Deutsch


* Approximate price incl. VAT, plus shipping costs // Last updated on 20. February 2020 at 19:59. Please note that prices shown here may have changed in the meantime. All data without guarantee.
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