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The technical difference that is most noticeable is the type of panel and its light source. While the backlight of a QLED works via LEDs, it is the pixels themselves that light up in OLED TVs. This also results in the almost infinite contrast that a QLED cannot achieve with LED backlighting.
The abbreviation OLED stands for organic light emitting diode and here the word organic is especially interesting. The term comes from organic chemistry, which deals with carbon compounds. Each individual pixel of the OLED panel consists of 4 sub pixels (white, red, green and blue), which can emit light in the corresponding color at different intensities. To display the perfect black, which OLED TVs are known for, the pixels simply turn off completely.
The basis of every QLED panel is a normal LCD = Liquid Crystal Display – a type of screen using liquid crystals for creating the image panel. In addition, a quantum dot layer is added, which splits the light of the backlight into the monochromatic wavelengths of red, green or blue. This splitting primarily achieves higher brightness and a better gamut.
The technology can be found under a different name with other manufacturers. Sony calls it Triluminous, LG calls it Nano Cell, Hisense ULED, and only Samsung and TCL explicitly call it QLED technology.
QD OLEDs were newly introduced in 2022 and could be a mixture of OLED and QLED technology from the name. Technically, they kind of are. The TVs have a blue, self-luminous OLED layer, on which there are quantum dots in red and green. A white sub pixel layer no longer exists. This allows the QD OLEDs to be much brighter and the color representation is also much broader.
QLED TVs can have both an In-Plane Switching, type of LCD Panel and a Vertical Alignment, type of LCD Panel panel. Both bring significant differences that should be considered before buying.
A VA panel always offers a narrow viewing angle, but also a better contrast and black value. However, it also depends on the installed backlight and the available local dimming.
An IPS panel always has a very wide viewing angle, but this has a negative effect on the contrast and black value. If a TV has an ADS panel, it is comparable to the values of an IPS panel.
While the organic pixels of an OLED TV light up themselves and can thus also be dimmed, a QLED TV needs help from a local dimming function to achieve a high contrast and deep black.
The backlight of a QLED TV is dimmed independently in different zones. Only this achieves a significantly higher contrast. In addition, the corresponding dimming algorithm has to work well so that a satisfactory result can be achieved here.
Sony can score here with its in-house technology XR Backlight Master Drive, whose algorithm optimizes the backlight. The brightness is increased significantly and the blooming effect is reduced.
While users of QLED TVs do not have to worry about burned-in content in the panel, the burn-in risk is still an issue with OLED TVs. However, it is only a theoretical concern for most users because manufacturers have meanwhile installed various features to keep the risk as low as possible.
Current OLED TVs achieve average values of 300-400 SI unit of luminance: 1 nit = 1 cd/m2 – The best way of measuring and comparing a TVs brightness for Standard Dynamic Range – image/video with a conventional gamma curve (opposite: HDR) – “normal” videos content and 700-900 nits for High Dynamic Range – image/video with more dynamic range (contrast range) content. For most users, this is completely sufficient and the trend is increasing here, since better features are built in to preserve the pixels, but increase the brightness. However, QLEDs get even brighter and are therefore also suitable for light-flooded living rooms.
A brighter display is also more suitable when it comes to reflections. Many QLEDs perform better here because the expensive models in particular have an additional layer that can handle light reflections better.
Both technologies are perfect for gaming and there are no major differences. Meanwhile, most current TVs are equipped with an HDMI 2.1 port, so the power of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X can also be used. However, you should pay attention to other details like Variable Refresh Rate – synchronizes the display’s refresh rate with the output refresh rate of the graphics card, a low response time and a low input lag.
For home cinema, we usually recommend an OLED TV, since the contrast is much higher than with QLED TVs. Thus, High Dynamic Range – image/video with more dynamic range (contrast range) content is simply terrific, since a contrast ratio of ∞:1 and a perfect black can be achieved here. Furthermore, you do not have to deal with picture errors like banding, clouding or Loss of details in dark areas (No Shadows/ No stars in the night sky), which have their origin in poor or non-existent local dimming.
The true-to-life representation of colors is particularly noteworthy here, and dark scenes in particular come into their own very well. Meanwhile, OLED TVs are also available in huge 83 or even 97 inches, which means you really have your own movie screen at home.
All of today’s OLED displays for TVs are manufactured by LG Display. However, the South Korean company also resells its displays, which is why Sony, Philips, Panasonic, Hisense and many other manufacturers source their panels from LG.
Manufacturers like Panasonic additionally refine their panels with things like a heat sink so that they stand out from the standard panel. LG’s Evo panel in the G1 is also just a refined panel that will probably be found more often in the future.