If you’re looking to buy a new TV, you’ve probably come across terms like LED, QLED, and OLED. These are all different types of displays, and they each affect the picture quality of movies and TV shows in different ways. Here’s everything you need to know about the difference between LED vs QLED, and OLED TVs, and which one has the best light, color, contrast, and more.
What Is an LCD TV?
An LCD TV gets its name from the liquid crystal display it uses to control light. All LCD TVs have a light source at the back of the TV (known as a backlight). In front of the backlight are several filters that control how much light passes through, and which color each pixel should be.
What Is an LED TV?
Technically, an LED (light-emitting diode) TV is just an LCD TV, except that it uses LED lights as the backlight instead of fluorescent tubes. Since the LED lights are much smaller, these TVs are thinner, more energy-efficient, and deliver much better contrast than older LCD TVs.
However, it is important to note that there are different types of LED backlighting that will also affect the TV’s picture quality. Edge-lit TVs have LEDs along one or more sides, while full-array TVs have a grid of LED lights. Both of these TVs can leave large parts of the image washed out.
The newest LED TVs use a technology called full-array local dimming, which divides the backlights into zones that can be controlled individually. This helps to keep the dark parts of an image dark and the light parts light. The more local dimming zones a TV has, the better the contrast will be.
What Is a Mini-LED TV?
A Mini-LED TV is just like any other LED TV, except that it uses much smaller LEDs to even out the light and improve the contrast even more. Because the backlights are so much smaller, mini-LED TVs can also be much thinner and lighter than regular LED TVs.
There are even micro-LED TVs now, where each of the LED backlights is as small as a pixel. However, these TVs are still very new and expensive at the moment.
What Is a QLED TV?
A QLED TV is a type of LED TV that uses a quantum-dot layer in between the backlight and the LCD panel. When light hits these microscopic quantum dots, it produces brighter colors that are more heavily saturated than traditional LED TVs.
What Is an OLED TV?
An OLED (organic light-emitting diode) TV is very different from older LED TVs because it doesn’t use a backlight. Instead, OLED TVs have millions of self-lighting pixels that can change color or turn off individually.
Contrast: LED vs QLED vs OLED
Unlike LED TVs that use a backlight, the self-lighting pixels of an OLED TV can be controlled individually. Since it can completely turn off the dark parts of a screen, an OLED TV will produce “pure” blacks, and light won’t “bleed” from the brightest parts of an image onto the darker parts.
A contrast ratio measures the difference between the darkest parts of an image and the lightest parts. Since OLED TVs can display perfect blacks, they have a nearly infinite contrast ratio, which means you will see more detail in the image. A high contrast ratio also makes colors appear more vivid and accurate, while a low contrast ratio will make an image look “washed out” and gray.
LED and QLED TVs both use a backlight, so the filters are not able to block 100% of the light, and both TVs will suffer from a low contrast ratio. However, mini-LED TVs can have a slightly better contrast ratio, as long as they have full-array local dimming.
If you want to know how to improve the contrast on your existing TV, check out our in-depth guide on the best picture settings for your TV.
Brightness: LED vs QLED vs OLED
Since LED TVs use backlights, they can get about twice as bright as OLED TVs. But, if you want the brightest TV, you should get a QLED TV because their quantum dot filter will also boost the light output of colors compared to regular LED TVs.
TV brightness is measured in “nits.” OLED TVs have a peak brightness of around 500-800 nits, while LED TVs can have a peak brightness of 1,000-2,000 nits. This also means that LED TVs are better at handling HDR (high-dynamic range) content, which improves the color and contrast of an image.
If you want to know more about what HDR is and what it does, check out our guide here.
LED TVs can get significantly brighter than OLED TVs, so they are a much better choice for rooms with a lot of light. However, if you plan to create a home theater in a dark room, an OLED TV is still the better choice.
Color: LED vs QLED vs OLED
Since they can get so much brighter, QLED TVs can display a much wider range of color brightness than OLED TVs. And, with quantum-dot technology, QLED TVs can display a wider range of colors than regular LED TVs.
In fact, Samsung claims that it released the first QLED TV with 100% color volume all the way back in 2017.
While OLED TVs can also display a wide range of colors, they can’t display bright colors, especially with HDR content.
Response Time: LED vs QLED vs OLED
TVs with a fast response time will display less motion blur when you’re watching action scenes and sports. Since OLED TVs can change each pixel on screen almost instantaneously, they will always have a much better response time than LED TVs.
Viewing Angle: QLED vs OLED
If you have lots of people watching your TV at the same time, it’s very important to take the TV’s viewing angle into account. Since the self-lit pixels in an OLED TV emit light in all directions, they deliver more accurate light and color than LED TVs when viewed at an angle.
One of the biggest downsides to an OLED TV is image retention. That means static images (like logos on news channels) can “burn” into the screen over time, leaving a permanent ghostly mark behind.
Image retention isn’t a very common problem unless you watch the same programs on repeat or you leave the TV on pause for a long period of time. However, if you are worried about image retention, and you want to avoid it altogether, you should get an LED TV instead.
Winner: QLED / LED
Cost: LED vs QLED vs OLED
Generally, OLED TVs cost the most, but they offer the best picture quality. QLED TVs are usually a little more expensive than LED TVs, but they probably offer the best value for your money.
Winner: LED / QLED
If you’re looking to get the best deal on a new TV, check out our guide on the best time to buy a TV.
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