An Overview of OLED Technology

If you are looking to buy a new television, you may feel very overwhelmed with the choices. There are so many options. You have to decide on the brand, the size, the resolution and the technology. One decision that will impact your picture quality (which, if we are honest, is the most important aspect of a television) is whether you will buy an LCD, LED or OLED TV.

OLED technology is the newest option. It is considered a step up from LED and offers the best possible picture quality for many reasons. If you are not clear about TV technology, then it can help to learn what OLED is and get some more background information. This will allow you to make an informed decision when you go to make your television purchase.

OLED: A Brief History

OLED 3

image source: amazon.com

The first OLED televisions hit the market in 2013, sold under the Samsung and LG brands. This was touted as the best picture quality since plasma TVs, specifically in the category of black tones and contrast. Eventually, other manufacturers entered the market making OLED TVs. However, soon some big names, such as Sony and Panasonic, pulled out of the market. These companies chose to focus more on Ultra HD LCD instead. After only two years, Samsung, too, decided to forego OLED for 4K LCD models. At that time, LG was the only brand left producing OLEDs.

In recent years, though, production has resurged. Panasonic and Sony both eventually came back with their own OLED TVs. LG has stayed in the game, and in addition, these TVs are available from Bang & Olufsen, Loewe, Toshiba and Philips. Sharp also is working on an OLED option. Samsung never did decide to come back to OLED, instead choosing to focus on a different type of technology, QLED.

What Is OLED?

LG OLED

image source: amazon.com

OLED stands for organic light-emitting diode. Light-emitting diode may be familiar because that is what LED stands for. LED technology has been around for quite some time. OLED, though, uses an organic, carbon-based film, which is what makes it much different than standard LED. This includes helping to make deeper black levels and improving overall function.

Understanding how OLED technology works can be a little confusing, so we want to break it down in easy-to-understand terms. The basic setup of the TV is that the carbon-based film goes between conductors. An electrical current runs through this piece and emits light through each pixel. There is no backlight required, which helps save energy and remove the backlight bleed issues that are common with LCDs, allowing deeper blacks. Each pixel can be lit all on its own. Color is improved because an OLED TV includes white pixels in addition to the traditional red, green and blue pixels.

Advantages

As mentioned, OLED TVs have many advantages over LED and LCD TVs. Here is a look at those advantages:

  • Lighter weight and thinner due to the elimination of a backlight
  • Deeper blacks and better contrast because of individually operating pixels and no backlight
  • Larger viewing angles due to the individually operating pixels

Disadvantages

OLED TVs are not perfect, though. They also have some disadvantages. These include the items in the following list:

  • Expensive due to high production costs
  • Only come in 55-inch or larger sizes
  • Color balance decreases over time due to the shorter life span of blue pixels

How Does OLED Compare to Other Options?

The options in TV include LCD, LED, OLED and the newest, QLED or quantum-dot light-emitting diode. The biggest advantage that OLED has over the other technologies is that it does not need a backlight. Backlighting can cause a number of issues with picture quality. So, if backlighting issues are a huge concern for you, then OLED is the way to go. However, when looking more generally at each technology and how it compares, you may decide that something else works better for your situation.

QLED is very new and not widely available. Samsung is the main company working with this technology. The company claims QLED is better than OLED because it offers all the good things OLED offers, along with even more brightness and true-to-life colors that OLED cannot deliver. While QLED TVs are around the same price as OLED, they are cheaper to produce, so if they do see popularity in the market and become more mainstream, the prices are likely to go down.

Moving beyond QLED to LED, which is more readily available and a popular choice, comparisons to OLED show that there is not as huge a difference as you might expect. It really helps to know what you want, so you spend your money wisely.

Black Level


When it comes to black level, OLED wins hands-down. Because of its technology, it delivers the deepest blacks by far. LED cannot compete here because it boils down to science. On the other hand, brightness is where OLEDs suffer slightly. LEDs can reach far brighter levels. Furthermore, using maximum brightness settings on an OLED TV reduces its life span and wears on the pixels.

Color


When it comes to color, OLED beats out LED, unless the LED is using quantum dots. In that case, they are pretty even at reproducing vivid colors that look natural. Response time is another issue to consider. This refers to how long it takes the TV to turn on and to change images. If it is slow, you get blurs, and you also have to wait for it to power up. OLED wins this category because it is able to respond much faster than LED just due to the technology. Smaller pixels mean faster responses and OLED has the smaller pixels.

Viewing Angle


Another area where OLED wins is when it comes to viewing angle. Viewing angle is a big issue that many people don't think about until after they have the TV at home and realize they can't see a good picture when they sit off to the side of the TV. While everyone would love to sit directly in front of the TV for the best viewing experience, that is not always possible. You want a TV that will look good as you move toward the side, so everyone in the room has a good experience. You don't get that as well with LEDs as you do with OLEDs. Maximum viewing angles for an OLED TV can be up to 84 degrees. The maximum viewing angle on LEDs pretty much top out at 54 degrees.

Life Span


Now, there are a few areas where LED really shines. The first is life span. You will get more use from an LED. They retain their quality longer. OLEDs lose brightness and color dull over time. Also, since OLEDs have not been on the market for too long, it is really hard to judge just how good the longevity is, while LEDs have a proven record. The other area is when it comes to screen burn. LEDs do not have screen burn issues, but OLEDs do. OLED TVs suffer screen burn, where an image burns into the screen and is visible even after you change the channel or turn the TV off, because the pixels can dim out.

Price


The final area where LED wins is price. OLED is a new technology. It isn't as widely made. It is only available in larger TV sizes, which already cost more. However, the biggest reason for the higher costs is they are harder to make. There is a lot of room for error in production, leading to waste, which means higher prices for the manufacturers and those costs get passed on to you.

Power Consumption


There is one final area where OLED wins over LED. This is power consumption. OLEDs use less power because they do not need a backlight. Backlighting takes a bit of energy, which means LEDs use more power.

So, you have a few different areas to consider here. It really depends on what matters the most to you as to what type of TV you should buy. If you are concerned mainly with energy consumption, get an OLED. If, on the other hand, you want the best possible price and expect longevity, then go with the LED. If you are someone who values picture quality above all else, OLED is the right option. You really just need to figure where you place the most importance, and then find which is better, LED or OLED.

Conclusion

It is perfectly okay to be confused by all the technology and buzzwords surrounding televisions. After all, there seems to be new technology introduced regularly. Not to mention that manufacturers like to throw around terms to make their TVs sound like the most technically advanced. However, once you learn more, such as what is OLED TV, you can begin to figure things out. Now that you know what OLED technology is and what that means in a television, you can at least understand whether or not you should consider this technology when buying a TV or if it is not something you want.

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