OLED Vs. QLED: Which is Better for You
When shopping for a new TV or monitor, there's a barrage of technical terms and specs to wade through. Terms like resolution and refresh rate can sometimes make the process feel more like a math lesson than a shopping experience.
Yet, even before diving into those specific metrics, it's vital to grasp the foundational technology that underpins them.
OLED and QLED displays, while often found side by side on store shelves, utilize fundamentally different mechanisms for video display and backlighting. These differences not only influence the visual quality but also the size, weight, and overall experience of your display.
QLED vs. OLED, which is the better choice for you? Read on as we delve into the strengths and limitations of each technology to help you make an informed decision.
What is OLED?
OLED, or Organic Light-Emitting Diodes, is a display technology utilizing organic (carbon-based) materials that emit light when electrified. Unlike traditional LCD/LED displays that require a backlight, each pixel in an OLED display produces its own light, enabling true black levels, a high contrast ratio, thinner designs, and potential for flexibility. However, they are susceptible to burn-in when static images remain displayed for extended periods.
What is QLED?
QLED, which stands for Quantum Dot LED, is an LCD (liquid crystal display) that employs quantum dots with an LED backlight to produce brighter, more vibrant colors than traditional LCD/LED displays. Both QLEDs and traditional LEDs are based on LCD technology. The difference is that QLEDs and LEDs have newer backlight technologies than the LCD. With QLEDs having the latest tech.
Now that we've covered the basics, let's dive deeper into the distinct characteristics of each.
OLED vs. QLED
The technology and picture quality
A common misconception is that QLEDs are a type of OLED. While they share some similarities, they are fundamentally distinct technologies. OLED differs from conventional LED displays in that they utilize organic LEDs to create the displayed images, eliminating the need for the traditional light-emitting diode (LED) technology. Each pixel of an OLED display emits its own light, negating the need for a backlight. Whereas the QLED display utilizes quantum dots to enhance the brightness and color of traditional LED LCDs. When hit by light from the LED backlight, these quantum dots emit their own differently colored light, producing vibrant and dynamic images.
Aesthetics-wise, what does this all mean? To help you better understand, we will break down the viewing experience into four categories and explain how they are impacted by OLED or QLED technology:
1. Black Level and Contrast
- OLED: Since OLEDs are self-emissive (each pixel produces its own light), they can achieve true black levels by turning off individual pixels completely. This results in an infinite contrast ratio.
- QLED: QLEDs are based on LCD technology that uses a backlight. While QLEDs utilize quantum dots to enhance color and brightness, they can't turn off individual pixels like OLEDs. However, high-end QLEDs use local dimming to darken specific areas of the screen, improving contrast, but it doesn't match the "true black" of OLEDs.
- OLED: Brightness levels in OLEDs are generally lower than those of QLEDs. While they can produce brilliant HDR highlights, their overall screen brightness can be outpaced by QLED displays.
- QLED: Capable of achieving higher levels of brightness. This can be particularly beneficial in brightly lit rooms or for HDR content.
3. Color Accuracy
- OLED: Provides excellent color accuracy at various brightness levels.
- QLED: Thanks to the quantum dots, QLEDs can achieve outstanding color accuracy and can also cover a significant portion of the color spectrum, especially at high brightness levels where OLEDs might struggle.
4. Uniformity and Viewing Angles
- OLED: Offers excellent viewing angles due to its individual pixel light emission. The self-emitting pixels ensure consistent light, color, and contrast across the screen, allowing for a near 180-degree viewing angle.
- QLED: Traditionally, QLEDs suffered from limited viewing angles, meaning colors and brightness could shift when viewed off-axis. However, newer QLED models have started to address this issue with improved viewing angles.
Burn-in and lifespan
For those unfamiliar with the term burn-in, it refers to a permanent display defect caused by prolonged static content being displayed on a screen. Over time, if static images (like channel logos, news tickers, or user interface elements) stay on the screen for long periods without change, they can "burn in" and leave a ghostly residue or faint image even when the display is showing other content.
OLED screens, which rely on organic compounds to emit light, are particularly susceptible to burn-in. Over time, as these organic compounds degrade, if certain pixels consistently display the same static image, they can degrade faster than surrounding pixels, leading to uneven wear and, ultimately, burn-in. This can manifest as faint but permanent imprints of channel logos, user interface elements, or other static content.
Luckily, for the average user, burn-in issues with OLED screens shouldn't be a significant concern as long as static images aren't displayed for prolonged periods, and the screen is given resting intervals. For a better understanding of how burn-ins on OLED screens can happen, check out RTINGS.com’s 9000-hour test on OLED screens.
On the other hand, QLED screens are a type of LED/LCD display enhanced with a layer of quantum dots to boost color and brightness. Since QLEDs are based on traditional LCD technology and use a backlight, they don't have the same burn-in risks as OLEDs.
When considering lifespan, the organic compounds in OLEDs can degrade over time, potentially reducing their overall lifespan, whereas the inorganic nature of quantum dots in QLEDs offers a more consistent performance over time and may imply a longer overall lifespan.
In terms of design, OLEDs are thinner than QLEDs. Traditional LCD displays, including QLEDs, require a backlight to shine light through the display to create an image. QLEDs use quantum dots to enhance the color and brightness of this light, but they still rely on the backlight. This backlight system adds to the overall thickness of the display. Since OLED pixels emit their own light, the number of layers required in the display stack is reduced.
Additionally, the organic materials used in OLEDs are not only thinner but also more flexible than the materials in QLEDs. This has led to innovations like curved, foldable, or rollable OLED displays.
Generally, OLED displays, which use organic light-emitting materials, have been pricier due to production complexities. In contrast, QLED displays utilize quantum dots to boost LCD performance and come in a broader price range. While lower-end QLED models can be more affordable than OLEDs, high-end QLEDs can match or even exceed OLED prices. Prices for both technologies have been competitive, influenced by brand, features, and marketing dynamics.
OLED vs. QLED: Which is the better choice for you?
The decision between OLED and QLED largely depends on your preferences, viewing habits, and budget. Both have their advantages and potential drawbacks. However, before purchasing, you should consider some essential decision points:
- Budget: If you're price-sensitive, you might get a larger or better-featured QLED for the price of an OLED.
- Viewing Environment: For bright rooms, a QLED might be preferable due to its high brightness. For dark rooms where a cinematic experience is desired, OLED might be the choice.
- Usage: If you plan to use it as a computer monitor or for games/content with static images for prolonged periods, QLED might be safer due to the risk of burn-in with OLEDs.
- Aesthetics: If a super-thin design is a priority, OLEDs have the edge.
Ultimately, both technologies offer excellent viewing experiences, and you can't go wrong with either. It's about weighing what aspects are most important to you.
Patrick Yu is a Senior Project Manager at Level Interactive and has 8 years of experience writing business, legal, lifestyle, gaming, and technology articles. He is a significant contributor to Acer Corner and is currently based in Taipei, Taiwan.