It must have been very easy for the previous generations to purchase TVs. Cathode Ray Tube was the only display technology available during those times. All you had to do was choose your TV brand without worrying about the display types.
Today, things have changed with terms like OLED, QLED, Mini LED, and Micro LED thrown at us from various quarters. Therefore, it is easy to get MISLED by these terminologies. This article aims to clear all such misconceptions.
LED – The Common Factor
LED or Light Emitting Diode is the common backlighting feature on all these technologies. You find this technology in smartphone displays, computer monitors, televisions, and many other devices, as LED is the primary backlighting source for LCD screens.
Earlier, you had CFL bulbs lighting up LCD screens. However, LED is a better option because of its better luminosity. Besides, LEDs are smaller in size and hence, enables TV manufacturers to produce slimmer TVs.
LEDs work on the principles of electroluminescence, where they allow electricity to flow in a single direction through the semiconductor. As a result, it releases photons to produce light.
In detail, we shall now look at the different technologies, OLED, QLED, Micro LED, and Mini LED.
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OLED – Organic LED
Though the name appears similar, OLED TVs work differently than regular LED-LCD TVs. While the conventional LED TVs have LEDs functioning as a backlighting arrangement, OLED screens consist of tiny diodes that emit their own light. Hence, OLEDs are emissive displays, whereas traditional LCD-LED TVs are transmissive displays.
The advantage of OLED is that it can create much darker tones than conventional LED-LCD screen displays.
In addition, each OLED can conveniently turn off its pixels in a specific area if it wants the particular area to show black. Thus, there is no question of color bleeding from the brighter surrounding areas.
OLEDs consist of Passive Matrix OLED (PMOLED) and Active Matrix OLED (AMOLED). PMOLED comprises the display controlled sequentially using a matric addressing scheme. Hence, you can have only (m + n) control signals required to address an (m x n) display. On the other hand, AMOLED is different because it uses a TFT backplane that switches the individual pixels on and off. Therefore, individual manipulation of pixels is not possible in PMOLED. Therefore, AMOLED is more advantageous for higher resolution and larger-sized displays.
OLED films, especially the green and red OLEDs, have varying lifespans ranging between 46,000 and 230,000 hours. On the other hand, the blue OLED films have shorter lifespans up to 14,000 hours. It suggests that there can be color accuracy issues as the TV gets older. However, that should not be an issue with home viewing. Even if you watch TV for an average of five hours daily, your OLED TV should not have any color issues for at least seven and a half years. Overall, it can take up to 50 years to lose all its brightness.
Advantages of OLED
- As OLED represents a single pixel capable of producing its own light and color, there is no need for any backlighting.
- Since OLED produces adjustable light and color, these TVs produce a wide range of precisely-lit colors.
- Each OLED pixel can be dimmed individually. For example, a 4K OLED TV has eight million dimming zones. Thus, it can produce the deepest of blacks.
- As OLED TVs do not require separate backlighting, they consume less power than a conventional LED TV. However, at the same time, OLED panels consume more power when displaying bright images than LED TVs.
Disadvantages of OLED
- We have discussed the lifespan and color accuracy issues earlier.
- The screen brightness is a significant issue. While OLED TVs are excellent for displaying the darkest of scenes, they are not as good as the QLED TVs in the brightness aspect. For example, an HDR OLED TV can produce 540 nits of brightness, whereas a traditional LED TV can go up to 1000 nits, and a QLED TV up to 2000 nits peak brightness.
- OLED TVs deliver excellent performances in dark rooms, whereas they pale in performance in bright, sun-lit rooms, where QLED TVs are the best.
- Producing OLED panels is an expensive process. Therefore, OLED TVs are expensive and are not available in smaller sizes.
- Another significant issue with OLED TVs is the burn-in factor. For example, leaving a channel logo for a long time on the screen could form a ghost image.
Today, LG is the largest manufacturer of OLED panels. Even the Sony and Panasonic OLED TVs have LG supplying these display panels to them.
QLED – Quantum Dot LED
QLED is Samsung’s proprietary technology. The Q in QLED denotes Quantum Dot. In simple words, a quantum dot is a semiconductor nanocrystal smaller than 10 nanometers. If you are confused about how small a nanometer is, this comparison should clarify matters easily. For example, a human hair strand has a thickness of 80,000 to 100,000 nanometers. These semiconductor nanocrystals can emit blue, green, and red colors to form more than a billion color combinations.
QLED TVs have an additional panel of quantum dots between the LCD panel and the LED backlighting. This panel heightens the color accuracy and provides high-quality brightness and deeper blacks than the traditional LED TVs. Thus, they enhance HDR contrast levels considerably.
In a way, QLED is a smart technology compared to traditional backlighting. It tries stimulating OLED features but ensures not to overpower the pixels with too much light. The LCD matrix in QLED technology acts like shutters to prevent light bleeding. While it can produce excellent brightness levels, QLED does not reproduce the same colors as OLED panels.
Advantages of QLED
- QLED TVs produce brighter colors than OLED TVs.
- QLED produces better light than OLEDs. As a result, they are perfect to have in bright, sun-lit rooms.
- Compared to OLED TVs, QLED TVs are available in smaller sizes.
- Costs-wise, QLED TVs are less expensive than OLED TVs.
- Compared to OLEDs, there is no risk of burn-in in QLED TVs.
Disadvantages of QLED
- QLED is not the best technology for producing the deepest of blacks. OLEDs are better any day.
- QLEDs do not have their own light. Therefore, they need conventional LED backlighting.
- Though Samsung has introduced QLED to minimize screen bleeding, you can still witness light bleeding as a slight haze around bright objects.
- QLED TVs provide the best viewing angles from the center of the room. However, as you move towards the sides, the color and contrast suffer.
Though QLED is Samsung’s proprietary technology, other TV manufacturers offer QLED TVs.
While all LED TVs have LCD panels, the brightness performance depends on the number of LEDs fitted on the TV. Generally, LED-backlit TVs have between a few dozen and a few hundred LEDs, depending on the TV’s size, make, and model. Therefore, it ends up with limited dimming zones.
On the other hand, mini LEDs are shrunken LEDs with sizes less than 0.2mm. Therefore, the TV can accommodate thousands of mini LEDs resulting in hundreds of dimming zones. The higher the number of dimming zones, the better is the picture quality.
For example, look at a scene of a night sky filled with stars. The dimming zones from a conventional LED TV will provide enough light to illuminate the stars, but the residual light from the LEDs can make the sky around the stars appear grayish. However, a mini LED TV with more dimming zones would illuminate the stars alone and leave the rest of the sky stark black, similar to what an OLED TV does.
Advantages of Mini LED
- A mini LED TV can deliver better contrast and brightness than a standard LED TV. However, the performance is similar to that of an OLED TV.
- Mini LED provides greater control over local dimming. It can result in perfect blacks like OLED TVs.
- Mini LEDs save power, similar to how OLED panels do.
Disadvantages of Mini LED
- A Mini LED TV (65-inches) will require around 18 to 20K LEDs.
- Mini LED TVs are expensive compared to conventional LED models.
Samsung has introduced Micro LED technology in response to OLED by stating that it offers all the advantages of OLED while eliminating all its disadvantages. Similar to OLED, each micro-LED is a self-illuminating pixel.
Compared to mini LEDs, the micro LEDs are smaller, with their size measured in microns. While they produce better luminance than other technologies, they are expensive to manufacture. Micro LEDs can display better screen resolution than OLEDs, and hence, they are ideal for premium displays.
Similar to OLED TVs, micro LEDs can produce the deepest of blacks. However, unlike OLEDs, these sets can be 30 times brighter without burn-in or lifespan issues.
Advantages of Micro LED
- Micro LEDs offer better luminous efficiency and higher brightness levels. Moreover, unlike OLED, these micro LEDs are manufactured from inorganic materials. Hence, there is no issue of lifespan.
- Its self-illuminating in nature and does not require any special backlighting.
- As micro LEDs are smaller in size and lighter in weight, the TVs are thinner. Besides, Micro LED TVs consume less power.
- As against QLEDs, the micro LEDs provide wider viewing angles to deliver greater comfort to viewers.
Disadvantages of Micro LED
- Compared to other technologies discussed here, micro LEDs are the most expensive.
- It can take time for such advanced technology to mature. Hence, it can be challenging for micro LEDs to become commercial products.
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Verdict – Which is the best technology to have in a TV?
When it comes to ‘display’ performance, OLED and micro LEDs are the best because they are self-illuminating pixels. Shutting them off can produce absolute blacks that are impossible with backlit pixel technologies like QLED and mini LED. Hence, they offer the best contrast.
However, when it comes to brightness levels, OLED suffers in comparison to QLED and mini LED. Even Micro LED TVs display better brightness levels than OLED TVs.
QLED TVs are the best models to watch in brightly lit rooms, whereas OLEDs are excellent in dark environments. Micro LEDs can equal the performance of OLED, but these TVs are not easily available. Until then, OLED TVs are ideal.
OLED TVs are generally not available in smaller sizes. Besides, they are expensive. Therefore, the QLED and mini LED TVs should suit your budget better than OLED and micro LEDs.
Srinivasa is Vsbytes’s Editor-In-Chief. He Is A Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert And Has Been Interested In Computer Hardware, Software, And Gaming Right Since The Time He Was A Child.