Welcome to ‘Kagoo Explains’ - a series of short articles de-mystifying some of the confusing terminology used to describe tech. This week we’re looking at high-end televisions, and explaining the difference between QLED & OLED: two similar-sounding - but very different - technologies.
At a glance you would be forgiven for assuming that Quantum Light Emitting Diodes (QLED) and Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLED) were just two different names for the same technology. It seems reasonable - both are display technology, 3/4s of the name is the same, and brands love using an exciting-sounding word to make it seem like they don’t have the same features as every other manufacturer. However these are not equals - there are large differences between the technologies, and this will effect your buying decision. Let’s dive in and see exactly how they differ.
QLED is a proprietary technology from Samsung - they have been using it in various forms since 2015, but it only gained the QLED moniker since 2018. The ‘Q’ comes from Quantum Dots, which according to Samsung are “ultra-fine semiconductor materials of nanoscale size.” Effectively, they are similar to the LEDs that make up a standard television, but capable of extremely high ‘luminance’ - this means the white light they emit are brighter and more vibrant than normal LEDs, which leads to better colours on your TV.
Which this sounds futuristic, QLED still functions the same as standard televisions - a giant bank of these LEDs shines light through a screen of coloured filters and shutters, which allow specific colours to be projected from each pixel (the individual dots of colour you can see if you get really close to a TV screen) to build up the image. This is largely how televisions have worked for years, only with more powerful, specialist LEDs creating a superior picture.
OLED, on the other hand, are a very different tech indeed. We have already written a detailed article on How OLED Works, but at a basic level OLED TVs use special pixels that act as both a light source AND a colour at once. These individual pixels can either be turned off, or made to emit a colour. This means there is no need for a LED backlight, which leads to far superior contrast and black depth.
This is because combats a major issue of LED TVs - with a backlight one LED provides light for multiple pixels (this is known as a ‘zone’), meaning that even if a pixel in that cluster is set to black, it will still receive a bit of light from the LED lighting up the other pixels. Therefore the blacks are never truly black - instead they are slightly grey due to the light bleed. OLED pixels have no backlight to cause bleed, so each pixel is utterly black when turned off, no matter how many other pixels are turned on around it.
We can see that QLED is an evolution in traditional TV tech, while OLED is an entirely new technology. Now to the important question: how do the differences between these technologies affect the TV itself, and should this impact your buying decision? Both OLED and QLED have pros and cons. Let’s take a quick look:
no issue with image burning
thicker and heavier
light ‘bleed’ from LED backlight
extremely high contrast
better response rate
tech is immature and changing rapidly
images can get ‘burnt’ onto the screen
So: OLEDs offer a better experience overall - high contrast and deep blacks wrapped up in a very thin and light screen. However the tech isn’t perfect - it’s still relatively new, so is changing rapidly: an OLED screen bought now will rapidly become outdated, and you’re paying a real premium for being on the cutting edge.
On the other hand, QLEDs are a more stable tech, and provide beautiful colour depth and a brighter screen at a cheaper price. However it is hard to ignore that they are an extension of standard LED TVs, and are heavier and thicker than OLEDs.
Hopefully this has helped de-mystify the difference between these two display technologies - you can check out the Best OLED TVs and Best QLED TVs on our site!