OLED vs. QLED TV: What’s the difference?

TV & Video

OLED’s lack of a backlight and the thinner construction of its panels lead to greatly increased efficiency when compared to LCD technology.

BestReviews is reader-supported and may earn an affiliate commission. Details.

The differences between OLED and QLED 

Wondering what technology your TV and electronics use to display images, and what the difference is? A lot of it comes down to LED. 

All modern displays, including those used by TVs, monitors, phones and smartwatches, utilize LED. Also known as light-emitting diodes, this tech is used instead of plasma or CRT to produce an image. TVs use a kind of LED technology, often either OLED or QLED, to achieve bright and saturated colors. Quantum dot filtration, or QLED, technology is an add-on to traditional LCDs. 

QLED TVs

For years, almost all TVs and computer monitors have used liquid crystal displays. These consist of a backlight shining behind a transparent layer containing a grid of liquid crystals. These crystals change shape when an electric charge is introduced, letting more or less light through. Between the backlight and LCD layer are several other layers that diffuse and color light.

One of the first layers the light goes through is QLED film that contains microscopic particles measured in the nanometers. These special particles react to the backlight and glow to create their intense colored light based on their size. This novel method leads to significantly greater color volume and saturation than what standard LCD TVs can achieve.

You can find quantum-dot filtration on an ever-increasing number of TVs ranging from about $500 to as much as $4,000 for a QLED screen that measures 85 inches, although most quantum dot TVs are in the range of $1,000-$2,000.

QLED pros

The main draw of quantum-dot filtration is increased color volume. One major upshot is the increasing amount of quality HDR content. Because dynamic range and especially the modern HDR standards rely heavily on a wide color gamut, a quantum-dot filter can go a long way in improving a set’s HDR performance.

While it’s a heavily specialized technology, the tradeoff is that it’s not very tough to implement, so it doesn’t add much to the cost of a TV, although you won’t find it on the most budget-oriented models. Since QLED technology is usually reserved for upper mid-range models and higher, you can be reasonably confident that anything with a quantum dot filter will be at least a very good TV.

QLED cons

Since they’re just fancy versions of normal LCD TVs, QLED models tend to suffer from the same issues. Depending on the panel type, a quantum dot LED TV may suffer from narrow viewing angles or a low contrast ratio. Models with edge lighting instead of full-array backlighting will still have a bit of inconsistency, and local dimming algorithm implementation is still more important than the actual number of local dimming zones.

Best QLED TVs

Samsung Neo QN90A

Samsung Neo QN90A

As Samsung’s flagship 4K TV, there’s little to dislike about this one aside from the price. Its local dimming and HDR performance are as good as you can get from an LCD panel. It uses Mini-LED technology for a brighter output and less light bleed than previous models and is equipped with advanced HDMI 2.1 and gaming features. A high-contrast VA-type panel provides deep blacks and less-than-perfect viewing angles, while the Samsung Neo QN85A uses an IPS-type panel with above-average viewing angles and slightly less impressive contrast levels

Sold by: Amazon

Samsung Q70A

Samsung Q70A

If you want to take advantage of quantum-dot filtration and get great HDR results, this is probably as low in Samsung’s lineup as you’ll want to go. It’s a great TV that performs at an extremely high level despite its mid-range price, and it should satisfy gamers, movie buffs and sitcom lovers alike.

Sold by: Amazon

Hisense U8G

Hisense U8G

A few years ago, no one would have considered recommending a high-end television from Hisense, but today that’s changed quite a bit. Although its price is firmly in the middle of the pack, it looks nearly as good as far more expensive models, with an ultra-wide color gamut, great reflection handling and a powerful local dimming algorithm. If you want to save money, last year’s Hisense H9G is nearly identical but lacks variable refresh and HDMI 2.1 technology.

Sold by: Amazon

TCL 6 Series

TCL 6 Series

Once known mostly for its powerful and user-friendly implementation of the Roku operating system, TCL has shifted part of its production to premium models like this year’s R635. It’s among the most reasonably priced models with advanced features like a Mini-LED backlight with local dimming. Alternatively, the TCL 5 Series is about as affordable as a QLED TV gets, and a great choice if you’re willing to compromise slightly on peak brightness and refresh rate.

Sold by: Amazon

OLED TVs

OLED TVs are different. There are LEDs at the heart of the design, but they’re made from very different materials than LCD backlights and the fundamental panel technology isn’t closely related to LCD design. OLED TVs, on the other hand, almost always use a single color (either white or blue) organic pixel and pass that light through color filters.

OLED TV pros

The way OLEDs work eliminates the light bleed and poor viewing angles that often come from the imperfect nature of an LCD screen. It also leads to vastly wider and more consistent color gamuts, including little to none of the dirty screen effect that plagues sports fans. OLED technology also allows for essentially perfect black levels, whereas most LCD TVs have at least a little bit of gray, even in the darkest scenes.

OLED TV cons

There’s one significant functional issue with OLED screens. The organic compounds (as in, compounds containing carbon, rather than Organic food) that make up the pixels don’t last forever, and with consistent use, they can slightly break down. This is called “burn-in,” but it doesn’t necessarily mean your TV will only last a couple of years. Varying the content you watch and the games you play will help fight burn-in, and there are several novel technologies developed just to mitigate the problem of burn-in. In the end, most users never experience issues with burn-in.

Realistically, the biggest obstacle to OLED TVs for most people is the price. You can find quality QLED TVs at mid-range prices and they’ll perform great with HDR content. On the other hand, OLED TVs come in a smaller range and are more expensive across the board. 

Best OLED TVs

LG C1

LG C1

Both the most recommended OLED model and one of the least expensive, there are few faults with this high-end TV. It sports all the advanced features needed for smooth and streamlined gaming or home theater experience and is more resistant to burn-in than its predecessors. If you want near-perfect image quality but want to save a little, the LG A1 is extremely similar and a touch less costly. 

Sold by: Amazon

Sony A80J

Sony A80J

Since the LG Display arm of LG Corporation produces all the OLED panels used in consumer TVs in North America, most OLED TVs will perform similarly. This one is notable because, in addition to its almost infinite contrast ratio and excellent dark room performance, it also sports a very high-end construction. It also offers exceptional color accuracy right out of the box, so you won’t have to fiddle with calibration to get great results.

Sold by: Amazon

Should you get an OLED or QLED TV?

If you want the absolute best picture quality and you can afford a relatively large investment, consider the LG or Sony OLED. But if you’re not looking to shell out big bucks for your next TV, your best bet is to start looking at the many excellent mid-range QLED options.

 

Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

 

Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.