QLED vs OLED: Is One Really Better Than the Other?

A single letter really changes what you see

Samsung QLED TV and LG OLED TV Comparison
Samsung and LG

When shopping for a TV, things can get confusing. Which type should you buy? Two types that are getting a lot of hype are QLED and OLED TVs. They look the same on the outside, so what makes them different?

What QLED and OLED TVs Have in Common

Before digging into the differences between QLED and OLED TVs, you need to know what they both have in common.

  • The display resolution (1080p, 4K, 8K) for a specific model of QLED or OLED TV is determined by the manufacturer. 
  • If HDR is included, specific HDR format compatibility is determined by the manufacturer.
  • If compatible with smart TV technology, the implemented platform on a specific model is determined by the manufacturer.
  • They can both be stand- or wall-mounted.
  • Both can be designed with a flat or curved screen as determined by the manufacturer. 
  • The same type of connections are provided (HDMI, Shared AV, USB), inputs and (analog and/or digital optical audio) outputs as well as Wi-Fi and/or Ethernet connectivity.
  • For gamers, both are capable of providing similar input lag time but may vary from model to model as implemented by the manufacturer.

Both QLED and OLED TVs are capable of supporting 3D technology but that option is no longer being offered by manufacturers for either type.

What a QLED TV is

At its core, a QLED TV is an LCD TV. However, QLED TVs employ two additional technologies that are intended to enhance picture quality. 

  1. An LED back or edge light provides the light source that passes through the LCD chips to produce an image (LED/LCD TV).
  2. A layer (sheet) composed of Quantum Dots (that is where the Q comes from) is placed between the backlight and LCD layer. 

QLED is a marketing label that Samsung, TCL, and some others use in branding their Quantum Dot TVs. Other labels may be "Color IQ", "QD", "QDT", "Quantum" (Vizio) or similar label on the set, or in the user guide.

Samsung Quantum Dots
samsung

What Quantum Dots Are

Quantum Dots, as used in TVs, are man-made nano-crystals that enhance brightness and color performance.

When Quantum Dots are hit with a light source (in the case of an LCD TV a Blue LED back or edge light), each dot emits a color of a specific bandwidth, which is determined by its size. Larger dots emit light that is skewed towards red, and progressively smaller dots emit light that is skewed more towards green.

Quantum Dot Structure and How They Are Made
Image Courtesy of QD Vision

The most common method of incorporating Quantum Dots into LCD TVs (Samsung, TCL, and Vizio are examples) is by placing the dots on a sheet of "Quantum Dot Enhancement Film" (QDEF) that is placed between a Blue LED backlight and the LCD panel.

A Blue LED backlight and the light emitted from the Quantum Dots passes through other layers, such as polarizers, color filters, and LCD chips and onto the screen for image display. The added Quantum Dot layer enables the QLED TV to display a more saturated and wider color gamut (range) than LCD or LED/LCD TVs without the added Quantum Dot layer.

QLED TV Structure
Nanosys

What You Need to Know When Shopping for a QLED TV

  • QLED TVs are offered in screen sizes ranging from 43 to 85-inches.
  • QLED TVs are very bright. Depending on brand and model, light output can reach as much as 2,000 nits.
  • QLED TVs provide more color volume than non-QLED TVs. This means you don't lose color saturation and accuracy as brightness increases.
  • QLED screen uniformity (the evenness of black and white across the screen) varies by the brand/model with the number of LED dimming zones. 
  • QLED TVs can't produce absolute black as LCD chips can't be turned off and on, only dimmed. This means that there is always some light leakage surrounding LCD pixels even in dark scenes. 
  • QLED TVs have the same viewing angle issues as LCD and LED/LCD TVs. This means that there is color fading and shift at wider viewing angles. 
  • QLED TVs are more expensive than LED/LCD TVs with the same screen size and feature set but are less expensive than OLED TVs with the same screen size and feature set. Prices range from $800 (43-inches) to $6,500 (82-inches) for 4K sets, and $5,000 (65-inches) to $15,000 (85-inches) for 8K sets. 

    The prices indicated are standard pricing; you might find lower prices due to promotion or bundling, as well as progressively downward pricing as new models and/or screen sizes are made available. 

    Who Makes QLED TVs

    Samsung is the primary maker of QLED (Quantum Dot) TVs, followed by Vizio for the U.S. market. TCL offers QLED TVs in the Asian and other select international markets. 

    Samsung has used the terms SUHD/Nanocrystal (2016), Quantum Dot (2017), and QLED (2018/19) for TVs that incorporate Quantum Dots. 

    Samsung Q7F Series Flat QLED Ultra HD TV Example
    Image courtesy of Amazon

    What an OLED TV Is

    Unlike QLED TVs, which are built on the foundation of traditional LCD TV technology, OLED TVs use a completely different approach to displaying images on a screen.

    OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode. The diodes employ organic compounds that are formed into pixels and placed on a panel layer to create images. However, unlike LCD chips, they produce their own light when electrically charged. This means they don't need an extra light source (backlight) to produce images. As a result, OLED technology allows for TV screens that are much thinner than traditional LCD, LED/LCD, or Plasma screens.

    OLED is also referred to as Organic Electro-Luminescence.

    OLED TV Structure
    LG Display

    What You Need to Know When Shopping for an OLED TV

    • OLED TVs are offered in screen sizes ranging from 55 to 88-inches.
    • OLED pixels can be turned on and off individually. This means that OLED TVs can produce absolute black and have almost perfect screen uniformity.
    • OLED TVs have minimal Color fading or shift at wider viewing angles.
    • OLED TVs are not a bright as QLED TVs (the maximum light output of OLEDs TV is approximately 800 nits). This means that they provide the best performance in a more dimly lit room.
    • OLED TVs are susceptible to screen burn-in effects in a similar manner as Plasma TVs were if static images are displayed for too long a time period.
    • OLED TVs can be made thinner than QLED TVs. 

    OLED TV screens can be made so thin, that they can be made flexible enough to roll-up. LG offers one such model.

    LG Rollable 4K OLED TV
    LG Electronics
    • OLED TVs are more expensive than QLED TVs with the same screen size and feature set and come in fewer screen sizes. Prices range from $1,600 (55-inches) to $7,000/$13,000 (77-inches) for 4K sets, and price-to-be-determined for an 88-inch 8K set. LG has not announced a price for its forthcoming 4K Roll-up OLED TV. 

    Just as with QLED TVs, the prices indicated for OLED TVs refer to standard pricing. You might find lower prices due to promotion or bundle pricing, as well as progressively downward pricing as new models and/or screen sizes, become available. 

    Who Makes OLED TVs

    LG is the primary maker of OLED TVs available in the U.S. market, followed by Sony. Panasonic, Philips, Loewe, and Bang & Olufsen sell OLED sets in Europe and other select markets, and Hisense, Skyworth, and Changhong sell mainly in the China market.  

    All OLED TV makers use screen panels made by LG Display Company.

    LG 8K OLED TV Example
    LG Electronics
    QLED vs OLED Takeaways
    Performance Marker QLED OLED
    Black Level   X
    Screen Uniformity   X
    Brightness X  
    Color Accuracy X X
    Response Time (How fast the TV's pixels respond to image content changes)   X
    Input Lag (How fast the TV responds to game controller commands) X X
    Viewing Angle   X
    Screen Burn-in Resistance X  
    Lifespan X  
    Screen Sizes Available X  
    Power Consumption   X
    Price  X  

    As you can see from the above comparison table, QLED and OLED TVs are just about evenly split when it comes to advantages and disadvantages.

    Taking cost differences out of the mix, if you are primarily a movie viewer or streaming fan, are picky about getting the deepest blacks, have a dimly-lit or light controllable room, and are somewhat energy conscious, then OLED may be the best option for you.

    If you watch a lot of news, TV programs, or a gamer, that content often includes a lot of static images such as news tickers, station logos, score and status boxes. Combine that with a brightly-lit room, and if you prefer screen size options below 55-inches, then a QLED TV might be the better choice for you.


    Be sure to take a personal look at both QLED and OLED TVs from different brands before making your final purchase decision.

    The Future of QLED and OLED

    Whether both QLED and OLED TVs will become as popular as traditional LED/LCD TVs going forward depends not only on lowering production costs, making screen sizes consumers are looking for, and constantly improving performance. It will also depend on whether other technologies will arrive on the scene that provide a better solution. 

    Samsung and QLED technology developers are working on a solution that combines Quantum Dots with OLED. This will allow even better color performance and brightness without the drawbacks of current QLED and OLED TVs. This technology is referred to as QD-OLED.

    Another solution, again spearheaded by Samsung is to replace LED/LCD, QLED, and OLED TVs and perhaps also negate the need to develop QD-OLED TVs with MicroLED TVs. MicroLED's main advantage for consumers is that it supports modular assembly. This means instead of shopping for a specific pre-sized TV, you can create your own custom screen size and screen resolution by assembling MircoLED display modules.