QLED vs. OLED

A single letter really changes what you see

Shopping for a TV can get confusing. Two types you're likely to encounter are QLED (quantum dot LED) and OLED (organic LED or organic electro-luminescence).

QLED and OLED TVs have a lot in common. Generally, factors such as display resolutions (1080p, 4K, 8K), specific HDR format compatibility, smart TV technologies, and form factors (e.g., flat or curved screen) vary by manufacturer and model, regardless of the particular LED technology. Likewise, most modern TVs can be stand- or wall-mounted, and they offer similar connectivity and input types (e.g., HDMI, shared AV, USB, Wi-Fi, Ethernet). Both analog and/or digital optical audio outputs are typically available.

QLED is a marketing label that Samsung, TCL, and some others use in branding their quantum-dot TVs. Other labels include "Color IQ," "QD," "QDT," "Quantum" (Vizio), and similar.

Here, we take a look at how the two technologies differ in ways that can affect your TV viewing experience.

QLED vs OLED

Overall Findings

QLED
  • Best for gamers and those who watch mostly news and TV shows.

  • Performs well in bright light.

  • Available in smaller screens.

OLED
  • Best for film aficionados and those who appreciate deep, bold blacks.

  • Well-suited to dimly lit or light-controlled viewing environments.

  • Thinner and lighter, but available in bigger screen sizes.

Your best choice in a TV depends largely on your viewing habits. If you use your TV mostly for gaming and watching TV and news—content that doesn't demand the true blacks that more artful productions such as movies might demand—a QLED would work well for you. If you like to watch TV in low lighting, OLED will produce image quality and depth you'll appreciate.

Under the Hood: How They Work

QLED

  • An LED back or edge light provides the light source that passes through the LCD chips to produce an image (LED/LCD TV).

  • A layer (sheet) composed of quantum dots (that's where the Q comes from) is placed between the backlight and LCD layer. 

OLED
  • Diodes employ organic compounds that are formed into pixels and placed on a panel layer to create images.

  • Diodes 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 TV screens are much thinner than traditional LCD, LED/LCD, and plasma screens.

The underlying technology that brings you realistic images through your screen differs quite drastically for QLEDs and OLEDs.

QLED TVs

Quantum dots are man-made nanocrystals that enhance brightness and color performance. When a light source hits the dots, each one emits a color of a bandwidth that's determined by its size. Large dots emit reddish light, and progressively smaller dots skew toward green.

OLED TVs

OLED technology creates images from pixels generated by organic compounds, without needing extra backlight.

Picture Quality: Seeing Is Believing

QLED
  • Wider, more saturated color gamut (range) than other technologies.

  • Capable of high brightness without losing saturation.

  • Can't produce absolute black, because LCD chips can't be turned off and on, only dimmed. There's always some light leakage surrounding LCD pixels, even in dark scenes.

  • Color fading and shift at wide viewing angles. 

OLED
  • Better suited to dimly lit or controlled-light environments because of lower light output.

  • Pixels can be turned on and off individually, which allows OLED to produce absolute black and have almost perfect screen uniformity.

  • Minimal color fading and shift at wide viewing angles.

  • Susceptible to screen burn-in if static images are displayed for too long.

Both technologies produce sharp, realistic images, but they perform differently with regard to color and light. QLED delivers a broader range of color than OLED and retains color depth even when you brighten the display. However, it can't produce a true black. On the other hand, OLED produces deep, dark, true blacks with even color, even when viewed at an angle. Such fidelity comes at a cost, though: OLEDs are susceptible to burn-in if the same image is displayed for a long time.

Prices: How Much Will You Pay?

QLED
  • Less expensive.

  • 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. 

OLED
  • More expensive.

  • Range from $1,600 (55 inches) to $13,000 (77 inches) for 4K sets; prices are not yet available for 88-inch 8K sets or LG's forthcoming 4K roll-up OLED TVs

Generally, you'll pay more for an OLED TV, but prices can vary widely depending on the time of year, promotions, and bundling. As with most technology, you generally can expect prices to go lower as new models, screen sizes, and technologies hit the market.

Samsung is the primary maker of QLED TVs, followed by Vizio for the U.S. market. TCL offers QLED TVs in Asian and some other international markets. LG is the primary manufacturer of OLED TVs available in the U.S., followed by Sony. Panasonic, Philips, Loewe, and Bang & Olufsen sell OLED sets in Europe and other select markets, whereas Hisense, Skyworth, and Changhong sell mainly in the China market.  

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

Form Factors: The Aesthetics of the Set

QLED
  • Screen sizes range from 43 to 85 inches.

OLED
  • Screen sizes range from 55 to 88-inches.

  • Thinner than QLED TVs—so thin that they can roll up, like LG's forthcoming 65-inch model.

Both types of TVs are available in a variety of sizes. OLED TVs are thinner and lighter than their QLED counterparts, giving rise to interesting innovations like LG's forthcoming roll-up TV.

Final Verdict: It All Depends

QLED and OLED TVs are just about evenly split when it comes to advantages and disadvantages.

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  

Taking cost differences out of the mix, a QLED TV is better for you if you watch a lot of news and TV programs, or if you're a gamer who sees a lot of static images such as news tickers, station logos, scores, and status boxes. Likewise, a QLED is a good choice if you watch in a brightly lit room and prefer screen sizes of less than 55 inches.

On the other hand, OLED is probably the best choice for you if you watch mostly movies and streamed content, are picky about getting the deepest blacks, watch in a dimly lit or light-controllable room, and are somewhat energy-conscious.

Be sure to check out both QLED and OLED TVs from different manufacturers before deciding which to buy.

Addendum: Looking to the Future

Whether QLED and OLED TVs become as popular as traditional LED/LCD TVs depends on their makers' ability to lower production costs, make screen sizes consumers prefer, and constantly improve performance.

Emerging technologies can affect popularity, too. For instance, Samsung and other developers are working on a solution that combines quantum dots with OLED (dubbed QD-OLED) for even better color performance and brightness without the drawbacks of current QLED and OLED TVs. Another solution from Samsung is microLED TVs that will allow shoppers to create custom screen sizes and resolutions by assembling display modules.