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OLED vs LED TV Picture Quality

In almost all aspects of picture quality, an OLED TV is better compared to an LED TV (or more accurately named, LCD TV with an LED backlight). But OLED TVs are significantly pricier than LED TVs, and only available in limited sizes, so they are not for everybody.

OLED TV

What it is: TV with self-emitting pixels

Who should buy it: Everyone that can afford it, except if a poor dark gray uniformity or a varying luminosity bothers you.

See the best OLED TVs we reviewed

LED TV

What it is: TV with an LCD panel with white LEDs behind

Who should buy it: Those looking for a wider range of sizes, or cheaper options.

See the best LED TVs we reviewed

  OLED LED
Black Level Perfect Good
Motion Blur Perfect Good
Viewing Angle Great Poor
Color Uniformity Good Poor
Luminosity Good Great
Image Retention Good Great
Screen Door Effect Good Great
Price and Availability Poor Great

To help you judge, here is an OLED TV, the LG EC9300, matched up against the best LED TV that we reviewed so far, the Samsung JS9000.

Black Level

Black: 0 cd/m2
Contrast: Inf:1
Black: 0.027 cd/m2
Contrast: 3695:1

The difference isn’t as striking in pictures as it is in person, but you can still see that the blacks are noticeably deeper on the OLED than they are on the LED. In fact, they’re perfect.

All OLED TVs share the same great advantage: with OLED, the pixels light themselves, so when they are off, they’re really off, and emit no light. That means OLED’s blacks are perfectly black. LED TVs, on the other hand, rely on a backlighting system to illuminate the panel. Even the deepest blacks on an LED TV are illuminated at least a little, and the lighting is never perfectly uniform. That means generally lighter blacks, with at least some deviation to their uniformity.

Note: Some LED TVs have an optional feature called ‘local dimming,’ which selectively darkens zones of the screen that are displaying black. This can indeed allow LED sets to display perfect blacks. But, because each zone is composed of many pixels, the accuracy isn’t perfect, and so brighter objects will have an amount of light blooming off of them. Ultimately, an LED TV with local dimming still can’t match OLED’s natural ability.

Winner: OLED

Learn more about blacks and contrast ratio

Motion Blur

On most TVs, a fast-moving object will look a bit blurry. This is caused by a couple of things.

First, the pixels on most TVs have difficulty keeping up with objects that are moving quickly onscreen. They’re a bit slow to adjust, so it can take a few milliseconds for a pixel to alter its color to reflect the new position of the object, creating a trail on that object. As you can see from the image of the EC9300, OLED TVs don’t have this problem, but if you look at the photo of the JS9000 LED TV, you can see a faint trail following the logo.

The second kind is related to how TVs display images. Many OLED TVs employ what is known as ‘sample and hold’ when displaying an image. That means that each frame of the video is displayed for a certain amount of time before transitioning to the next. While each image is static, our eyes are not, and so even though the video itself does not have blur, the movement of our eyes makes us perceive that it does. This is the blurring you can see on the letters of the EC9300’s image. Some people prefer this kind of look, while others would rather the slightly duplicated look offered by the JS9000.

Essentially, the slow reaction of the pixels is responsible for a trail on moving objects, and the sample and hold is responsible for the moving object itself looking blurrier. While people are split on whether 'sample and hold' looks good, a trail on moving objects is never ideal. For that reason, OLED is better for most.

Winner: OLED

Learn more about motion blur

Viewing Angle

Viewing angle: 82°
Viewing angle: 19°

With LED TVs, you’ll notice the picture begins to look washed-out when you view the TV from an angle. At just 19° (which is not very wide, even for an LED TV), the maximum contrast of the JS9000 dropped to 50% of the maximum. The EC9300 OLED made it to 82°, which is more than four times wider, before this happened.

The only caveat to the OLED’s wider viewing angle is that the image takes on a yellow tint when viewed from far off to the side. Not ideal, but given just how much better the angle is than with LED, not a terrible trade.

Winner: OLED

Learn more about viewing angle

Color Uniformity

Like LED TVs, OLED sets do not have perfect color uniformity. But there are still a few significant differences between OLED TVs and LED sets when it comes to color uniformity.

Above, you can see that for medium gray, the OLED set outperforms even our best LED TV. You can see a few bands of discoloration, but not many darker patches. On the LED TV, there are several patches of darker color.

Color uniformity is mostly important for sports (playing surfaces are typically big, mostly continuous colors), and since most playing surfaces have color brightness that is pretty close to medium gray, OLEDs are very good for watching sports.

But OLED has issues with darker colors.

Here is what the EC9300 looks like while displaying a dark gray, compared with the JS9000.

Look closely and you can see that on the EC9300, the same banding from above is now much brighter relative to the rest of the screen, and is therefore more noticeable. This isn't an issue with the JS9000.

Luckily, these colors aren’t ones we typically see across a wide expanse of the screen, so their uniformity is not as important. Still, it’s evidence that OLED TVs aren’t perfect across the board.

What’s more, the color uniformity changes over time. Our own set improved quite a lot between our first turning it on and our testing. Though it is a step above LED when it comes to typical use, expect an OLED TV’s uniformity to continually change over the course of a few days.

Winner: OLED

Learn more about gray uniformity

Luminosity

Window size OLED LED LED w/HDR
2% 342 cd/m2 339 cd/m2 443 cd/m2
5% 337 cd/m2 339 cd/m2 442 cd/m2
10% 335 cd/m2 335 cd/m2 437 cd/m2
18% 335 cd/m2 336 cd/m2 390 cd/m2
25% 334 cd/m2 333 cd/m2 318 cd/m2
50% 191 cd/m2 336 cd/m2 321 cd/m2
100% 94 cd/m2 329 cd/m2 326 cd/m2

There are big differences between the luminosity capabilities of OLED and LED TVs.

If you try to display a mostly-bright (white, or brightly-colored) image on an OLED TV, you’ll likely notice the overall brightness of the TV dips quite a bit. This is a feature called the ‘automatic brightness limiter’ at work. In the above table, you can see that while our OLED TV was able to maintain good maximum luminosity while displaying a bright image on up to 25% of the screen, the luminosity drops quite a bit with larger proportions.

With LED TVs in normal circumstances, this isn’t an issue. Whether the bright object is very small or takes up the full screen, the maximum luminosity is consistent.

The exception to this is with HDR-capable LED TVs like the Samsung JS9000. As you can see in the table, with HDR, small, bright objects get highlighted, and appear much brighter than the rest of the image. With HDR enabled, the larger a bright object is, the dimmer it will be. Unlike with OLED, the overall luminosity is still very high.

Winner: LED

Learn more about peak brightness

Image Retention

Checkerboard Test Pattern

OLED TVs, like plasma sets before them, can retain static images for a few minutes, exhibiting a faint impression of those images over whatever else is currently playing. On the left, you can see a photo we took of a gray screen being displayed on the EC9300 after it had been displaying our checkerboard test pattern (right). Look close and you'll be able to see a faint checkerboard pattern.  It takes about 10 minutes of viewing normal video for this sort of retained image to go away.

It’s nothing to worry too much about, though if image retention really bothers you, an LED TV will be a better buy. Only rarely do LED TVs have this kind of problem.

Winner: LED

Screen Door Effect

With OLED, the size of the pixels is very small. This means there is more space between each pixel, which can make the image look a bit like you’re staring at it through a screen door. To get an idea of how different the pixels are from a typical LED TV, compare the EC9300 OLED’s pixels (above, left) with those of the JS9000 LED (above, right). Note that the screen door effect depends a lot on your distance from the TV. You’ll notice it a lot more when you sit close to the TV than you will when you are farther away.

While this is something you can experience with some LED TVs, most won’t encounter it in their day-to-day viewing.

Winner: LED

Price and availability

For most, the biggest obstacle to getting an OLED TV is the price and availability of OLED sets. The cheapest OLED TV is far more expensive than the cheapest LED TV, and is typically within the same price range as high-end LED models.

There are also very few OLED models available, and currently only LG makes them, so the selection is pretty limited. With LED, the large number of manufacturers and the variety of their offerings means every price range has ample selection.

Winner: LED

Conclusion

For general picture quality, OLED TVs are a fair bit better than LED sets. If you have the money and want a TV with perfect blacks, next-to-no motion blur, a wide viewing angle, and above-average gray uniformity, OLED can't be beat. Just keep in mind that there are still a few issues – like price, image retention, minor screen door effect, and noticeable luminosity variance - that could make OLED technology a poor fit for some people's budgets or viewing habits.

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Questions & Answers

18 ANSWERED QUESTIONS
50
Will OLED sets last as long as LEDs, or should I consider purchasing an extended warranty?
It is true that OLED TVs degrade over time (not LED) but if you think to keep the TV for about 5 years there is nothing to worry about and an extended warranty shouldn't be needed. That said, we never know if something's going to fail prematurely so if you like the peace of mind, go for it.
20
I'm looking to get the best 55' TV out there, price isn't an issue. I've seemed to boil it down to the Samsung 9500 or the LG OLED. Which one should I get?
If you want the best overall picture, get the OLED. If you want slightly worse picture quality, but a brighter backlight and lower input lag, get the 9500.
7
Dear sir
I am an avid follower of your articles, and being the expert you are in TVs, I would like you to help me in choosing between one of these TVs, which I was able to locate at discounted prices.
Samsung F8500 64" flat panel Plasma 1080p TV
LG EC9300 55" curved OLED 1080p TV
I have been reading a lot about these two TVs and researching over the internet but I can't make up my mind because i'm not able to see them side by side and compare. Kindly note that the OLED is only $200 more expensive, but I will get a Blu-ray player with it, and the plasma is larger, at 64".
Based on your experience with both panels, and if you had the cash, which one would you pick, knowing that I could not locate the Panasonic plasma series or the Pioneer Kuro?
I greatly appreciate your assistance and advice. I want to use the TV in a living room which has a window, but with curtains in front, and thus I can control the outdoor lighting conditions. In addition, I would be seated approximately 270 cm to 300 cm (i.e. About 9 feet from the TV) from the TV.
Waiting patiently for your reply,
Regards.
Get the Samsung. Both TVs have really great overall picture quality, so the extra 10" you get with the F8500 is more worth it at that distance.
4
I've been obsessed with OLED 4K. Would love a 77", but there's no way I can spend $25 k on a TV. If I get the new flat LG EF9500 65" for an 11' viewing distance, will the picture quality be noticeable?
Things like the great blacks, minimal blur, and wide viewing angle will all be noticeable. You'll have a tough time making out the extra detail when watching genuine 4k video, though. Sitting closer for 4k video would be ideal.
Update: The review of the EF9500 is up.
4
This is fantastic info. So I am shopping for a TV. Been out of the game for about six years now and it's time for a better TV. I found an "Out of the Box" deal at Best Buy on the Samsung UN65JU7500F for $2,199.00. I also saw the LG EC9700 and am torn at either taking the deal on the Samsung or spending on the LG. I mostly play games and or watch Netflix/Movies. We don't have cable/satellite, so I am not sure what to do. Thank you for the info!
Get the JU7500. We don't know what the EC9700 is like for input lag, so we can't say for sure how good of a choice it is for gaming. The JU7500 is definitely a great choice, as it doesn't have much blur, and its lag is very low. In particular, since you're getting a deal on it, it's the better option.
4
Which should I get? The LG OLED 1080p set or the Vizio 4K M60-C3? I am torn. The Vizio is a better price on Black Friday (800), the OLED is more (1500-1800), but I can't decide which is better, the 4KLtech or the picture of the OLED. I have seen both and both are quite good. My initial reaction to the OLED was "wow" but the vizio 4K was very good.
It depends on your viewing distance. If you are farther than 8-10 feet, 4k doesn't matter much on a 55"/60" TV, so get the OLED instead.
2
Great information. Thanks! 2 questions, looking at purchasing 55 in 4k. Viewing is about 30 degree angle. Sony 850c or Samsung 7100? Or your suggestion of something else. Price does matter. Also does the 3D function in these tvs have a use now or in the future?
They have similar picture quality so if you want to save money and don't want the absolute best, get the x850c. The 3D feature can be enjoyed now but glasses are needed and not included with any of those TVs.
2
I'm looking at the curved LG 55" 1080p OLED and the flat 60" Samsung JS8500. I'm torn between the size and idea of having a 4k TV, and the smaller, but curved, OLED option. What should I do? I'll be about 8-10 ft away.
There is no universal answer here. It depends on your preference. At your distance, 4k does provide a benefit, but it won't be significant and only on native 4k materials. The extra 5" is nice though. If you will be watching in a dark room, you will probably prefer the perfect blacks of the OLED.
2
You mention the screen door effect as a detractor for getting an OLED. For a 42" OLED tv, how close would I have to be to see this? Typically I watch TV from bed, so I'm about 12 feet away. I can't imagine I would notice the screen door effect from that distace? What about 50", what distance for that? (does it very for 1080p vs 4k OLED?)
Secondly, you mention the brightness drops if an image takes up more than 50% of the screen. For watching mostly TV shows and movies in a dim room (where it's not as bright as say live sports in the day), would this drop be much less noticeable? Also, in 'Movie' mode, the backlight is raised for LEDs. How will they adjust in 'Movie' mode to OLEDs to account for the dimming?
No, you'll never notice it at that distance. It's always a pretty subtle thing, and will only be even somewhat noticeable at optimal distances or closer. For a 42" 1080p TV, you might notice it from between 5 and 8 feet (or closer). For a 50" 1080p TV, it's more like 6.5 to 9.5 feet, or closer. The optimal distances are different for 4k TVs, and you can see a chart of those here.
It's unlikely you would notice the brightness drop most of the time. It's something that is more likely to present itself with things like hockey, or very brightly-colored cartoons.
As for your last question, both LED and OLED TVs can be adjusted to be more or less luminous in 'Movie' mode (and in any other picture mode). There's nothing that can be done about OLED's brightness limiting when it is engaged, but when the limiter is not engaged, there's nothing stopping the TV from displaying a bright image.
2
Are there any avid football fans who watch all Sunday and can confirm that there is no significant retention from the banner at the bottom or NFL logo or box where they keep the scores?
We did not watch a complete match unfortunately, but during our testing, which can last a couple of hours some time, we did have some image retention, but nothing that could not be fix by playing normal TV content for a short while or by running the specific screen uniformity test/fix from the TV menu.
1
Great site you have here. Just wondering if you have an any insight into when Samsung will start manufacturing OLEDs again?
Thanks.
It has been reported that Samsung is looking to re-enter the OLED game, but by changing to the panel technology that LG uses. Unfortunately, there's no word yet on when this will happen.
1
Why was "Input Lag" not included in the OLED test? Im looking for a good gaming TV (considering Samsung UN55JU7500) and the LG OLED is one with the least motion blur. Do you know the exact results for the input lag and explanation as to why it achieved those results?
The Input Lag result is under the Video Games section. The LG EC9300 have 40.7 ms of input lag when you label the HDMI input to PC. This is two excellent gaming TVs. The LG OLED would be better for overall picture quality but since the JU7500 manage to keep the input lag to a very low 21.1 ms it is still considered the best gaming TV.
1
What is the difference in energy consumption between the oled and a regular led?
You can find the energy consumption in each TV reviews under the 'Misc' - 'Other' section. For same size and resolution, there is no significant difference in energy consumption between an OLED TV and a LED TV.
1
I have two questions, so I will do them separately. Here's the first and easiest question, OLED: flat or curved?! Same price, but the salesman told me flat is better to him, but it is all preference. Any real differences? Thanks, and happy holidays!
We talk about the difference between flat and curved here. There's a very slight benefit to a curved TV, but it's so minimal that it's pretty much irrelevant. Pick whichever you like the look of better.
1
I would like to know if hooking up the Samsung 8500 4k player to the LG E6 TV and playing a 4k movie would give me the best possible picture that I can get until they come out with a Dolby Vision player and a Dolby Vision movie disc, thank you.
Yes.
0
Do you know if the LG OLED tv has picture in picture capability? Or at least the ability to split the screen.
It doesn't have either.
0
If they come out with a 4k player that plays Dolby Vision discs, would it look better than streaming Dolby Vision movies from Vudu and Netflix? Or would it have the same overall picture quality.
Yes. All streaming services have limited bandwidth, with Netflix they recommend a connection of 25 Mbps for HDR titles. Bluray discs can have a much higher bitrate (more information) and so can provide a better quality image.
0
When adjusting picture settings on my OLED TV I'm having trouble trying to show fine details on dark areas of the picture but then when I do I end up having slightly gray blacks, so I would like to know is it more important to get the deepest blacks where it would hinder some detail within black and dark objects or to be able to see the fine details of black within black for example being able to see the creases on someone wearing a pair of black pants or seeing more detail on a tree shown from a long distant.
This depends a lot on your personal preference. The gamma setting will have the largest impact on your dark scene performance. Reduce the gamma to bring out more details, or decrease it to have deeper dark scenes. Ideally you need to find a balance where the blacks aren't crushed but the image still looks good. We calibrate to a gamma of 2.2.
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