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QLED vs OLED vs LED TV: Which one is the best?

When shopping for TVs, OLED TVs look very attractive because of their impressive performance. In 2017 however, Samsung launched their new QLED TVs that supposedly offer an alternative to both expensive OLED TVs and cheaper LCD TVs. How do these different technologies compare, and is there a clear winner?

QLED TV

What is QLED?

QLED is a marketing name used by Samsung to describe their newer LED TVs. They use traditional LCD panels lit using LEDs. Between the LCD layer and the backlight, a filter with energy reactive nano-particles filters the light to produce more pure and saturated colors.

Who should buy it: Those looking for the best colors available.

Check out our QLED TV review

OLED TV

What is OLED? 

OLED TVs are TVs that can adjust the luminosity of each of their pixels individually. This allows them to turn them completely off and show pure blacks and infinite contrast. This gives them exceptional picture quality.

Who should buy it: Everyone that can afford it, except if slight image retention and changes in brightness are a deal breaker.

See the best OLED TVs we reviewed

LED TV

What is LED? 

LED TVs are traditional LCD panels backlit using LEDs. Recent high-end LED TVs use a very similar light filtering plane as QLED TVs which helps them produce a wide color gamut.

Who should buy it: Most people looking for TVs today. LED TVs offer the best value and can be found in a very wide range of sizes.

See the best LED TVs we reviewed

  QLED OLED LED
Black Level Good Perfect Good
Motion Blur Great Perfect Good
Viewing Angle Poor Great Poor
Color volume Great Good Good
Gray Uniformity Average Good Average
Luminosity Good Good Great
Image Retention Great Poor Great
Price and Availability Poor Average Great

For comparison's sake, we matched up the latest QLED TV, the Samsung Q7F, with last year's top recommendations: the LG B6 OLED TV and the Samsung KS8000 LED TV. The KS8000 is coincidentally the TV the Q7F replaces, and the B6 is the current benchmark. This should help visualize QLED's advancements.

Black Level

Black: 0.020 cd/m2
Contrast: 5020:1
Black: 0 cd/m2
Contrast: Inf:1
Black: 0.016 cd/m2
Contrast: 6906:1

It's tough to see this in pictures, but comparing OLED with both types of LCD side by side shows how far ahead it is in this category. In a pitch black room, the cross on our black uniformity pattern is the only thing visible. None of the black parts of the screen emanate any light, and they look completely black.

When comparing to the KS8000, one of the LED TVs with the highest contrast we've tested, there is a noticeable difference. While the surrounding black areas are very dark, they still appear lit up and slightly more gray. It isn't as bad as lower contrast TVs such as IPS, but the difference, when compared to OLED, is large.

As it turns out, QLED happens to be worse than the best LEDs in this category. While it is far from a bad contrast ratio, it widens the gap between LCD type TVs and OLEDs even more. Some LED TVs sport very sophisticated local dimming features that help a lot with these issues, but even the best local dimming will never produce as good and uniform a black level as OLED TVs.

Winner: OLED

Learn more about blacks and contrast ratio

Motion Blur

When looking at different screens, you may notice that moving images react differently on every TV. The biggest reason for this is response time. LCD panels take time to switch from one color to another, and some are faster than others. The time it takes for a pixel to change state causes a trail to follow the moving object. Some TVs have worse decay than others, and when the response time is especially bad, an action scene can turn into a blurry mess.

OLED TVs as you can see from the pictures do not have this problem. Each of the pixels can change state virtually instantly, so no trail is left behind. For this reason, we consider OLED TVs to have no motion blur. Different LED TVs will vary, however. As you can see the Q7F performs much better than its predecessor, the KS8000. Pixels can switch from one state to another about twice as fast, so the resulting image is much cleaner.

Fors some people, the extraordinarily small amount motion blur of OLED screens can be a disadvantage. Lower framerate content such as movies may appear stuttery since the frames do not blend. Check out our video about Motion on TVs for more information on the subject.

In essence, the quality of the motion on a TV is defined by its pixels' speed when switching from showing one thing to another. While in some cases this might not be preferred by some people, in sports, video games and broadcast TV the much faster response time of OLED TVs are a big advantage.

Winner: OLED

Learn more about motion blur

Viewing Angle

Color Shift: 27°
Brightness: 35°
Black Level: 25°
Color Shift: 32°
Brightness: 75°
Black Level: 75°
Color Shift: 21°
Brightness: 41°
Black Level: 19°

When it comes to viewing angle, Samsung touted QLED as being a significant upgrade compared to other LED TVs. Unfortunately, we have not measured any improvement on that matter. Samsung's QLED TVs perform almost the same as their predecessors, and that's in the low-end of most LCD TVs. Now, not all LED TVs have the same small viewing angles, IPS type TVs will usually do quite good. Either way, though, neither QLED nor the best LED TVs will match the viewing angle of OLED screens. 

Winner: OLED

Learn more about viewing angle

Color Volume

DCI P3 Coverage: 86.341 %
DCI P3 Coverage: 82.453 %
DCI P3 Coverage: 80.520 %

Color performance is the biggest improvement seen on the new QLED TVs when compared to any other TVs. There are no other TVs available on the market today that can match the saturation levels found on the new QLED TVs. It is an incremental step over Samsung's previous models and definitely their strong point.

That doesn't mean OLED or other LED TVs are bad, however. OLED especially still gets quite close, within 4% of the coverage of the QLED. Nevertheless, both the color volume and color gamut of QLED TVs are the best you can find today.
 

Winner: QLED

Learn more about color volume

Grey Uniformity

50% Std. Dev. : 3.955 %
50% DSE: 0.147 %
50% Std. Dev. : 0.999 %
50% DSE: 0.121 %
50% Std. Dev: 3.536 %
50% DSE: 0.165 %

There are no TVs available today that can offer perfect uniformity, both LED TVs and OLED TVs have different issues displaying entirely uniform colors.

As shown in our pictures above, a medium gray will appear much cleaner on today's OLED screens. Both LED TVs show imperfections on the sides as well as darker patches across the screen.

Most affected by uniformity issues are sports or other scenes with a lot of one color shown on the screen. Hockey rinks, football fields or even grassy hills will have an unpleasant patchy or even dirty look on a worse performing TV. This makes the very uniform OLED TVs excellent for sports.

5% Std. Dev. : 0.778 %
5% DSE. : 0.106 %
5% Std. Dev. : 0.816 %
5% DSE. : 0.109 %
5% Std. Dev. : 1.319 %
5% DSE. : 0.106 %

Previous OLED TVs used to have a big issue with uniformity in darker colors, however, but this is fortunately not a big problem anymore. As you can see in our comparison above. The very dark gray looks equally uniform on all of the TVs, and none of them are perfect. OLED TVs' uniformity does change slightly with use, but since they have such a big advantage from the start, it shouldn't be a problem.

Winner: OLED

Learn more about gray uniformity

Luminosity

Window size QLED w/HDR OLED w/HDR LED w/HDR
2% 598 cd/m2 745 cd/m2 1472 cd/m2
10% 782 cd/m2 787 cd/m2 1431 cd/m2
25% 599 cd/m2 504 cd/m2 964 cd/m2
50% 405 cd/m2 268 cd/m2 513 cd/m2
100% 362 cd/m2 151 cd/m2 509 cd/m2
Real Scene 359 cd/m2 601 cd/m2 453 cd/m2

When it comes to brightness, the real limitation is power. TVs have to find a way to reach the highest levels of brightness they can while maintaining a reasonable draw of electricity. To do this, TVs reduce the brightness levels when a lot of the screen has to show very bright content.

When looking at our measurements, it may seem at first that LED TVs are incredibly far ahead. This isn't exactly untrue, but you can see that these impressive numbers are far from being represented in a real viewing environment (as seen in the real scene row). Even if OLEDs cannot reach the same peaks of brightness with testing slides, those synthetic measurements are a lot closer to reality. Both LED TVs can only get half or even a third as bright as their theoretical peak when watching a typical movie! The QLED TV is especially weak in this case since it can't even reach theoretical peaks higher than OLED.

There is one important part that LED does undeniably do better than OLED though, while OLED can get small highlights brighter than LEDs in real content, it also dims a lot more when watching a scene that is very bright throughout. For this reason, the LED TV edges it out since it can remain quite bright even while showing an entirely bright screen.

Winner: LED

Learn more about peak brightness

Image Retention

Image retention on the OLED LG B6OLED (LG B6) after a static image
Image Retention Test pattern

Much like the plasma sets of yore, OLEDs will retain images that were kept static on the screen for a few minutes. As you can see from our picture above, leaving the same image on the screen for 5 to 10 minutes will leave a faint version of it, akin to a ghost. It will be most noticeable on uniform colors, primarily gray, but it only takes a few minutes for it to fade completely.

For most people, this shouldn't be an issue. The only use-case where this can be a bit more major is if the TV is being utilized as a PC Monitor. It is very common to have pages or a static aspect of the desktop remain the same for even hours in this case, so some retention can appear.

LED TVs aren't immune to it, but most of them will not show any, so if this important to you, it is safer to pick an LED TV or QLED TV instead of and OLED.

Winner: LED/QLED

Learn more about image retention

Price and availability

Previously, OLED TV sets were an order of magnitude more expensive to purchase than LED type TVs. Over the course of the last year, though, they greatly dropped in price and can currently be found for much more reasonable prices and sometimes quite a bit cheaper than high-end LEDs.

These high-end LED TVs include QLED, which are currently more expensive than the available and overall better performing OLED TVs. This makes them quite pitiful value and very difficult to recommend over their competition.

Still, as low as OLED prices dropped in 2016, they remain a premium product. Excellent LED TVs can be found for a fraction of the price for a much wider range of sizes.

Winner: LED

Conclusion

As it stands currently, OLED TVs trump LED TVs in almost every aspect. Picture quality and motion blur are especially far ahead on OLEDs. Unfortunately, Samsung's QLEDs did not do much to bridge the gap between the two technologies and in some ways even regressed in performance. For most people, our advice remains: if you have budget limitations, LED TVs will have excellent value for money and can be found in a vast array of sizes. If you don't mind paying a premium, OLED TVs will almost always perform best.

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Questions & Answers

19 ANSWERED QUESTIONS
67
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.
26
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.
8
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.
7
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.
5
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.
5
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.
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.
3
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.
2
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.
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
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.
1
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.
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
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
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. Decrease the gamma to bring out more details, or increase 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.
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
I have the LG E6 2016 model OLED TV and someone who was at Las Vegas for the CES 2017 told me that HDMI has been upgraded to 2.1 which means that all cables to and from my tv might be compromised does that mean that I'm screwed.
No. There is a new HDMI format with support for higher bandwidth signals but the E6 is not limited by it's HDMI performance. The main features of HDMI 2.1 are 8k video (outside the resolution of any consumer TV) and 4k @ 120Hz, but the E6 doesn't even support 1080p @ 120Hz (which is within the HDMI 2.0 spec).
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