From OLEDs with their perfect blacks and LED TVs to fit every price range, to Samsung and Vizio's QLED TVs, it isn't easy to pick a new TV these days. Each of these technologies has their own advantages and disadvantages, but it can still be difficult to choose.
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.
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.
LED stands for "Light Emitting Diode." 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.
|Price and Availability||Poor||Average||Great|
For comparison's sake, we matched up the best QLED TV, the Samsung Q9FN, with the LG E8 OLED TV and the Sony X900F LED TV.
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 Sony X900F, which has an excellent native contrast ratio, 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.
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.
There are no TVs available today that can offer perfect uniformity; LED TVs, QLED 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 and in the corners.
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. This can also be distracting if you are planning on using your TV as a monitor.
Previous OLED TVs used to have a big issue with uniformity in darker colors, 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. On recent OLEDs, like the LG E8, vertical banding can be seen in really dark scenes. This shouldn't be noticeable with most content.
|Window Size||P Series Quantum - SDR||LG E8 - SDR||P Series Quantum - HDR||LG E8 - HDR|
|Real Scene||846 cd/m²||330 cd/m²||1368 cd/m²||685 cd/m²|
|2% - Peak||2016 cd/m²||326 cd/m²||2132 cd/m²||929 cd/m²|
|10% - Peak||2367 cd/m²||325 cd/m²||2433 cd/m²||868 cd/m²|
|25% - Peak||1601 cd/m²||323 cd/m²||1449 cd/m²||468 cd/m²|
|50% - Peak||1289 cd/m²||323 cd/m²||1094 cd/m²||313 cd/m²|
|100% - Peak||798 cd/m²||154 cd/m²||826 cd/m²||153 cd/m²|
|2% - Sustained||1977 cd/m²||311 cd/m²||2101 cd/m²||851 cd/m²|
|10% - Sustained||2310 cd/m²||311 cd/m²||2395 cd/m²||829 cd/m²|
|25% - Sustained||1596 cd/m²||311 cd/m²||1443 cd/m²||479 cd/m²|
|50% - Sustained||1250 cd/m²||311 cd/m²||1088 cd/m²||298 cd/m²|
|100% - Sustained||798 cd/m²||149 cd/m²||822 cd/m²||150 cd/m²|
LEDs and QLEDs both rely on an LED backlight to emit light, and as such they are both subject to the same strengths and weaknesses. With LED/QLED, the brightness varies considerably depending on the specific model. As such, for the purposes of this comparison, we will look at the best TVs in each category. The Vizio P Series Quantum is one of the brightest TVs we've tested so far. OLEDs tend to have very similar brightness, regardless of model, so for this test we will consider the LG E8.
The most obvious thing we can see is that LED/QLED TVs can get significantly brighter than OLEDs. Due to power limitations however, LED/QLED TVs aren't able to maintain the same peak brightness with different content. In practice, this means that LED/QLED TVs can make small highlights in some scenes extremely bright, but if the entire scene is bright, the brightness decreases significantly.
OLED TVs have the same issue, and it is a more significant issue in HDR. Since OLED TVs aren't as bright as LED, this is much more noticeable. In some scene changes, the brightness can change from 900 cd/m² to as low as 150 cd/m², which is very noticeable and may bother some people.
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.
That doesn't mean OLED or other LED TVs are bad, however. Nevertheless, both the color volume and color gamut of QLED TVs are the best you can find today.
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 Q9FN performs worse than the Sony X900F.
For some people, the extraordinarily small amount of 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.
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 LED counterparts. Now, not all LED TVs have the same small viewing angles, IPS type TVs will usually do quite good.
Some recent LED and QLED TVs add an additional filter in an attempt to improve the viewing angles of VA panels, while maintaining their good dark room performance. We've tested two TVs so far that use this additional layer, the Sony Z9F and the Samsung Q900RB, and while they do improve on viewing angles, they still fall short of most IPS TVs and are still worse than OLED. These TVs also have much worse native contrast than typical VA TVs, but use local dimming to somewhat compensate for it.
In the end, neither QLED, nor LED come close to matching the wide viewing angles on OLED TVs.
Much like older plasma sets, OLEDs will sometimes retain images that were kept static on the screen for a few minutes. As you can see from our picture, leaving the same image on the screen for 5 to 10 minutes can sometimes 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.
We don't expect temporary image retention to be an issue for most people. The only time it could cause problems is if you plan on using it as a PC monitor. As computers usually have rather large static elements that are almost always visible, these can be noticeable if you switch from your PC to a different source.
Image retention varies between units, even of the same model, so your results may vary. There are also ways to avoid this, and recent OLED TVs include some features to help reduce this.
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.
Burn-in, unlike temporary image retention, is permanent. While we don't expect burn-in to be an issue for most people, if you watch a lot of content with static elements, like a news channel with a bright logo, burn-in might be an issue.
Find out more about OLED burn-in.
Previously, OLED TV sets were an order of magnitude more expensive to purchase than LED TVs. Over the course of the last few years, 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 2018, they remain a premium product. Excellent LED TVs can be found for a fraction of the price for a much wider range of sizes.
Originally invented in the 2000s, microLED, also known as mLED or µLED, is supposed to combine the best features of OLED and LED, with none of the downsides. Sony demonstrated an early prototype of a mLED TV in 2012, but it was never released commercially. Since then, Samsung has been working on plans to bring a 4k mLED TV to the markets, demonstrating their 'The Wall' mLED TV that is now expected to be available for purchase later in 2019. Apple is also rumored to be working on in-house development of mLED displays.
As there are no commercially available mLED TVs, we don't yet know how they will perform. They are expected to offer the great peak brightness and wide color gamut of LED TVs, with the wide viewing angles and perfect blacks of OLEDs, without the risk of burn-in.
Between the different types of TVs, 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.