Demystifying QLED vs OLED: A Complete Buying Guide

The world of premium displays can seem packed with confusing acronyms like QLED and OLED. For shoppers navigating specifications and features between television models, it helps tremendously to first comprehend what makes each technology tick.

This guide will decode QLED and OLED down to the pixel level. You‘ll leave better grasping the origins, operating principles and performance attributes behind these industry leading display technologies. And with insights about recent innovations, viewing preferences and value comparisons, selecting your next TV can become much less overwhelming!

A Brief History of QLED and OLED Displays

Quantum dot LED (QLED) and organic LED (OLED) emerged from completely different origins despite their deceptively similar names…

The Promise of Quantum Dots

Engineers recognized early on that semiconductor nanocrystals exhibited exceptional optical properties. As far back as the 1980s, Russian scientist Alexei Ekimov first observed extraordinarily pure colors produced by quantum confinement effects in nanoscale cadmium selenide crystals.

This breakthrough discovery that the color emission of crystalline structures shifted as their size decreased below 10 nm laid vital foundational research. But practical commercial applications would take another 30 years…

It wasn‘t until 2013 that quantum dots finally appeared in full HD TVs. That year Sony debuted its Triluminos displays utilizing quantum dot films to widen color gamut beyond traditional RGB filters. But the Triluminos branding never gained massive consumer mindshare.

Instead it took Samsung, the world‘s foremost television manufacturer, to catalyze market awareness of quantum dots. Utilizing its QLED trademark introduced in 2015, Samsung brought enhanced quantum dot televisions to market in 2017. And the company‘s global scale ensured the QLED name soon became ubiquitous among enthusiasts.

QLED Origin Story Highlights

  • 1980s: Russian scientist Alexei Ekimov publishes groundbreaking quantum confinement research on semiconductor nanocrystals
  • 2013: Sony ships first quantum dot televisions under its Triluminos brand
  • 2015: Samsung begins promoting future QLED branded quantum dot displays
  • 2017: Samsung launches its first consumer QLED TVs with expanded color and brightness

Organic Roots of OLED Panels

Unlike quantum dot innovations, OLED technology traces back directly to advancements with organic electroluminescent materials. Pioneering work through the 1970s and 1980s elucidated key principles of molecular emission.

In 1987, researchers Ching W. Tang and Steven Van Slyke published seminal functionaling OLED pixel architectures. This built a framework for modern OLED stacking with organic thin films sandwiched between conductors.

Commercialization quickly followed as manufacturers recognized tremendous potential marrying the self-emitting attributes of OLEDs with electronic displays. By the late 1990s and early 2000s Sony and others were actively developing small OLED screens for camera viewfinders and portable electronics.

And rapid innovation throughout the 2000s ultimately delivered the first wide color gamut OLED TV in 2013. Displayed by LG at CES that year, this 55" Full HD television represented a breakthrough establishing OLED as the premier large panel digital display technology.

OLED Origin Story Highlights

  • 1987: Ching W. Tang and Steven Van Slyke demonstrate first viable OLED structure
  • 1990s: Sony and other firms invest in commercializing OLEDs for electronic viewfinders
  • Early 2000s: Active matrix OLED microdisplays reach devices like camera EVFs
  • 2013: LG ships pioneering 55 inch Full HD OLED television

Inside QLED and OLED: How These Displays Actually Work

Their shared LED branding reveals little about how these competing display technologies operate under the hood. Let‘s open them up…

Quantum Dots Enhance LED LCD Televisions

QLED televisions utilize an LCD panel backlit using conventional LEDs. But color performance gets a boost from a quantum dot layer:

QLED diagram

  • Full array local dimming (FALD) LEDs act as the primary light source
  • Blue LED light shines onto the quantum dot layer
  • Quantum dots convert blue photons into pure red and green light
  • The LCD panel then filters this colored light to shape the image

So while quantum dots massively expand the color volume, a QLED still relies on an LCD grid blocking LED backlight rays. This legacy from LCDs constrains contrast and viewing angles compared to direct emission designs.

OLED Pixels Directly Emit Colored Light

In OLED displays, organic pixel materials directly radiate colored light when electrically excited:

OLED diagram

  • Pixel anode and cathode electrodes sandwich organic emissive layers
  • Electric currents trigger quantum interactions generating light
  • No color filters or backlights are required
  • Each self-illuminating pixel can deactivate completely (infinite contrast)

With this simple yet elegant architecture, OLED completely eliminates the need for backlights and color filters dependent on an LCD grid.

QLED vs OLED Comparison Metrics That Matter

Now that we‘ve uncovered what makes these technologies tick, let‘s dive deeper contrasting performance in areas that truly impact perceived image quality.

Contrast and Peak Brightness

Superior pixel level contrast gives OLED a leg up reproducing cinematic dynamic range. According to DisplayMate tests, OLED panels achieve 1,000,000:1 native contrast rendering deep shadows and vivid highlights that seem to leap off the screen.

This overwhelms the 16,000:1 contrast measured on QLED panels which still suffer low level backlight bleed through dark regions.

Of course no technology is perfect. While OLED completely deactivates individual pixels to achieve perfect black, the maximum brightness lags behind QLED – 850 nits vs 2000 nits respectively. This gives QLED TVs an edge fighting glare in sun-filled living rooms.

Contrast and Brightness

Native Contrast1,000,000:116,000:1
Peak Brightness850 nits2,000 nits

Smoother Fast Action and Gaming

Lightning quick pixel response makes OLED televisions definite crowd pleasers for sports viewing parties and gaming. With reaction times as little as 0.1 ms, OLED eliminates motion blur for smoother panning and tighter twitch gameplay. QLED hits between 2-8 ms depending on the model.

Input lag is similarly impressive on late model OLEDs, measuring around 13-21 ms versus 10-15 ms for leading QLED sets. Either excels for gaming, but OLED takes the responsiveness crown.

Speed and Responsiveness

Pixel Response Time0.1 ms2-8 ms
Input Lag13-21 ms10-15 ms

Viewing Angle Performance

With self-emitting pixels directly managing light output free of any filters, OLED screen brightness and color remain consistent even viewing 60+ degrees off axis. QLED has made strides with anti-reflective layers to widen angles, but still exhibits some falloff versus straight on viewing.

Viewing Angles

Viewable Angle180°~170°
Off Axis FalloffMinimalImproved vs older QLED

Display Size, Resolution and Brand Options

Consumers choosing QLED gain more flexibility when considering display dimensions available. Samsung produces QLED models spanning 32 inches to 82 inches – including some unique 49 inch and 58 inch flavors. OLED televisions only reach 88 inches currently, concentrated mainly on 55/65/77 inch 4K screens.

Resolution support heavily favors QLED as well with everything from 1080p HD to 4320p 8K Ultra HD represented. All currently shipping OLED televisions max out at 3840 x 2160 4K. Of course most buyers have no need for 8K today. But early adopters looking towards the future gain more options on the QLED side.

Lastly being powered exclusively by Samsung, QLED shoppers are restricted to models from Samsung‘s portfolio. Whereas LG Display supplies OLED panels to many manufacturers – Sony, Panasonic, Philips, Vizio and more covering a wider budget range. Still Samsung‘s dominance ensures strong channel presence and value pricing for its QLED lineup.

Display Sizes, Resolutions and Brands

Screen Size Range48"-88"32"-85"+
Resolution Support3840×2160 4K1080p → 4320p 8K
Leading BrandsLG, Sony, PanasonicSamsung, Hisense, TCL

Recent Display Innovations Expand Capabilities

Driving improved brightness, richer contrast and upping 8K compatibility, next generation QLED and OLED technologies continue breaking new ground.

In late 2020, Samsung debuted its new Neo QLED lineup dramatically shrinking LED backlights and concentrating them behind microscopically thin lenses. This Mini LED powered backlight wields precision local dimming zones enabling higher peak brightness while rendering darker blacks.

Expect likewise from 2022 OLED sets leveraging brighter new OLED EX tech from LG Display. By utilizing customized deuterium compounds, LG quotes 30% better luminosity and longer operational lifespan compared to traditional OLED materials.

Both display titans are committed to wringing every ounce of performance from quantum dot filters and organic emissive layers respectively. Let‘s peek at a few innovations that may land in your next television…

Cutting Edge Display Directions

QLED and OLED Innovations

Finding the Best Fit – QLED vs OLED

With deeper insight into how these industry leading options compare, we‘re better equipped to spotlight the right fit based on viewing preferences:


  • Cinematic picture quality with vibrant colors
  • Pixel perfect jet black blacks and plasma-like contrast
  • Ultra smooth fast motion clarity for sports and gaming
  • Available from LG, Sony, Panasonic and other top panel makers


  • More expensive for same size versus QLED
  • Peak brightness lags behind QLED (not ideal for bright rooms)
  • Limited to 4K currently – no 8K OLED TV options


  • Excellent all-around image quality with quantum dot colors
  • Market leading 1800+ nit brightness battles glare
  • More display size/resolution options including 8K
  • Typically more affordable vs same size OLED


  • Contrast still restrained by backlight limitations
  • Off axis color and brightness drop off more
  • Restricted largely to Samsung

For darker home theater spaces where high fidelity movie watching is priority #1, OLED rules. No backlight means no blotchy halos during dim scenes. Plus gaming feels sublimely responsive.

But for sun-drenched living rooms where SDR and HDR content must shine brightly to compete against glare, QLED presents tremendous value. And early 8K adopters have only one option – Samsung QLED.

Within the next 3-5 years pricing and tech differences should continue to narrow. But inherent advantages like OLED‘s contrast will persist based on vastly different display physics.

Ultimately both technologies deliver excellent performance. So choose the one aligning best with your viewing environment and budget!

I hope this comprehensive QLED vs OLED comparison dispelled some key mysteries helping simplify your buying decision. Let me know if any other questions come up!

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