OLED vs. LED: Which is the better TV technology?

It's the last battle of the acronyms, OLED versus LED, only this time, deciphering the differences between the two was once an easier task than it is today. Still, if you are looking for the best television for your omnipotent dollars, you need to know the difference.

When OLED TVs first arrived in 2013, they were praised for their perfect black levels and excellent color, but they took a bit of a hit due to brightness levels that could not compete with LED / LCD TVs. There was also a huge price gap between OLED TVs (not to be confused with QLED) and their superior LED / LCD counterparts. All that has changed. OLED TVs are much brighter than they used to be, and prices have gone down, but LED TVs still have some clear advantages. Let's take a look at how these two television technologies are different and explore the strengths and weaknesses of each.

What is LED?

LED means light emitting diode. These are small solid state devices that generate light due to the movement of electrons through a semiconductor. Now, the preferred choice as backlight for LCD screens, LEDs can be created in a much smaller size than compact fluorescent and incandescent bulbs, but they can become extremely bright. But the LEDs are not small enough to be used as individual pixels of a television: they are too big for that. That is part of the reason why LEDs are used only as a backlight for LCD TVs, with each LED illuminating a small group of pixels. For more information on that topic, see our comparison LED versus LCD.

What is OLED?

OLED means organic light emitting diode. In short, OLEDs are made with organic compounds that ignite when they are supplied with electricity. It may not seem like a big difference compared to LEDs, but unlike LEDs, OLEDs can be made extremely thin, flexible and remarkably small. In fact, OLEDs can be so small that they can be used as individual pixels, millions of which occupy the TV screen, turn on and off completely independently. Due to this flexibility, when an OLED pixel goes off, it is completely off, completely black.

Currently, LG is the only company that manufactures OLED panels. Sony and LG have an agreement that allows Sony to place LG's OLED panels on Sony televisions, such as the Bravia series, but otherwise, you will not find OLEDs on any other TV screen sold in the United States. Samsung manufactures OLED panels for smartphones and it is rumored that Samsung could produce OLED TVs, but the company has promoted its patented QLED technology in recent times, so it seems unlikely.

The performance differences between LG's OLED TVs and Sony's result of different image processors – the LG Alpha series and the Sony X1 series – in operation. The major TV manufacturers, Samsung, Sony and LG, are better processors than other competitors, so two televisions with the same panel can be drastically different. A good processor can greatly reduce problems such as bands and artifacts and produce more accurate colors as well.

What is better, OLED or LED / LCD?

Now is the time to confront the two technologies with each other and see how they compare when it comes to elements such as contrast, angle of view, brightness and other performance considerations.

Editor's note: Since OLED TVs are still a premium screen, we have compared OLED only to equally premium LED / LCD TVs armed with similar performance potential (except, of course, in the price section) ).

Black Level

The ability of a screen to produce dark blacks is possibly the most important factor in achieving excellent image quality. Deeper blacks allow more contrast and richer colors (among other things) and, therefore, a more realistic and dazzling image. When it comes to black levels, OLED reigns as the undisputed champion.

LED TVs rely on LED backlights that shine behind an LCD panel. Even with advanced dimming technology, which selectively attenuates LEDs that do not need to be turned on, LED televisions have historically had problems producing dark blacks and may suffer an effect called "light bleeding", where the lighter sections of the screen create a haze or bloom in adjacent dark areas. Even in the most advanced LED models, these are inevitable problems, although it is important to keep in mind that the Samsung Q8ED Q8ED 2018 seems to be a breakthrough in LED TV performance by eliminating these problems, representing a unique exception to this rule .

OLED TVs do not suffer from any of these problems. If an OLED pixel does not receive electricity, it does not produce any light and, therefore, it is totally black. It seems an obvious choice for us.

Winner: OLED


When it comes to brightness, LED TVs have a considerable advantage. The LEDs were already good at being extremely bright, but the addition of quantum dots allows them to be even brighter. OLED TVs can also be quite bright, and with these dark blacks, contrast is not a problem.

Placing the OLED pixels at maximum brightness for extended periods not only reduces their lifespan, but also takes a bit longer to return to the black total. With these considerations in mind, it is important to keep in mind that all modern televisions (OLED, LED / LCD or others) produce a brightness higher than adequate. The consideration then becomes the place where the television will be used. In a dark room, an OLED TV will work better, while LED TVs will eclipse them, making them a little more suitable for bright environments.

That said, Sony introduced some incredibly bright OLED models this year, and the next one from LG The generation OLEDs are also impressively bright, which makes them perfectly suitable for almost any situation, except for the direct sunlight that transmits to the screen.

Winner by a nose: LED / LCD

Color space

OLED used to rule this category, but quantum dots, by improving the purity of the backlight, have allowed LED TVs / LCDs are developed with color accuracy, color brightness and color volume, putting them on par with OLED TVs. Those looking for televisions with Wide Color Gamut and / or HDR will find both OLED and LED models that support these features. The best OLED contrast ratio will give you a slight advantage in terms of HDR when viewed in dark rooms, but HDR on a premium LED / LCD screen has an advantage because it can produce well-saturated colors at extreme brightness levels that OLED can & # 39; LG's new Alpha 9 processor could push LG's OLEDs to outperform the competition in terms of color, but we have not spent enough time with the 2018 line-up to call it.

Winner: Draw

Response time and delay

The response time refers to the time it takes for each individual diode to change from "on" to "off". With a faster response time, less motion blur and fewer artifacts (without prejudice to the source material).

OLED, with its smaller diodes that function as individual pixels, simply ejects the LED / LCD TVs from the water in terms of response time. On the contrary, the diodes of the LED TVs are not only slower, but they sit behind the LCD panel and illuminate the clusters of pixels, not the individual ones. This causes a slower general change between the "on" and "off" states. In fact, OLED currently offers the fastest response time of any TV technology in use today, making it a clear winner in this regard.

Regarding the entry delay, LG has improved its OLED TVs in this area, but we have not been able to test competing OLED TVs from other manufacturers yet. We know that OLEDs are not an intrinsically bad option for players from a lag perspective, but which models will have the least delay of entry yet to be seen. It is also difficult to classify OLED against its competition of LED / LCD TVs because the delay of entry in LED / LCD TVs varies greatly from one model to another. Suffice it to say that OLED is certainly an option for players, and we are interested in seeing how they perform in 2017

Winner: OLED

Viewing angles

OLED, again, is the winner here . With LED screens, the best viewing angle is in the dead center, and the quality of the image decreases in both color and contrast as you move to each side. While gravity differs between models, it is always remarkable. LG produces an LCD panel known as IPS that has a slightly better performance than VA type LCD panels, but suffers in the black level department in contrast to the VA panels, and is not a competition for OLED.

OLED screens can be viewed without degradation of luminance at drastic viewing angles – up to 84 degrees. Compared to LED TVs, which have been tested to allow a maximum viewing angle of 54 degrees at best, OLED has a distinct advantage.

Winner: OLED


OLEDs have come a long way in this category. When technology was still nascent, OLED displays were often overshadowed by LED / LCD displays. As the OLED manufacturing has improved, the number of respectable OLED displays has increased, now pushing 90 inches, but the larger LED screens are still small, which can reach 100 inches in size and more.

Winner: LED / LCD


LG says you would have to watch your OLED TVs 5 hours a day for 54 years before they dropped to 50 percent brightness. It remains to be seen if that is true, since OLED TVs have only been in the wild since 2013. For that reason and for that reason, we will only award this category to LED / LCD. It's worth having a proven track record.

Winner: LED / LCD

Screen Burn-in

We include this section reluctantly, both because burn-in is an inappropriate name (that's only an aggravating factor) and, for most of the people, the effect will not be a problem.

The effect that we have come to know as burn-in is due to the days of the square CRT TV, when the prolonged display of a static image would cause that image to appear to "burn" on the screen. What was really happening was that the matches that covered the back of the TV screen would glow for long periods of time without rest, which would cause the matches to wear out and create the appearance of a recorded image. We believe that this should be called "burn". But … whatever.

The same problem is at play with OLED and plasma TVs because the compounds that ignite can degrade over time. If you burn a pixel long and strong enough, it will darken prematurely and ahead of the rest of the pixels, creating a dark impression. However, in reality, it is not very likely that this will cause problems for most people: you would have to intentionally abuse the television to make this happen. Even the "error" (logo graphic) used by certain channels disappears often enough or is cleared to avoid burning problems. I would have to watch ESPN all day every day (for many days) in the brightest configuration possible to cause a problem, and even then it is still not very likely.

That said, the potential is there, and must be taken into account. (This is also a contributing factor to the total lack of OLED computer monitors on the market, since computer screens are much more likely to display a static image for hours). Since LED / LCD TVs are not susceptible to burns, they win this fight technically.

Winner: LED / LCD

Power consumption

OLED panels are extremely thin and do not require backlight. As such, OLED TVs tend to weigh less than LED / LCD TVs and are considerably thinner. They also require less energy, making them more efficient.

Winner: OLED


Once upon a time, this category was easily won by LED / LCD TVs, but OLED TVs almost stick to this category based on the price-performance ratio.

However, OLED televisions are premium televisions, period. There is virtually no budget level or middle range for OLED (you would be lucky if you find an OLED for less than $ 2,000). LED TVs, however, can vary in price from a couple of hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, making them generally more accessible than OLEDs. While the prices of LED TVs of the highest quality are almost the same range as the price of OLEDs, and in comparable quality, when judged only by price and price, LED TVs can be purchased for a pittance in comparison.

Winner: LED / LCD

We have a winner!

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In terms of image quality, OLED still outperforms LED / LCD, even though the latest technology has seen many improvements lately . OLED is also lighter, thinner, consumes less energy, offers the best viewing angle and, although it is still a bit more expensive, it dropped considerably in price. What was once a difficult decision has become a much easier decision: OLED is the top television technology today. If this article were only about value, LED / LCD would still win, but OLED has come a long way in a short time and deserves the crown for its achievements. Regardless of the technology you choose, we can help you find the best possible television.