You’ve finally decided to buy a 4K TV – those beautiful televisions that deliver four times the resolution of HD – and you’ve also narrowed down the brand you want, screen size, and if you should go curved or flat.
But wait. There’s one more thing you need to choose, and it’s a big one: panel technology.
Essentially, you’ve got three main choices today: LED TVs, OLED TV, and quantum dot TVs (now referred to as QLED TV by Samsung).
They sound the same, so it can be confusing. And so, here’s a plain English look at the differences between them.
Let’s start with the oldest and least expensive technology out of the three.
As opposed to conventional LCD TVs, which use fluorescent tubes to illuminate the screen, LED-based LCD TVs use “light-emitting diodes” behind the liquid crystals. The advantages to a back- or edge-lit LED TV are:
- Greatly improved contrast levels over fluorescent-based LCD TVs, including the ability to show deeper blacks for more depth
- A much brighter screen, and with richer and more vibrant colors
- Thinner and lighter, which make them easier to mount on a wall
- More eco-friendly, because they consume less power than competing technologies
While older technology than OLED and quantum dot, LED TVs will be the least expensive (starting at $429 for a 55-inch 4K model from Toshiba) and have the greatest selection in size (from 24-inches), and brand.
Newer OLED TVs (“organic” light-emitting diodes) are made from carbon-based materials that emit light when electricity is applied through them. Many different consumer electronics devices utilize OLED panels because of the advantages they bring:
- OLED TVs are incredibly thin because each pixel (dot) is its own light source, therefore no backlighting is required. Pronounced “oh-led,” most OLED televisions are only a couple of millimeters thick. OLED TVs are thinner than LED TVs and quantum dot televisions.
- These televisions deliver unprecedented contrast ratios (the luminance between the brightest whites and the darkest blacks), and exceptional brightness compared to older LED-backlit TVs (the bigger the “nits” number, the higher the brightness).
- OLED TVs are much more energy efficient than other TV panel types as they sip rather than gulp electricity.
OLED TVs are only available in large sizes: 55 inches and bigger. LG has the most OLED televisions, but recently joined by Sony.
As you might imagine, new OLED televisions are priced at a premium. Using a 55-inch television as an example, LG’s 4K OLED TVs start at about $2,000 for a 2016 model, or up to $4500 for its top-of-the-line 2017 OLED television.