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TV screen technology explained

What is OLED TV?

By Ben Stockton

Article 4 of 9

Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screens are said to be the best of the best. We've tested leading OLED sets but, with prices high, is OLED really worth your money?

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OLED TVs can give you dazzling, bright pictures with smooth motion, deep blacks and vibrant colours, while also being slimmer than even LED-backlit LCD TVs.

Many of the leading TV brands are developing OLED sets, including LG, Panasonic and Sony, and prices are becoming far more affordable. LG is the most prolific in this area, the South Korean brand has five OLED ranges in 2018. Sony and Panasonic are both doubling their output from one OLED in 2017 to two in 2018.

Smaller brands are also getting in on the action. Philips already makes OLED TVs and Hisense is set to release its first one this year.

Samsung seems steadfast in its belief that its quantum dot technology will give the best possible picture quality, as it’s now the only major TV manufacturer without an OLED TV. 

See our What is QLED TV? guide to find out how these two technologies compare.

What’s so special about OLED TV?

OLED TVs have individual organic cells behind the screen, which produce their own light source - unlike standard LED-backlit TVs. This has a number of advantages for picture quality and design:

  • Deep blacks: OLED sets are able to turn individual LEDs off when displaying black, rather than simply directing light away from that part of the screen, as LCD displays do, which means they can achieve very deep blacks.
  • Smooth motion: Motion looks good on OLED TVs, with hardly any blurring, even on fast-moving action.
  • Super-thin screen: With no need for a backlight, OLED screens can be even thinner than most smartphones. In 2017, LG unveiled the OLED W – a huge 65-inch set that is half the thickness of an iPhone 7.
  • Viewing angle: The viewing angle on OLED sets is outstanding. Even when you’re watching from a wide angle, the picture tends to remain rock solid, with accurate colours and good contrast.
  • Energy use: Even though OLED TVs were initially thought to use less power than similar-sized LED-backlit LCD sets, our data suggests they use about the same.
Browse our TV reviews to find out which models deserve a place in your home.

Should I buy an OLED TV?

Unlike 4K and HDR, which should now be seen as a requirement for your next major TV purchase, OLED is more of a luxury option. You’ll pay a premium for this screen technology, and you’re certainly not guaranteed a Best Buy. But there's healthy competition in this market, with Panasonic, Sony and Philips launching similarly priced OLED sets as LG in 2018. 

This OLED arms race will certainly see quality rise and prices drop throughout 2018, but if you're willing to shop carefully, there are affordable and good quality screens around.