TV screen technology explained
What is OLED TV?
By Martin Pratt
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?
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 releases around five ranges each year. Sony and Panasonic don't release quite as many, but as the displays get cheaper we expect to see more and more.
Smaller brands are also getting in on the action: Philips and Hisense both make OLED TVs. 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.
With OLEDs typically commanding a high price and some not warranting it, we've picked out five that excelled in our tests.
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Top five OLED TVs
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. Some LG's high-end OLEDs, such as the OLED W are 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.
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.
This OLED arms race will certainly see quality rise and prices drop throughout the year, but if you're willing to shop carefully, there are affordable and good quality screens around.