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OLED vs LED: There's just no comparison

Jon L. Jacobi | Jan. 26, 2016
A simple explanation of the technology used in OLED TVs (and how it compares to LED-backlit LCD TVs).

Speaking of which, OLEDs exhibit relatively low power consumption, though not appreciably better than what you’ll see with high-efficiency LED LCD TVs at a reasonable brightness level.

rgb emitters 
OLED RGB emtters by the ounce... Credit: UDC

Another strength of OLED TVs is their almost infinite viewing angle. Cheaper non-IPS (In-Plane Switching) LCD displays require that you sit relatively centered or experience color shifting. OLEDs are visible nearly all the way to 90 degrees.

The drawbacks to OLED TVs

Well, first off there’s what will be obvious to what anyone who’s shopped OLED: The price tags. OLED TVs are really, really expensive. Secondly, not everyone is in love with the OLED picture, as rich and velvety as it is. It’s not fair to judge an entire technology based on one vendor’s efforts (that vendor being LG), but that’s where we stand. Keep that in mind as you read on. 

I’ve heard complaints that details don’t appear as sharp, though I think of the effect more as smooth. I’ve also heard complaints about motion blur. All I can tell you about that is that if there is any, it’s been imperceptible to me when I play good-quality UHD content. Upscaling of 1080-resolution content and handling of 24/25 fps content is not necessarily the company’s strong suit, so that could be the source of the complaints.

Samsung JS9100 Curved SUHD TV 
Samsung's JS9100 curved SUHD TV uses quantum dots to increase color intensity, acuity, and gamut. Credit: Samsung

I have, however, seen motion blur on other OLED displays. The blur has nothing to do with the OLEDs, which can turn on and off very quickly, but the sample-and-hold methodology (light up and stay lit until otherwise required) used to smooth action. The way around this is to strobe the OLEDs; i.e., turn them off before every screen redraw, or even well before. But not every OLED display does this.

Then there’s a longevity issue. The electroluminescent materials used in OLEDs have a fixed lifespan. This is particularly true of blue OLEDs, which must be compensated for by using a larger volume of the material and varying voltage over the life of the TV. My contact at Universal Display Corporation claimed 50,000 hours for its OLEDs, but I’ve more often heard 20,000 hours or less. I was unable to obtain any hard information on decay in a normal environment. When I do, I’ll update this.

Assuming the latter, less optimistic 20,000 hour figure, you’re talking about 2.25 years of 24/7 viewing, or about 11 years at the 5 hours per day the Nielsen Corporation says that TV viewers average. Eleven years isn’t very long, especially when compared to the lifespan of older CRT TVs, so you might not want OLED if you plan on running your display in a kiosk or in a point-of-sale system. But for the average person (not as defined by Nielsen) buying a TV for home use, longevity is probably not an issue.


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