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What is LED?

LED TVs are a type of LCD TV. They require many layers to create the picture you see. One of the most important is the backlight, which is made up of small, bright LEDs or light-emitting diodes. This LED backlight shines through a liquid crystal layer, and each liquid crystal pixel acts like a shutter, either blocking the light or allowing it to pass through.

The type and sophistication of the backlight contributes to overall picture quality, especially how well the TV can display dark areas of the picture.

What is OLED?

OLED stands for “organic light-emitting diode.” Unlike the transmissive liquid crystal pixels in an LED TV, an OLED’s pixels are emissive. That means they don’t need a separate light source, like the backlight in an LED TV. It also means that when an OLED pixel is not activated, it emits no light at all. This is what gives 4K OLED TVs the incredible black levels they are known for.

The type and sophistication of the backlight contributes to overall picture quality, especially how well the TV can display dark areas of the picture.

WHICH ONE IS RIGHT FOR YOU?

The answer depends on a few factors. Can you control the light level in your room? How is the viewing area set up? Do you love bright, saturated colors, or do you prefer more realistic tones? What kind of content are you watching?

You'll need to weigh the pros and cons of each display type to determine which one is right for your application.

Brightness and Black Levels

Brightness and black levels are key factors in picture quality, and they are especially important when displaying the expanded contrast range of HDR content. OLED and LED TVs can both do a great job with this, but they have different strengths.

Brightness is one area where high-quality LED TVs have outperformed OLEDs. OLEDs are self-illuminating, so they have no backlight. This means LCDs are able to produce brighter images due to their powerful backlights. This year's OLEDs are brighter than ever before, but they still can’t match the brightness that an LED backlight can deliver.

But if you are mostly interested in nighttime viewing, you'll be stunned by the absolute black of an OLED display. And with the ability to turn off each pixel individually, you get no “blooming” — or those pesky halos you sometimes see around bright objects on dark backgrounds.

VERDICT
Both OLED and LED TVs can look amazing. OLED cannot be beat for contrast, and the picture will knock your socks off in a darkened room. But if you’re going to be watching TV during the day, it’s worth considering an LED set.

Viewing Angle

Viewing angle is another area where OLED has a big advantage over LED TVs. When you sit directly in front of an LED set, the picture looks bright and colorful, but once you move to the sides the picture can become distorted or washed out. This is caused by the backlight and the shutter effect of the screen's pixels.

OLED's self-lighting pixels completely eliminate this issue, so picture quality is perfect from every angle. That's a major advantage if your couch is often full of family or friends.

VERDICT
When it comes to viewing angles, OLEDs can’t be beat. Some LED TVs use IPS panels that offer wider viewing angles, but the trade-off is that contrast suffers.

Durability

LED TVs have been around for many years and have proven to be extremely reliable, typically providing many years of trouble-free service. OLED TVs haven't been around as long, but their expected lifespan is around 100,000 hours (similar to LED TVs).

One potential issue you might hear about with OLED TVs is the risk of burn-in. This can happen if you spend hours every day watching programming that displays a very bright static image, for example a news channel with an always-on logo. It is essentially the premature aging of those pixels (not to be confused with "image retention" which is a temporary issue that both kinds of TVs can suffer from).

Both Sony and LG OLED TVs have built-in ways to reduce the risk of this, including moving the image slightly and refreshing the whole panel periodically.

VERDICT
If your TV stays on the news 24/7, then you may want to opt for an LED set. If you watch a variety of content, OLED burn-in is unlikely to be an issue for you.

Color

Both OLED and higher-end LED TVs are likely to have near-perfect color accuracy and the ability to display the wide color gamut needed for HDR content. OLEDs excel in showing the the darker end of the spectrum, while LED models that use color-enhancing technologies like nanocrystals or "quantum dots" wow with bright, vibrant colors.

When attempting to display the wider color range of HDR-enhanced content, some TVs struggle to reproduce colors accurately when the picture gets bright.

VERDICT
OLED TVs pop — with well-saturated colors even at high brightness levels. They are a great choice for a rich and colorful picture.

GET THE RIGHT TV FOR YOU

Have specific questions about which screen technology makes the most sense for your room and viewing preferences? Our experts know the gear inside and out. Contact us today.

source material: crutchfield.com and newhavendisplay.com