For the last few years, Samsung, the most popular TV maker in the world, has been branding its TVs “QLED.” Its 2021 QLED lineup is massive, with Neo QLED models in 4K and 8K resolution, The Frame art TV, Serif and the Sero rotating TV all bearing the Q. Meanwhile, LG’s 2021 OLED TVs include six series, from the relatively affordable A1 to the 8K Z1 to a model that rolls up like a poster.
Picture quality comparison:
QLED TV picture quality varies more than OLED. Samsung and TCL each have multiple QLED series and the most expensive perform a lot better than the cheaper ones. That’s mainly because the biggest improvements in the picture quality of QLED sets don’t have much to do with quantum dots. Instead they’re the result of mini-LED backlights, better full-array local dimming, bright highlights and better viewing angles, which help them outperform QLED (and non-QLED) TVs that lack those extras.
Meanwhile, every OLED TV I’ve reviewed has very similar image quality — all have earned a 10/10 in picture quality in my tests. There’s some variation among different OLED TVs, but they’re not nearly as significant as the differences between various QLED TV series. In 2021, LG and Sony will sell the first OLED TVs that might perform significantly better, thanks to higher brightness. We’ll see.
OLED has better contrast and black level. One of the most important image quality factors is black level, and their emissive nature means OLED TVs can turn unused pixels off completely, for literally infinite contrast. QLED/LCD TVs, even the best ones with the most effective full-array local dimming, let some light through, leading to more washed-out, grayer black levels and blooming around bright sections.
QLED is brighter. The brightest QLED and LCD TVs can get brighter than any OLED model, which is a particular advantage in bright rooms and with HDR content. In my tests, however, OLED TVs can still get plenty bright for most rooms, and their superior contrast still allows them to deliver a better overall HDR image than any QLED/LCD TV I’ve tested.
OLED has better uniformity and viewing angles. With LCD-based displays, different areas of the screen can appear brighter than others all the time, and backlight structure can also be seen in some content. Even the best LCDs also fade, lose contrast and become discolored when seen from seats other than the sweet spot directly in front of the screen. OLED TVs have almost perfectly uniform screens and maintain fidelity from all but the most extreme angles.
Resolution, color, video processing and other image quality factors are basically the same. Most QLED and OLED have the same resolution and 4K, and both can achieve 8K resolution too. Neither technology has major inherent advantage in color or video processing areas. Check out OLED vs. LCD for more details.
QLED can get bigger and smaller (and cheaper)
There are only five sizes of OLED TV on the market today: 48-, 55-, 65-, 77- and 88-inch, with an 83-inch version on sale later in 2021. Meanwhile, QLED TVs come in 32, 43-, 49-, 55-, 65-, 75-, 82-, 85- and, yes, 98-inch sizes. Of course, non-QLED LCD TVs can get even smaller.
One big advantage, so to speak, that QLED and LCD have over OLED is the cost of mainstream sizes over 65 inches. Large televisions are the fastest-growing segment of the market and show no signs of slowing down. LG’s 77-inch OLED costs around $3,300, significantly more than most 75-inch QLED TVs, and in larger sizes the difference is even more drastic.
Samsung is actually working on an OLED TV of its own (again), investing $11.1 billion in new facilities to create “QD display” tech that’s basically OLED with a different name — and quantum dots, natch. Rumors pin 2022 as the earliest customers could buy one.
For now, however, OLED rules the picture quality roost over QLED.