OLED panels are expensive and superior to other electronic displays in more ways than one. No wonder people want OLED screens on their phones, TVs, laptops, and smartwatches.
The charm of OLED lies in its ability to individually light up pixels and turn off the lights to display inky blacks. The implementation, however, could be sub-par at times since not all OLED displays are made the same way.
And there’s this accusation against OLED panels: they find it difficult to differentiate between black and dark shades of grey, often applying the same black paint to them all. But that’s a topic for another article.
We are here to find out how the highly praised OLED display bodes for HDR. Is OLED the best display type for HDR? Or should you consider the good-old LCD panels instead? Or is there a third display type?
Keep reading to find the answers to the questions and more.
Is OLED Good for HDR?
Yes, OLED is “good enough” for HDR. But it’s not the best since it doesn’t get as bright as LCD panels. The most radiant OLED panel is not brighter than the most beaming LCD.
If you’re unfamiliar with HDR, it’s a display feature that thrives on brightness. HDR has specific minimum brightness requirements that a panel must meet to showcase the tech in all its glory or showcase the high contrast detailing and wide color gamut HDR is known for.
For optimal performance, HDR needs panels that can touch at least 1,000 nits of peak brightness for the small highlights in a picture to stand out.
Unfortunately, most OLED TVs don’t get that bright, including the popular models, such as the LG G1 (just above 870 nits of peak brightness) and the Sony A80J (670 nits).
Kindly note that 670 and 870 nits of peak brightness are not shabby at all. CRT televisions were a lot less bright and we didn’t complain.
Moreover, 700 and 800 nits aren’t very far from 1,000 nits. Even if they are several shades less bright, kindly note that not all HDR content is mastered in 1,000 nits.
Most shows and movies that claim to support HDR output 500 to 600 nits of peak brightness.
Your OLED TV, therefore, should be par for the course in most cases. But when HDR needs increased radiance, the not-very-bright OLED panels can disappoint.
Why Don’t OLED TVs Get Very Bright?
OLED TVs don’t get very bright due to the nature of their light source.
OLED stands for “organic light-emitting diode.” The organic material used in OLEDs can quickly overheat. It is also susceptible to burn-in when the brightness is set very high.
Considering all these potential concerns, OLED panels are not made to shine too bright. Most OLED TVs employ automatic brightness limiting technology to safeguard the organic material and increase lifespan.
Is OLED or QLED Better for HDR?
QLED is short for “quantum dot LED TV.” It’s a type of LED LCD with a quantum dot film attached for a dramatic boost in color reproduction.
The quantum dots are tiny nanoparticles that significantly boost a QLED panel’s brightness and color reproduction capabilities. Like an LCD, QLEDs also use LED backlights to keep the lights on. And to answer the question:
QLED is better for HDR simply because they get a lot brighter. But OLEDs are not far behind, and the best display type for HDR is contingent on several factors, such as how bright the room is.
If watching during the day, QLEDs are better because they can get very bright.
The Samsung QN90A QLED TV , for instance, outputs more than 1,500 nits of brightness. Most OLED TVs don’t get anywhere close to that figure.
The TV’s excellent reflection handling capabilities mean visibility will not be a concern even in the most lit rooms.
Also, the QN90A uses mini-LED backlighting, which provides increased control over local dimming, facilitating increased dark room performance, almost on par with an OLED.
(Kindly note the above positives are not proprietary to the QN90A. They are core features of QLEDs in general. The QN90A is just one of the several QLED TVs that does a great job representing QLED—therefore, the extended mention.)
OLED takes the cake when it boils down to watching HDR content at night or in a light-controlled environment. The deep blacks of an OLED make sure the picture never looks washed out, as the case is with LCDs when playing low-lit scenes.
But a QLED is not just any other LCD, particularly those with mini-LED backlighting. As a result, QLEDs are not far behind OLED in creating those deep blacks.
Several QLED TVs employ full-array local dimming technology that lets the TV dim in particular zones to facilitate deeper black levels.
QLEDs can go as bright as 2,000 nits and beyond without blowing out colors the way LED-LCDs may.
OLEDs always had the upper hand over LCDs when it came down to color reproduction. With QLEDs entering the scene, that gap has become thinner, almost to the point of non-existence.
Is a QLED TV the Same as an LCD TV?
A QLED TV is a significant improvement over the LCD TV in the brightness department alone. People had no qualms with LCDs not getting bright enough.
And QLEDs improve on an aspect that was never an issue. The result is genuinely vivid imagery. So, how are the two different from each other?
A regular LED-lit LCD TV uses an LED backlight and an LCD panel. In the day, TVs used cold-cathode fluorescent light (CCFL), a less efficient way to light up the pixels.
A QLED TV is also LED-backlit, but it employs quantum dot technology to achieve improved color and brightness.
So QLEDs and LED-LCDs are the same? Fundamentally, they are very similar.
But LG would disagree.
As per LG, a real QLED TV employs quantum-dot LEDs, which produce their light, and not layering a quantum dot film atop LED backlights that Samsung’s TV uses.
The two consumer electronics giants locked horns over the matter in 2019, with LG accusing Samsung of deceptive marketing. LG launched a campaign highlighting Samsung’s bogus, misleading claims about QLED.
The issue is now settled, with the FTC allowing Samsung to use the QLED terminology for its QLED TVs but wanting the company to categorically mention in its marketing material that its QLED televisions use LED backlighting.
The above article wasn’t a knock on OLEDs or questioning the premium positioning of the display technology.
OLEDs don’t get as bright as the optimal HDR video playback requirement, but that doesn’t imply that OLEDs can’t play HDR content. As mentioned earlier, OLEDs not getting bright enough for HDR would be a non-issue in darker environments.
Only during the day or with bright lights would you notice OLEDs looking a tad lackluster or failing to showcase HDR contrast accurately. And if you’re coming from a QLED, you will see the OLED struggling.
But there are other aspects in which OLEDs outshine an LCD, such as viewing angles, individual pixel lighting, deep black levels, etc. OLEDs, therefore, will continue to reign supreme.
Not to mention, OLED is relatively new, and with advancements in display technology, OLED panels could get brighter in the future. If you’re looking to buy a TV and want to see HDR content in its glory, consider both OLEDs and QLEDs. Just confirm that the OLED TV can get sufficiently bright and is not a lot more money than a comparable QLED.
Catherine Tramell has been covering technology as a freelance writer for over a decade. She has been writing for Pointer Clicker for over a year, further expanding her expertise as a tech columnist. Catherine likes spending time with her family and friends and her pastimes are reading books and news articles.