OLED TV vs QD-OLED TV vs LED/LCD TV in 2022: how to choose

All current display technologies compared, pick the right one for your next TV purchase

Choosing between different display technologies for a new TV got a bit more complicated this year with the advent of QD-OLED — answers to some common questions would be welcome, no? (Image: Sony)

It’s that time of the year again: the first new television models from all major manufacturers will soon start appearing in physical and online stores, heavy discounts are already offered for all 2021 models, people interested in getting a new TV will be looking at both… and be as confused as ever: so much tech jargon, so many details about so many things — they can’t all be important, can they? — so much information to go through before settling on a product to purchase. As if all that was not enough in recent years, there’s a third display tech entering the market this year, QD-OLED, perplexing things further. What are consumers to do?

Well, they can read stories exactly like this one, for starters! What follows is a simple, no-nonsense explainer of all three current television display technologies on offer today — LED/LCD, OLED and QD-OLED — in 2022 terms: how they differ, the strengths and weaknesses of each, which use cases they excel at. Since OLED TVs and QD-OLED TVs are largely targeted at consumers demanding top picture quality, it makes sense to not really focus on pricing while comparing the above… which is also why it makes no sense to include any other kind of LED/LCD but the best one (called MiniLED). Let’s break it all down, then.

LCD/LED TV: the dominant species

The bulk of TV sales globally happens below the $1000/€1000 price range and they are all LCD/LED models because, well, this is the oldest flat TV display tech in the market and manufacturing costs are the lowest they can be. But the best models among the LCD TVs that make use of advanced backlighting — the way the on-screen image is controlled and displayed — are not exactly cheap. They can, in fact, be just as expensive or even more expensive than OLED TVs or QD-OLED TVs. Why is that, then?

LED/LCD TVs are the most common and safest choice for general use by mainstream consumers, even if they do not offer the highest picture quality possible. (Image: Sony)

Several reasons. One, they can get very, very bright, which greatly helps TVs avoid looking dim in brightly-lit environments. As a consequence, LED/LCD TVs can work well in any room at any time of day, so they are great for general use. Two, because of that high brightness they can display HDR content — modern, color-rich movies or shows or video games exhibiting spectacular highlights — in an impressive way. Three, they can be had in very large sizes — more than, say, 75 inches all the way up to 100 inches — without breaking the bank. Incidentally, people who are interested in getting an 8K TV will almost certainly be looking at LED/LCD models, as there’s only one (1) OLED model sporting that screen resolution in the market and it is, of course, astronomically expensive.

Being the oldest television display tech means that LED/LCD has a number of drawbacks. It does not offer perfect blacks, for instance, as OLED or QD-OLED do, which hurts contrast and leads to image quality issues such as clouding or haloing. The most capable, most expensive LED/LCD TVs use advanced MiniLED backlighting to address these issues to great effect, but even those models cannot completely eliminate such problems. LED/LCD TVs are perfectly gaming-capable but not the best, while the MiniLED models also consume more power than both OLED and QD-OLED TVs. All points to keep in mind.

OLED TV: the current picture quality standard

Until very recently people demanding the best possible “cinematic” picture only went for OLED TV models and for good reason: these televisions do not use backlighting for their screens, as every single one of their elements used to build the picture displayed (pixels) is self-lit. This means that OLED TVs offer perfect blacks, so contrast is extremely high and colors look natural and punchy. OLED TVs suffer from none of the image quality issues LED/LCD TVs do, while they remain the best option for gamers. Their slim profile is liked by many, as it usually looks better in urban living rooms.

OLED TVs offer the highest cinematic picture quality currently widely available as well as the widest range of choices in size and cost. (Image: LG)

This does not mean that OLED TVs are perfect, as no tech product really is. The way they work means that they can only get modestly, but not overly bright — meaning that their picture looks gorgeous in the dark or any low-light environment, but washed out and decidedly less exciting in brightly lit spaces. Some models are brighter than others but, when used in an accurate picture mode, practically no OLED TV has broken the “1000 nit barrier” yet. As the material used in constructing their screens is organic it deteriorates in time, so brightness and color accuracy take a hit, while OLED TVs can also suffer from burn-in (the permanent presence on screen of things displayed for many hours every day such as e.g. TV channel logos). The latter issue has been adequately addressed during the last few years but not completely resolved: while modern OLED TVs can take some abuse, consumers with very specific viewing habits can still harm them.

OLED TVs require somewhat less power to run than MiniLED LED/LCD TVs but they cost considerably more to purchase, especially in sizes larger than 65 inches. A 77-inch or 83-inch OLED TV can cost twice as much as a decent LED/LCD TV of equivalent size and at least a couple of thousand dollars/euros more than a good MiniLED LED/LCD TV. But for people who mainly watch films and shows or play games in the dark or in dimly lit environments, OLED TVs reign supreme.

QD-OLED TV: the new challenger

This is, obviously, the talk of the town at the moment and deservedly so: the first QD-OLED TVs just now arriving in shops promise to keep all the advantages of current OLED TVs, but offer more in areas where the latter still struggle, such as color saturation and perceived brightness. The way these TV screens work is significantly different from the way “traditional” OLED screens do and, as a result, colors are “purer” and more vibrant, especially the primary ones (such as red and its variants). Measurable brightness may not be reaching that much higher in terms of nits (the unit of measurement for a TV’s brightness) but, since blacks remain absolute and colors are more vivid, the effect is one of a brighter picture overall.

QD-OLED TVs seem capable of dethroning OLED TVs in terms of picture quality, but they are limited to 55- and 65-inch sizes, as well as models between two manufacturers only. (Image: Samsung)

QD-OLED TVs are still OLED TVs at heart, though, so the traditional weaknesses of the latter are also present in the former. While brighter indeed, QD-OLED TVs will still struggle to offer the same punchy, lush picture when operating in bright environments. There’s still the possibility of burn-in issues when a QD-OLED TV screen is systematically abused (somewhat less than traditional OLED TVs though), while its organic material will also deteriorate over time, but it will do so gradually and without affecting color accuracy (because of the way Quantum Dots work instead of color filters).

Unusually enough — especially for a first-generation, spanking-new audiovisual technology — consumers will not be paying that much of a premium for the first QD-OLED TVs appearing in shops. Samsung’s aggressive pricing puts its own QD-OLED models on par with the best LG traditional OLED in terms of cost, while Sony’s QD-OLED models will be more expensive but still in the same league as its own best OLED TVs of 2021. The only catch for 2022: QD-OLED TVs will only be available in 55- and 65-inch sizes, while their relatively low availability means that consumers will not see any spectacular price cuts on those this year. But… when did we ever have everything in a new tech product, right?

OK, great, so… how do I choose?

While it’s obviously impossible for any one person to know the needs and budget of every consumer individually — so he/she can make specific recommendations — here are a few pointers. Don’t care all that much about picture quality but want to get the biggest TV possible for your budget? Get an LED/LCD and you’ll be fine. Plan on watching TV in the living room every hour of the day without ever closing the drapes? Likewise, get an LED/LCD. In the habit of watching specific channels or playing specific games for many hours at a time, every day? Better get an LED/LCD.

Top 2021 OLED TVs, like the pictured Sony A90J, are still an excellent choice for many demanding consumers as they are offered in way more sizes and price brackets. (Image: Sony)

If you do care about picture quality, especially in modern movies and shows, then it becomes a matter of budget. Get the largest OLED TV you can afford, ideally going for 65 inches or more — just make sure you can control the lighting of the room you’ll be putting it in (for maximum performance) and that you don’t abuse its screen by watching the same thing for hours and hours on end. If you are a gamer, same deal: pick an OLED TV, play in low light, do not play the same game all day every day and you’re set.

If picture quality absolutely is the deciding factor for you, though, then… it’s QD-OLED time. These TVs will be the best displays available this year for movies, shows, games, you name it and, oddly enough, you won’t be paying that much of a premium for them. Wait until both Samsung and Sony models (and reviews for both) are out, decide whether their price difference is worth it and go for it. The only reason you may consider not pulling the trigger on one such TV: they are only coming out in 55/65 inches, so if you need a larger size you’ll either have to wait until next year or get an OLED TV this year instead. In the meantime, you might want to check out which 2021 OLED TVs are totally worth buying in 2022 or, indeed, which 2021 TVs are worth buying in 2022 in general. Enjoy your purchase in any case!


Kostas Farkonas

Veteran reporter with over 30 years of industry experience in various media, focusing on consumer tech, entertainment and digital culture. No, he will not fix your PC (again).

Veteran reporter with over 30 years of industry experience in various media, focusing on consumer tech, entertainment and digital culture. No, he will not fix your PC (again).




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