OK. All right, all right. It’s perfectly understandable: when something new comes around it naturally becomes the talk of the town and, right now, in the television market that’s the QD-OLED TV sets starting to appear in retail. Everyone’s talking about the first Samsung models of this kind making it to consumers’ hands, many are speculating about Sony’s equivalent models and the differences between the two, some are already arguing about the “TV of the Year” award (!), of all things.
Judging by all the forum threads, posts, comments, YouTube videos, etc. doing the rounds online, though, it’s obvious that QD-OLED is still an unknown quantity to many. There are a number of misconceptions about this new tech — some of them based on Samsung Display’s claims, unfortunately — as well as a number of points that need clarifying before people can make an informed decision about these QD-OLED TVs.
One can’t cover every single nuance of this new display tech without getting too technical — and posting something so extensive that few people will actually read it — but answering the most important questions consumers have about these TVs right now is much easier. Let’s get to it!
Do QD-OLED TVs really get so much brighter than OLED TVs?
That is the most common question asked about these new televisions, especially from people who already own an OLED model and look to upgrade to something even better. So, do QD-OLEDs get considerably brighter than OLEDs in practice? Yes… and no. Yes, because they do hit levels of higher peak brightness when displaying the industry-standard 10% white window during testing (around 1100 nits while almost all OLEDs end up within the 700–900 nit range). Also yes, because colors, being more vibrant, look brighter and (since QD-OLEDs retain the perfect blacks of OLEDs) the perceived picture does look brighter overall.
In practice, though, the difference is not as mind-blowing as Samsung’s marketing would have consumers believe. QD-OLEDs are still OLEDs, meaning that they cannot get overly bright without causing issues to the organic material their screens are built around, so they too employ ABL (automatic brightness limiter) in order to not damage their panels. Most importantly, though, they do not get spectacularly brighter when displaying real-world content in the picture modes that they are meant to use the most, i.e. Filmmaker or Cinema: they do look brighter (a 200-nit difference in HDR is nothing to sneeze at) but that brightness mostly helps to bring out more detail in shadows and highlights. It’s not dazzling or anything.
Do QD-OLED TVs get as bright as LED/LCD TVs?
Taking the previous question into account, the answer is rather obvious: no, QD-OLEDs cannot get as bright as quality LED/LCDs can. They are still OLED TVs at heart, while LED/LCD TVs built around modern backlight technology can hit more than 1600–2000 nits of brightness (there have been models hitting just shy of 4000 nits in the past).
So while QD-OLED TVs do offer a brighter picture than OLED TVs, they can’t compete with capable LED/LCD TVs in that regard (overall picture quality is another matter entirely). People who plan to watch TV in overly bright rooms, with lots of natural light, for many hours every day, should probably still look into LED/LCD models despite the fact that QD-OLED TVs offer much higher contrast and more life-like colors (as it has always been the case between LED/LCD and OLED models anyway).
What is this QD-OLED “color volume” everyone’s raving about?
This is arguably a more important aspect of these new TVs than peak brightness in and of itself. Because of the way QD-OLED screens work — which, without getting into highly technical details, is quite different from the way “traditional” OLED TV screens have worked for a decade — they are capable of displaying a significantly larger percentage of the BT.2020 color space. In practice this means that a QD-OLED TV has a wider range of colors to choose from when displaying an image: where a “traditional” OLED TV cannot display e.g. a specific hue of deep red because the color palette it works with does not reach that far, it makes do with the closest hue it has at its disposal. A QD-OLED TV may very well be able to display that difficult red hue, resulting in a more convincing, lifelike picture.
The red hue example was not random: QD-OLED TVs are way better at expressing primary colors such as red and green because they are not producing them using color filters. They are instead converting blue light to other colors using Quantum Dots, which is a more efficient, less energy-wasting way to do that. That is why a significant percentage of the colors displayed by a modern TV is expressed in a purer, more accurate way by QD-OLEDs, looking much more vibrant and distinguishable than what an OLED can express. Combined with the absolute blacks of an OLED, QD-OLED can display cinematic material that is closer than ever to the creator’s intent — provided that a TV set’s image processing system is up to the task and that a manufacturer actually means to honor that intent.
Do QD-OLED TVs have burn-in issues like OLED TVs do?
Yes, they do. Although OLEDs themselves have become much more resilient to this issue over the years and come with several different features designed to minimize the risk of burn-in, there’s always the chance of that happening after systematic abuse of their panels — and the same goes for QD-OLEDs. Samsung Display claims that these TVs use a real-time Image Sticking Correction (ISC) mechanism to monitor and maintain their screens’ pixels, but it’s still unknown whether that makes a difference or not in the context of prolonged use.
The company does seem confident, in any case, that QD-OLED panels will not face any serious burn-in issues or it would not have produced a version for PC monitors (where persistent images are way more likely to be displayed). Alienware’s first such QD-OLED monitor comes with a three-year warranty that includes coverage for burn-in, something no manufacturer had previously offered with OLED screens.
Are there any other advantages QD-OLED brings to the table?
Apart from the higher brightness, the increased color volume and the purer color expression of these new TVs, Samsung Display — the only manufacturer of QD-OLED panels in the world right now — claims that the way these screens work offers a couple of other bonus benefits. Viewing angles of “traditional” OLEDs were already wide enough, for instance, but QD-OLEDs are said to be marginally better in that respect, maintaining brightness and color uniformity to an even higher degree.
Samsung Display also claims that the panel structure of QD-OLED screens is inherently better at handling reflections, which is a big plus for televisions who already struggle with natural light or strong artificial light in any environment. The company is quick to point out that QD-OLEDs are also ideal for gaming, as they are just as fast and responsive as OLEDs but sport higher contrast and color saturation (always handy in modern video games).
Bonus: do these QD-OLED advantages come at a premium?
Amazingly enough… no. It’s not that the handful of QD-OLED TVs coming out this year are not more expensive than many OLED TVs, it’s that their cost is comparable to the latter despite the former being first-generation, cutting-edge tech products. The Samsung S95B QD-OLED TV at 55 or 65 inches costs exactly the same as an LG G2 OLED TV of the same diagonal. Even the Sony A95K QD-OLED TV, at the same inches, is more expensive than the equivalent Samsung model but no more expensive than what Sony’s flagship OLED model (the fantastic A90J) used to cost last year.
So, all in all, consumers will not be paying a hefty premium for a QD-OLED TV in 2022 like they’ve been doing for years with e.g. 8K TVs. Something worth noting, though: these TVs will not cost a leg and an arm to get, but due to low availability they will most probably not be discounted in a few months’ time, on Black Friday or in any other type of sale (as other TVs most certainly will at some point). So for people who really want one, it might be wise to keep an eye on retail and pull the trigger sooner rather than later. Fancy enjoying some truly vibrant colors? Quantum Dots on OLED it is!