It’s hard to believe that it’s already been almost a year since the countdown to the appearance of the first QD-OLED TVs in the world started: rumors have been making the rounds for some time, but it was during the autumn of 2021 that Samsung Display launched the official website for its QD-OLED technology (called “QD Display” back then), leading many to believe that Samsung Electronics would launch its first televisions based on it in CES 2022. The Korean group has been the inventor and exclusive manufacturer of QD-OLED screens, after all, so why not keep the glory and innovator’s bragging rights for itself, right?
Things did not play out quite like that, of course, as it was Sony that announced the first QD-OLED TVs in the world at CES 2022 (a development that surprised many at the time), even though it was actually Samsung that brought its QD-OLED TVs to market a few months later. The potential of disruption of the TV category’s status quo seemed to be there at the beginning of 2022 (along with the crazy hype that was built around both companies’ products), but whether that potential is realized, or if LED/LCD TVs and OLED TVs will reign supreme for another year, remains to be seen.
Since both Samsung and Sony have released their QD-OLED TVs for some time though — regardless of the disruptive effect they may or may not have in the TV category as a whole — what one can safely now give is… answers. Definitive answers to questions many consumers had at the beginning of 2022 regarding the QD-OLED tech itself, the promises it made, its practical advantages and more. So, without further ado, here’s what people looking to purchase a new television in the coming months should know about QD-OLED TVs, based on real-world impressions and data. Read on!
What is a QD-OLED screen anyway?
It’s a new type of hybrid, organic-based display that works similarly to OLED, but key differences give the former an edge over the latter. A QD-OLED screen creates images by controlling individual self-lit pixels, just like an OLED one does. But instead of using an almost-white light source and then a filter to produce the red, green and blue subpixels needed for displaying said images (while adding a fourth white one to make up for the lost brightness happening in the filtering stage), it uses a blue self-luminescent layer and a quantum dot filter in front of that.
What Samsung achieved with this approach is important: quantum dots are significantly more efficient in the process of producing the red, green and blue subpixels (so all three retain a lot more of the original light energy of the self-luminescent layer), while there is also no reason for a fourth white subpixel (which tends to dilute a large percentage of perceivable colors). This approach results in colors that are purer and more vibrant on a QD-OLED screen than their OLED equivalents, as well as colors visible on a QD-OLED screen that aren’t visible at all on a current OLED screen.
Is QD-OLED really that much better than an OLED in practice?
Yes and no — but, mostly, yes. On one hand, people having a good grasp of modern display tech will not be immediately blown away by a QD-OLED TV: the higher overall brightness that was vaguely promised by Samsung is, well, barely higher if a color-accurate picture mode is used (consumers focused on picture quality are certain to use such a mode). The best 2022 OLED TVs can reach around 840–910 nits of brightness — in a 10% window, in HDR content, in Cinema Mode — while both QD-OLED TVs available right now do anything between 920–970 nits in the same context. So… not that much of a difference, in(nit)?
On the other hand, what does get much brighter is the colors themselves: being not diluted at all and more efficiently powered than their OLED equivalents means that they are much more impactful, often striking, especially the reds and yellows (and their combinations). Then there’s the small matter of new colors present on the screen of a QD-OLED TV, something that proves to be immensely enjoyable after hours and hours of viewing. Since a QD-OLED screen retains the perfect blacks of OLED, it’s no wonder that most consumers will perceive a QD-OLED TV as brighter because of those vibrant colors and the seemingly higher contrast they offer. So… yes. A QD-OLED TV can be better than any OLED TV out there.
Is there anything else I should know about QD-OLED TVs?
A couple of things, yes. First of all, the screen uniformity of the panels currently used by all QD-OLED TVs is exemplary: there is no hint of the dreaded “dirt screen effect” or the faint vertical lines sometimes noticed in OLED screens. Second, viewing angles: they are at least as good, probably even better than the ones offered by OLED TVs, so they are wide enough to accommodate several people watching without anyone having to put up with degraded picture quality or washed-up colors. Samsung also claims that QD-OLED screens are better at handling reflections — and, while it’s not obvious how much better they can be compared to other TVs employing other techniques to minimize reflections, both QD-OLED TVs available indeed do a very good job of it.
Having said all that, QD-OLED TVs are still OLED TVs, so there’s always the possibility of burn-in, i.e. the permanent discoloration of parts of a screen where unmoving images have been displayed unchanged for prolonged periods of time. Samsung claims that QD-OLED panels are even more resistant to burn-in than modern OLED ones, but these new TVs have not been out for long enough to verify those claims. Still, it’s something to keep in mind. Also, something that weirdly seems to bother way more people than anyone anticipated: when a QD-OLED TV is turned off, its screen is not absolutely, totally black, but a very, very dark grey. It’s way less important than the possibility of burn-in, obviously, but still worth mentioning (probably because most QD-OLED TV buyers have previously been OLED TV owners and have grown accustomed to the absolute black of those screens).
Which QD-OLED TV models are available to consumers in 2022?
It is an unusual situation, to say the least, being both good and bad for consumers at the same time: there are only two QD-OLED televisions in the market right now, each one coming from a different manufacturer, with just two available sizes for each (so four models in total). There’s the Samsung S95B, using the company’s own QD-OLED screen, and the Sony A95K, using the same screen provided by Samsung. So consumers are given just two choices, which is indeed good and bad: it’s much simpler to pick one compared to e.g. OLED TVs (of which there are at least ten different TV lines available this year), but there’s not enough competition in this particular category to drive prices down.
Both the Samsung S95B and the Sony A95K are offered in 55-inch and 65-inch sizes, the Sony models being more expensive in both diagonals (how much more expensive seems to be changing every week now). These TVs may be sharing the same QD-OLED screen, but that’s where their similarities end: from their design and build quality to their respective connectivity and picture processing systems, the Samsung S95B and the Sony A95K are different in many ways, some of them extremely important. There are some aspects of their operation where the A95K is clearly superior to the S95B, others where the opposite is true, and others yet where it is a matter of personal preference or great debate, even. But that’s another story… or an interesting pitch for a forthcoming story, maybe?
Who can a QD-OLED TV be recommended to in 2022?
That is the easiest question to answer, actually, because it’s possible to do so by elimination. People who need a television that’s larger than 65 inches in diagonal should not buy a QD-OLED TV this year (a 77-inch model is coming in 2023 though). People who are concerned about burn-in, even a little bit, should not buy a QD-OLED TV (although they’d have to constantly abuse that screen beyond all reason for a long time for burn-in to actually happen). People who need a very, very bright TV working long hours in a very bright room should not get a QD-OLED TV. All these people have plenty of other options for a new TV in 2022 that would serve them well.
So… should everyone else go for a QD-OLED TV in 2022? Well, no, not exactly. Consumers who are after value for money in everything they purchase, for instance, should also not get a QD-OLED TV this year: these televisions do charge a premium, after all, being first-gen, cutting-edge tech products. People that want to get a QD-OLED TV, but wish to do so while spending the least possible amount of money, should probably wait until late spring or early summer of next year: the successors of the Samsung S95B and Sony A95K will have been announced and maybe even released by then, so retailers will be selling the 2022 models at deeply discounted prices in order to clear inventory for the new models (as is always the case with the previous year’s TV models).
People for whom money is no object can obviously get a Sony A95K or Samsung S95B now and enjoy it for any number of months before these models’ successors are widely available to buy (around summer 2023)… at which point they can get one of those and expect the third generation of QD-OLED TVs to arrive in 2024. That’s the price to pay, after all, for being able to afford everything: in tech, there will always be something better just over the horizon!