There are a number of TV display technologies available in various stages of development today. QLED, MicroLED are a couple of new contenders that have threatened to take the limelight away from OLED display technology in recent times. However, OLED as a display technology has been around for a long time now and does not seem to be going away anytime soon. In fact, we would argue that it is going from strength to strength and promises to be the dominant TV display technology in the days to come. Let’s look at why this is. But before we begin, a quick refresher on what OLED display technology is and how it works.
How does OLED technology work?
OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode. While this may sound like its a derivative of LED technology, it is actually fundamentally different. This light is then filtered multiple times and then displayed on a liquid crystal display and you see the final image on your TV.
The advantage of a traditional LED TV is that it is relatively inexpensive to produce. The technology also enables display panels to become slim which is why all TVs currently available are flat screens. However, with these advantages come other disadvantages which are seemingly impossible to solve in a traditional LED TV setup. Enter the OLED display platform.
Compared to LED TVs which are a transmissive technology, OLED TVs are what are known as a emissive technology. An OLED screen can be thought of as a sandwich which has multiple layers in it. Using these various layers, an OLED screen is able to produce light as dicatated by the incoming video signal. There are a couple of different ways of producing different colors in an OLED but that is a level of detail we do not require for now.
The difference between an OLED and regular LED TV is that an LED TV uses LEDs for backlighting. These LEDs are much larger than a standard pixel on your screen. An OLED screen in contrast does not require any backlighting and the light produced by it can be directly projected onto the screen. An individual light producing unit is also much smaller in an OLED.
Since OLED screens do not require backlighting and are available in much smaller light producing units as compared to LED TV, the control of the screen in terms of colors and lighting is much more precise with an OLED TV. One of the biggest issues with an LED TV is that no part of the screen can be made completely black. As a result even for images where the screen needs to be completely black, it is not possible to do so. OLED TVs however can achieve these perfect blacks. As a result, OLED TVs have a theoretical contrast ratio of infinity since parts of the screen can be completely black.
While image quality is the biggest difference in OLED and regular LED TV display technology, there are other differences as well. OLED TVs are as bright as LED TVs while also consuming lower amounts of electricity. As we have previously mentioned, OLED displays are also thinner which means that your already flat screen can get much slimmer. Since the technology is also simpler as compared to LEDs, in the long run OLED TV panels should be cheaper to produce as well. Currently however, the manufacturing costs are high as TV manufacturers are figuring out large scale manufacturing processes.
So now that we have seen what OLED TV displays are and what their current advantages of LED TVs are, lets also see why this technology makes the cut as the technology of the future.
Why OLED TVs will dominate
OLED Image Quality cannot be beat
OLED TVs are an emissive technology. This means that the OLED panel is directly responsible for producing the image that you see on your screen. This also means that parts of the panel can be turned off at will. This is the secret sauce that makes the image quality of OLED TVs unbeatable. Selective and precise control over the display panel implies that parts of the OLED TV panel can be made completely dark.
Imagine watching a film noir movie on your TV or something where there is a shot of the night sky. Traditional LED TVs cannot do justice to such images since they cannot produce perfect blacks. OLED TVs on the other hand do produce perfect blacks with parts of the screen going completely dark. This looks stunning and leads to a theoretical contrast ratio of infinity since the black regions of the screen are at zero illumination. Also, its not just the blacks that are reproduced perfectly. OLEDs with their more precise controls are also fantastic at pixel dimming. Pixel dimming is the ability to dim every single RGB pixel on the display panel. Pixel dimming enables OLED panels to produce sharp and clean images where you do not need any further image processing.
Tests have also shown that OLED TVs can produce upto 50 times better contrast as compared to regular LED TVs. We can also go on about how OLED TVs have better color reproduction, better refresh rates, lesser lag times and more but I think you get the picture. OLED TVs are an order of magnitude better than LED TVs when it comes to image quality and it will take some doing for LED TVs to catch up with their OLED counterparts on this aspect.
Problems with OLED like burn-in are being solved fast
A major criticism leveled against OLED TVs is that they are susceptible to image burn-in. Image burn-in happens when a static image is shown on the TV for a long duration of time. The image literally gets imprinted on the TV display and can be permanent in the worst case. This is a problem which is endemic to OLED TVs and has been observed in high end models as recently as a year ago.
OLED TV manufacturers are dealing with the problem of image burn-in on a war footing and there have been multiple counter measures employed to prevent this problem and to also ensure that any burn-in is not permanent and can be scrubbed if an intervention is made as soon as the burn-in is seen.
Inclusion of a screen saver is the most basic preventative measure that has now been included in almost all OLED TVs. In case you have paused your TV and left it like that, the screensaver takes over after a short while. This ensures that there are changing images on the screen which prevents any chance of a burn-in.
Other clever features available include reducing the brightness of any static images like logos on the screen and shifting the static images a few pixels every few hours to ensure that the same pixels do not keep getting stressed repeatedly.
Despite all these measures, if you do leave your TV on with a bright static image on-screen for a very long time (we are talking multiple hours here), there is chance for image burn-in to happen. If it does, switching off the display for a few hours should help in removing the burn-in. There is also the option of a pixel refresh which scrubs all the pixels of any lingering after images and resets the screen so to speak.
With all these measures in place, image burn-in is pretty much a thing of the past which you do not need to worry about while buying your next OLED TV.
Cost of manufacturing OLEDs is coming down
As with any new technology, the cost of manufacturing OLED TVs might be making them prohibitivily expensive for you currently to purchase one. With the technology gaining acceptance among consumers, manufacturers are racing to find cheaper manufacturing methods that can reduce the overall cost and help in increasing the market share of OLED TVs.
In fact, there is a new manufacturing method available just over the horizon which is called the inkjet-printed panels method. The current manufacturing method for OLED is used to produce something called White OLED panels. This method is known to be material intensive and also causes a lot of waste which leads to higher costs. The inkjet-printing method promises to be much lower in terms of waste as well as labor. This will cause the prices of OLED TVs to fall by as much as 25%. This is a massive reduction for any manufacturing process and consumers are expected to benefit with a large part of the saving being passed back to us.
With falling manufacturing costs, expect to see cheaper OLED TVs on the market in 2020. Cheaper costs also means that production can be scaled up and newer models can be introduced in various price points. 2020 promises to be an exciting year for OLEDs.
OLED panels are getting brighter
One criticism leveled against OLED TVs is that they cannot be as bright as LED TVs. This leads to LED TVs being a better choice when it comes to viewing TV in the day or while watching brightness intensive images like HDR images. This has been a valid criticism since OLED TVs do produce lower brightness.
Brightness is measured in a unit called nits. OLED TVs generally max out at a brightness level of 800 nits. Most LED TVs have a maximum brightness level of 1000-1200 nits with higher end models going upto 2000 nits and beyond. So does this mean that you should expect lower brightness performance from your OLED TVs? Not at all. The brightness of OLED TVs is improving all the time. A latest OLED TV model from LG was tested to deliver the same peak brightness delivered by LED TVs. This comparison is maintained for all TV, video and and music content. For very bright images like web browsing and other computer content, the LED TV was seen to have better brightness.
So if you are planning on purchasing an OLED TV, do keep in mind that the OLED display is miles ahead of the LED on most image quality parameters and on the brightness front, OLEDs have matched up to LED TVs for 90% of the use cases for which a TV is used.
OLED displays are multifunctional
The OLED display technology is used not just for Televisions. Due to its slim size and environmentally friendly manufacturing process, OLED screens are used for very small screens like smart watches and mobile phones as well. Insights from scaling down the display are also being applied in figuring out how to scale the screen sizes upwards as well.
Expect to continue seeing OLED screens from the very small sizes of a smart watch right upto giant advertising and sports displays in the future.
OLED Displays – conclusion
So there you have it, our opinion on the various reasons why we think OLED displays will take the lead over LED TVs and continue to hold it for a long time to come.