QLED, OLED and MicroLED: What is the difference?

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The LCD nearly died out and LED is living its last days of glory. The war for the living room is fought between three new technologies: OLED, QLED and MicroLED and we dedicate this article to them. Which one is worth buying? Does it make sense to purchase an LED at this point? What technology will be the standard in a few years?

Although there are many manufacturers of televisions, when we talk about the companies that drive technological innovation – in terms of panel and image processor – the list is reduced considerably. Today, we can divide the market into three trends: OLED, QLED and MicroLED

  • QLED, adopted by Samsung and its Quantum Dot LED technology
  • OLED, adopted mainly by LG and Sony.
  • MicroLED , Samsung’s proposal for the future, to which other giants such as Sony (under the name of Crystal LED) could join.

LED and OLED technology

For many years, the technology behind a television panel has been similar: a layer of crystals with an external light source (first rear, then from the edges and in the latest models almost at the pixel level) to build an image.

With the arrival of OLED, each pixel can illuminate itself, achieving brutal contrast, practically pure black and design possibilities (finest screens, curves, etc.) that were previously unattainable. Since pixels do not require an external light source, the designs can be much finer and their energy consumption is significantly lower.

LCD, QLED and OLED TV panel layers

Comparison between LED, QLED and OLED TV displays

At this point, it should be clarified that QLED is nothing more than an evolution of the LED system that we had until now. Its fundamental difference with respect to the “normal” LEDs is that each pixel can be activated individually, offering benefits above standard but which do not come close to those of OLED.

What is MicroLED?

Our third protagonist, the MicroLED , is still a newcomer but for many it represents the real bet for the future: the revolution behind this technology is to reduce the pixel size up to 100 times compared to a traditional LED (there are already panels with 0.15 mm pixels), multiplying the number of them and reducing the distance between them.

In this way, MicroLED can offer the best of both worlds : pixels of minimum size that can be controlled at will, possibility of a pure black, much brighter than an OLED, wide viewing angles and no concern of degradation in the medium and long terms.

A MicroLED panel is made up of small independent modules, so manufacturers could create televisions of any size and shape; You only need a controller that indicates which pixels should light up at any given time, but the possibilities are almost endless. In the following table you have a comparison of the three technologies.

LCD, OLED and MicroLED comparison table:

Display technique LCD OLED MicroLed
Technological type Backlight/LED Self-illumination Self-illumination
Contrast ratio 5,000:1
Lifetime Medium Medium Long
Response time ms μs ns
Operating temperature -40 to 100 °C -30 to 85 °C -100 to 120 °C
Cost Low Medium High
Energy Consumption High Medium Low
Viewing Angle Low Medium High
PPI (Wearables) Max 250 ppi Max 300 ppi Above 1500 ppi
PPI (VR) Max 500 ppi Max 600 ppi Above 1500 ppi

 

Samsung’s The Wall

Surely, more than one reader is wondering why aren’t there any MicroLED TV panels available on the market. There are several reasons, but the most important challenges facing the industry are twofold:

  1. the panels are extremely expensive to manufacture
  2. they also generate a lot of heat, which needs to be dissipated efficiently and without noise

Will MicroLED televisions will be affordable in 2020? Samsung already unveiled its MicroLED technology at CES 2019 – The Wall, a 146” MicroLed display. At CES 2020 it announced it expands MicroLED TV home lineup. The Wall, which is aimed for use in homes, will be available in 75, 88, 93, 110, 150, or 292-inches. Nevertheless, this option remains far too expensive for the average household.

Picking the best TV for you

So, what TV should you buy this year? As always, the decision between QLED, OLED and MicroLED depends on our budget and the main use of the television. To watch conventional television there is no point in investing in the latter, but if you are passionate about high-quality cinema and series, or have a team with which to play video games in maximum detail, the differences between one technology and another are important.

How to buy a TV? A few useful tips

If your budget is less than $1,700, our recommendation is to opt for a LED TV (or QLED) of the latest generation. You can find very good offers for 2017 or even 2016 models, with great image quality and support for almost all the technologies that we will see in the coming years. In this price range, HDR should not be a fundamental variable, but it is much better if included. Regarding 4K, it will be difficult to find a model of more than 50 inches that is only 1080p so there is no doubt.

It is possible that you will find some OLED offer around this price but. However, it is much more worth investing in the best LED or QLED that you can afford, than in a low-end OLED.

When your budget is above $1,700 there is no much doubt. In the present, OLED is unrivaled in terms of image quality. TVs are rapidly devaluing and the technological leaps are not as much as the commercial departments would have us believe, so before deciding, take a look at models from previous years that can be very worthwhile.

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