Out with the old, in with the OLED
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If you're at all into tech fads, you've almost definitely heard of OLED TVs and their stunning picture quality. But even if you're not a TV geek, it's worth getting excited about this new TV tech. Here's what you need to know.
OLED (short for Organic Light-Emitting Diode) is a newer panel technology that differs from traditional LED/LCD TVs in a single important way. An OLED TV's pixels—the individual points of light that make up the picture—activate independently of one another. These pixels emit their own light and color, unlike in LED/LCD displays where a backlight shines through the pixels to create an image.
For this reason, LED TVs are considered "transmissive," while OLED TVs are considered "emissive." Remember plasma TVs? They were emissive, too. That's pretty much the only difference.
The ability to turn individual pixels on and off means OLED TVs can offer dramatically higher contrast than traditional LED/LCD TVs. That's because when OLEDs pixels shut off, they are truly black.
Most OLED TVs are also far thinner than their LED/LCD equivalents because they don't use a backlight, but regardless deliver perceptually perfect viewing angles. Finally, no backlight means no excess luminance to pollute what's on the screen.
OLED's biggest problem is that only one company is manufacturing TV-sized panels: LG. This means they're only available in a limited range of sizes (55, 65, 77 inches) and tend to be pretty expensive. If you buy an OLED, you're also buying into all the latest TV tech—4K, HDR, and smart features. There's no real "frills-free" OLEDs to be had.
If you're pretty sure you want to buy into what is probably the best-looking TV you've ever seen, here are a few of the more "affordable" ones we've tested and found to be totally excellent: