There's no format war here, just choices
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OLED and quantum dot. If you’re in the market for a new TV, these are two of the most common buzzwords you'll come across. Depending on the source, you may think they’re at war with each other, like two adversaries fated to dual to the death.
The truth is that there is no war here, just two excellent technologies that offer slightly different benefits. Deciding which one is best for you means knowing a little bit more about what each has to offer.
Organic light-emitting diode, or OLED, is a display technology. Much like plasma TVs before them, each little pixel in an OLED display fires up with light and color when zapped with electricity. When there’s no zap, the pixel shuts off, turning perfectly black.
Hence, OLEDs are lauded for their deep black levels and shadow detail. They’re also fairly expensive, though the prices are dropping each year. Why are they expensive right now? Because while millions of cell phones utilize affordable OLED displays, the giant OLED panels used in TVs are tricky to manufacture.
Quantum dots are the next evolution in the LCD television, a tried and true technology that just keeps finding new life. Unlike OLED, LCD TVs use a backlight for their light source, pushing that light through a color filter. Modern LCD TVs use super-efficient LED lights that can produce a far brighter picture than OLED.
Quantum dot builds on that brightness advantage that LED offers. Literally painted onto a thin layer of translucent plastic, quantum dots are able to transfer all that light output far more efficiently than TVs from just a couple of years ago. The result is rich, vibrant color.
Quantum dot and OLED TVs both take advantage of many of the latest, greatest content formats. You can find quantum dot and OLED TVs with a 4K Ultra HD resolution. Both support the HDR standard for expanded contrast and color detail. Both can also be curved.
But even with those things being equal, if you were to put the same movie on both screens and set them side-by-side, how they express the picture would be substantially different.
OLED is really designed to succeed in a dark environment. Its deep black levels and shadow detail are only truly appreciable in that kind of room. In brighter rooms, the OLED certainly doesn’t fail, but neither does it thrive.
Quantum dot, with its brighter screen, can withstand much brighter ambient lighting and still retain much of the color and detail in its picture. If you do most of your TV watching in a bright room, quantum dots may be more beneficial for this reason.
Now that you know the basics, it’s time to think about your own viewing habits, budget, and room set-up. No matter what you choose, the latest crop of TVs are so far beyond where we were just a few years that you should prepare to be blown away. In the meantime, read up, ask the tough questions, and get your wall ready for something big and beautiful.