What is a QD-OLED TV?
A new type of TV blends two of the best display technologies
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When it comes to the best TVs you can buy, there are two types that stand above the rest: OLED TVs and quantum-dot LED TVs. Both premium display technologies have advantages and disadvantages depending on your living space and personal preferences.
But the days of being forced to choose between these top-tier TV technologies appear to be nearing an end. At CES 2022, Samsung received an Innovation Award for its QD-OLED TV, an all-new display type that combines OLED technology with quantum dots—a true best of both worlds situation. Around the same time, Sony announced that it, too, would be bringing a Sony QD-OLED TV to market using Samsung’s own panel type.
If we’re truly entering the era of QD-OLED, it’s important to understand the proposed advantages of this technology. Let’s start with the basics.
What is an OLED TV?
OLED (organic light-emitting diode) TVs are celebrated for their unparalleled contrast, ultra-wide viewing angles, and all-around terrific picture quality.
The secret to OLED’s success has to do with its pixels. While traditional LED TVs rely on complicated LED backlight systems for pixel illumination, the pixels of an OLED TV are self-illuminating, meaning they turn on and off independently of one another. This capability allows for perfect black levels; a 100% black screen will look identical to a TV unplugged from the wall.
To put it in practical terms, if you’re watching a scene set in outer space on an OLED TV, the darkness will appear completely and truly black, with the regions surrounding every dotted star totally free of light bloom. The so-called infinite contrast ratio of an OLED TV has positive, cascading effects on nearly every other aspect of performance. It allows for an incredibly detail-rich picture, pinpoint-accurate colors, and shadow tones free from that nasty banding effect. The self-emissive nature of OLED displays also allows for the widest viewing angles on the market today.
TV brightness is often reported in “nits,” a common shorthand for a measurement of luminance output. And if OLED TVs have one performance-related pitfall, it’s that they’re not nearly as bright as the high-end LED TVs that occupy the same price bracket. Even in HDR, the brightest OLED we’ve ever tested tops out at around 750-800 nits of sustained brightness—over half as dim as a premium LED TV. This makes them a less-than-ideal pick for folks with brightly lit living spaces or people craving a dazzlingly bright viewing experience. From a shopping standpoint, there’s also a wider variety of premium LED TVs to choose from compared to similarly priced OLED TVs.
What is a quantum-dot LED TV?
If you’re shopping for a traditional LED TV in a higher, OLED-level price bracket, there’s a very good chance that your ideal candidate will come with quantum dots in tow. TV brands refer to quantum-dot displays in different ways; Samsung and TCL call them “QLED” TVs while Sony calls its proprietary quantum dot technology “Triluminos Color.” There are currently two ways to apply quantum dots to a screen, but the fundamental effect on viewing is the same.
Quantum dots are microscopic nanocrystals that emit red or green light when struck with blue light. They allow a display to use bright, blue light to illuminate its pixels, increasing the saturation of red and green in the process. TVs use "additive" color, and since red, green, and blue are their primary colors, the enhanced red/green saturation extends to the millions of secondary and tertiary colors that the primary colors are used to create.
In short, quantum-dot TVs typically offer a brighter, more-colorful picture than LED TVs without quantum dots. In fact, the brightest TVs we’ve ever tested have all been quantum-dot TVs—some climbing as high as 2,000 nits in HDR. These make them excellent picks for people with bright living rooms, or for folks who are seeking bright, rich colors.
But until now, all quantum-dot TVs have been LED TVs, which means they lack the many advantages of OLED TVs. Most LED TV panel types also struggle to maintain their picture quality when viewed at off angles, too.
What if you didn’t have to choose between OLED and quantum dots? What if there was a technology that blended the incredible contrast of OLED with the bright, colorful look of quantum-dot LED?
What is a QD-OLED TV?
Although still early in its lifespan, QD-OLED (quantum-dot organic light-emitting diode) technology is quickly becoming the most talked-about and sought-after tech in the TV industry.
QD-OLED TVs combine the self-emissive nature of OLED displays with the brightness- and color-boosting qualities of quantum-dot displays by using blue light to illuminate red and green quantum dots. While we haven’t yet tested a QD-OLED TV for ourselves, the expectation is that these TVs are inherently brighter than traditional OLED TVs while maintaining their perfect black levels, wide viewing angles, and incredible overall contrast. And although OLED TVs already tend to produce rich, well-saturated colors, the addition of quantum dots should widen a QD-OLED’s color palette even further.
When will I be able to buy a QD-OLED TV?
Right now, Samsung is the only major manufacturer producing QD-OLED TV panels. The company recently unveiled its intentions to bring a 65-inch QD-OLED TV to market in 2022 (the same TV that won the CES Innovation Award). Unfortunately, pricing and release date have not been announced.
Sony’s QD-OLED TV actually has a model name: the Bravia XR A95K. Slated for a 2022 release, the A95K will be available in 55- and 65-inch sizes. As Samsung is currently the only manufacturer of QD-OLED TV displays, the Sony A95K will use Samsung panels. Despite the cutting-edge nature of QD-OLED technology, the A95K will forgo a cutting-edge 8K resolution in favor of 4K (which is probably for the best, given the lack of 8K content currently available).
Alienware also made waves at CES 2022 when it announced the first ever QD-OLED gaming monitor. The 34-inch, 175Hz gaming monitor will be hitting shelves soon.
While pricing is not available for either QD-OLED TVs, don’t expect them to come at a bargain. Some of the best TVs you can buy right now are over $2,000 for 65 inches of screen real estate. Due to the complicated nature of their hardware, we expect 65-inch QD-OLED TVs to exceed these price points—perhaps significantly so. If you’re hoping for affordable QD-OLED options, you might have to wait several years.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.