OLED TV: what you need to know

OLED TV prices, manufacturers and more

OLED TV what you need to know

OLED: It's an acronym you've probably heard before as the next up-and-coming television technology, but might know little, if anything, about.

If you aren't up to date on panel technology, don't tune out. OLED truly is the next big thing in home entertainment and it's finally at a price where the average consumer can buy one their own.

But just what is OLED? Are they worth it? And what are the advantages of an OLED TV? Read on to find out all about the latest big screen buzzword.

Cut to the chase
What is it: OLED is a variant of LED technology for TVs, phones and cameras
What's so great about it: It offers better image quality, reduced power consumption and fast response times over traditional LED TVs
Why doesn't everyone own it? Because it's prohibitively expensive and only one company, LG, currently uses it in television panels.

What's the difference between OLED and LED?

Everything. They might sound alike, but the processes are completely different. OLED stands for Organic Light-Emitting Diode, with "organic" referring to the carbon film that sits inside the panel before the glass screen. OLED panels emit their own light when an electric current is passed through, whereas cells in a LCD display require an external light source, like a giant backlight, for brightness.

For years there was a question mark about longevity of OLED panels, while production lines have been impossible to make profitable due to high failure rates. But years of innovation from companies like LG and Samsung have not only made it easier to create OLED TVs, but much more affordable, too.

What are the advantages of OLED?

Gamers and home cinema aficionados are going to absolutely love OLED. It's rated at around 1,000 (some say higher) times faster than a standard LED-backlit LCD panel, and it's superior to the now-discontinued plasma tech, too.

As well as being completely devoid of blur, and so much more detailed, light output is controlled in each pixel individually so very localised dimming is possible.

LG, pretty much the only consistent producer of OLED televisions on the planet currently, likes to use the term "infinite contrast" to describe how the self-lighting pixels switch off completely when reproducing black giving it an "absolute" black color instead of a "relative" black.

How slim are OLED TVs?

The result is awesomely deep blacks and bright, peak whites, as well as improved color accuracy - and all from a form factor that's just a few millimetres in depth and much lighter than standard TVs.

How is it so slim? OLED's secret is its sub-pixels that self-luminate, i.e. it doesn't need a bulky backlight, which in turns makes it more power efficient.

Which OLED TVs are out now?

OLED TVs have been on the market since 2012, with two corporate giants fueling the industry, Samsung and LG. If you want something here in 2015, however, you'll only find the latter on sale, which is almost definitely for the best.

In the US, look out for the LG 55EC9300, 55EG9600 and 65EG9600. All three are curved OLED Smart TVs, with both the EG9600 models offering 4K resolution.

In the UK, you can find the LG 55EG960V, 65EG960V, 65EC970V and 77EC980V.

Are Samsung and LG's OLED TVs exactly the same?

No. Samsung uses 'Super OLED' tech while LG describes its take on OLED as the less catchy '4-Colour Pixels and Colour Refiner'. LG's take on OLED adds a fourth pixel - white - to the traditional RGB colour mix (a bit like Sharp's Quattron TVs), but also needs a colour filter. Samsung claims that it's Super OLED tech, which doesn't use a filter, is superior.

Can OLED do 3D?

Both high-end LG TVs and the Samsung OLED S9C are 3D. (Samsung's uses Active Shutter tech, while LG uses its passive Cinema 3D system.) Though not surprisingly, neither brand wants to blow the slim depth that OLED offers. Samsung is including a separate connections box that will also include the power supply.

The major difference between old OLED TVs and newer models is that later versions support 4K UHD resolutions over Full 1080p.

How much do OLED TVs cost?

OK, so here's OLED's Achilles Heel: they're incredibly expensive. OLED TVs usually start around $2,500 in the US and £3,800 in the UK. Because no other manufacturer is really competing in the OLED space, LG basically has an unintentional monopoly on the market.

That said, usually when one company starts to pull ahead, the others quickly catch up. Prices should come down when manufacturers can work out the kinks on the production line and demand increases for these phenomenal pieces of tech.

What's the future for OLED?

Don't be hugely surprised if more companies start producing OLED TVs. Samsung and Sony were early adopters but it wasn't until LG came around that the technology really started to pick up steam.

Expect to see at least two new series of OLED TVs from LG at CES 2016, alongside more SUHD TVs from Samsung and 4K UHD TVs from Sony.

Original reporting on this article by Jamie Carter.