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OLED vs QLED: Which TV tech is the best?

The LG G2 Gallery Series TV hanging on a living room wall as a family look at it from the sofa.
(Image credit: LG)

What's the difference between OLED vs QLED? You're likely to encounter these tech terms if you're buying a new TV. But understanding the key differences between them isn't always easy, so we've created this guide.

Neither an OLED TV nor a QLED TV is better than the other. Instead, the one that's right for you will depend on several factors, including whether the TV tech will work in the space you have at home, if it lines up with your viewing preferences and, of course, if it's within your budget.

Even when it comes to performance, what makes a premium picture and a top-quality watching experience isn't the same for everyone. Some people might prefer the self-emissive delights of the best OLED TVs. Others would opt for the quantum dot contrast and high brightness of the best QLED TVs. (And if you don't know what any of those terms mean, read on.)

For an in-depth exploration of each, look at our what is OLED and what is QLED guides. Or read on, where we'll simplify the jargon and ensure you have all the information you need to pick between the two.

Whether you're hoping to find one of the best 85-inch TVs to create a cinema-like experience, one of the best gaming TVs for PS5 and Xbox Series X to make the most of your next-gen console or a smaller screen with one of the best 32-inch TVs for a spare room, we'll steer you in the right direction. 

OLED vs QLED: the current state of TV tech

The biggest and best TV tech makers, like Huawei, LG, Panasonic, Philips and Vizio all make OLED TVs. This is why OLED is the most widely-supported premium panel tech you’ll find in TVs right now – and it's getting cheaper. 

You can read our thoughts on some of the top OLED TVs available right now in our LG C1 OLED TV review, Sony A90J OLED TV review and Philips OLED+986 4K OLED TV review.

QLED TVs are mostly made by Samsung, although you will find them from other brands too, like Hisense, TCL and Vizio. 

Our Samsung Q80T QLED TV review and Samsung Q800T 8K QLED TV review will give you a good idea of what to expect from the best QLEDs on the market right now.

It's also worth mentioning a newer technology called QD-OLED TVs. This combines the best of both worlds, using a blue OLED panel with a quantum dot filter to create brighter primary colors. The result is a screen that has better color saturation (around 200% of traditional LED-LCD TVs) and better off-axis viewing. 

These TVs have only recently been unveiled by Sony and Samsung. You can read our first impressions in our Bravia A95K QD-OLED review and Samsung S95B OLED review.

A woman watching a large TV in a grey living room.

LG's OLED TVs are good for gaming as well as movies, with the introduction of Nvidia G-Sync (Image credit: LG)

OLED vs QLED: the case for organic LED

OLED Pros and Cons

Pros:
Lighter and thinner (2.57mm)
Self-emissive pixels
More convincing blacks
Faster refresh rate (0.001ms)
Judder and blur-free 

Cons:
Limited screen sizes: 48, 55, 65, 77, 83, 88-inch
Muted brightness (up to 1,000nits)
Expensive

We can summarise the OLED vs QLED battle in one sentence: QLED is a tweak of existing LCD technology, while OLED is a whole new technology altogether. 

OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode. This type of TV uses a carbon-based film between two conductors that emits its own light when an electric current is passed through.

Since the pixels themselves are producing the light, when they need to be black they get switched off completely. That means no chunky LCD backlight, remarkably realistic blacks, so-called 'infinite' contrast, lightning-quick refresh rates and a muted brightness ideal for movies – if dim by LED standards. 

Watching an OLED TV for the first time will give you that rare feeling of having just witnessed something really very special. 

OLED was only available in a few sizes until recently. But in 2022, many major brands have extended their ranges. For example, read our LG C1 OLED TV review for a display that comes in 48-inch, 55-inch, 65-inch, 77-inch sizes. Or our Sony A90J OLED TV review, available in 55-inch, 65-inch, 83-inch sizes.

QLED vs OLED: the case for quantum dots

QLED Pros and Cons

Pros: 
Brilliant whites
Ultra-bright (up to 2,000 nits (opens in new tab))
Variety of screen sizes between 32 and 98-inch

Cons:
Not as slim (25.4mm)
Overly bright
Less convincing blacks
Slower refresh rate

QLED isn't a new TV technology as much as it's a rebrand. Until 2017, Samsung called its flagship TVs SUHD, but that wasn't working as well as it hoped, so it's now called them QLED – which stands for Quantum-dot Light Emitting Diode. Yep, that's it.

Of course, it sounds very, very similar to OLED, which is confusing – especially when you throw in LG's new QNED range. What's the deal with these names, tech brands? 

Regardless, QLED is very distinct from OLED, in that it isn't self-emissive, which means it doesn't produce its own light and still makes use of a backlight. 

What makes it 'quantum', according to Samsung, is that it uses a quantum dot colour filter in front of its LCD backlight, which improves contrast and color vibrance. (Technically, they should be called QLCD-LEDs, so we can't complain too much about its existing name.)

So, really, it's not a next-gen display technology at all, just a tweak to LCD TV tech. However, that doesn't mean it's not impressive – it really is very good. 

Over the past few years, Samsung has revamped its QLED range calling it Neo QLED. This refers to the implementation of a MiniLED backlight, which multiplies the number of LEDs used for more precise brightness control – and with the side effect of widening viewing angles and upping potential brightness, as well as reducing blooming.

You can meet the first new Samsung Neo QLED TV of 2022 and read our Samsung QN95B Neo QLED 4K TV review to see what this new type of tech has to offer. Or check out our guide to the best Samsung 8K Neo QLED TVs.

OLED vs QLED: which brands support this TV tech?

The battle between OLED and QLED is more of a story about branding than tech. Every single OLED panel found inside every single OLED TV is made by LG Displays, and every single QLED panel is made by Samsung. 

Team OLED: 

Most TV brands have lined up behind OLED over the past few years, believing it to be the superior technology for picture quality. 

It's hard to disagree, but despite LG, Sony, Panasonic, TP-Vision (under the Philips brand in the UK), Loewe, Bang & Olufsen, Skyworth, and ChangHong all now selling OLED TVs, they do tend to be very expensive – despite the fact prices are improving a little.

The maker, LG Display, hasn't been able to produce enough OLED panels fast enough to bring them in at a lower cost, which is making OLED TVs seem like a top-tier premium TV technology.

This has been changing, with new and smaller sizes. Brands like LG now have 48-inch and 42-inch sized OLED TVs on offer (as well as a 97-inch TV at the other end of the spectrum).

Increased production should help to drop prices too. Though Hisense has already ditched the technology, after a poorly-performing Hisense O8B OLED that didn't quite make the best case for the technology.

Team QLED: 

Samsung abandoned its efforts to make OLED TVs in 2014 due to low production yields, and only started talking about QLED again back in 2017. It's now trying to popularize the technology by getting other companies involved. 

Though the brands behind QLED are fewer, they're quickly getting unionised. Samsung, Hisense and TCL banded together under the QLED Alliance back in 2017, in order to advance QLED development – and shift more QLED sets in the world's biggest TV market, China.

A Panasonic JZ2000 OLED TV in a grey living room.

Panasonic goes one step further with the JZ2000, which features a custom OLED panel (Image credit: Panasonic)

OLED vs QLED: what's the best choice for gamers?

If you're mainly interested in a television that's good for gaming, we'd encourage you to focus on different criteria than OLED vs QLED.

Now the next-gen PS5 and Xbox Series X consoles are here – and, for the most part, more readily available to buy – you'll want to find a TV with HDMI 2.1 ports that can carry 8K video from consoles (at 60Hz), as well as 4K video at 120Hz. 

Low input lag isn't always specified on TV product pages, but we recommend keeping an eye out for it nonetheless. Or reading our best gaming TVs guide, which runs through the top specs and points of interest you need to know about. 

OLED sets will be best for achieving natural contrast, and will help make cinematic games look truly breathtaking. LG's OLED TVs also come with Nvidia G-Sync to help smooth out gameplay onscreen, too.

However, QLEDs go a lot brighter, and may be better for practical visibility in the games you're playing,  drawing out environments and in-game objects clearly. 

It may depend on what you're playing – but getting a set with low input lag, VRR (variable refresh rate), or an HMDI 2.1 port, will be more important than the underlying panel technology.

A man playing a game on a large TV with a small dog

(Image credit: Samsung)

OLED vs QLED: which is right for you? 

Both of these technologies are impressive – but for different reasons. 

In many ways, QLED is the best choice. You'll get a brighter picture, these TVs tend to last longer, they're cheaper and there's no risk of burn-in – a mark that's left on the screen of OLED TVs.

However, if we had to choose one, right now we'd go with OLED. For the majority of people, the benefits of OLED will, at least for the time being, outshine the benefits of QLED. This includes better viewing angles, deeper blacks and, therefore, better contrast, less power consumption and probably a better option for gaming. This is especially the case if you're looking for one of the best 55-inch TVs since both technologies are roughly the same price at that size. 

But QLED also makes more sense if you're looking for a smaller size or have a smaller budget. OLEDs are still more expensive. You can get the older Samsung Q60R QLED, for example, for only a few hundred dollars / pounds at its smallest 43-inch size.

A man and a woman watching a Samsung QLED TV in a living room

Nothing's brighter than a Samsung QLED (Image credit: Samsung)

OLED vs QLED: what does the future look like?

Regardless of our buying advice for you today, it remains the case that things may shake up a lot in the coming years. Even this year as more new sets for 2022 are released.

There are plans afoot to develop QLED sets that ditch the LCD backlight to become self-emissive, in a move that could blend the advantages of both OLED and QLED technologies and spell trouble for OLED panel manufacturers like LG Display.

"True QLED sets are self-emissive, as with OLED sets, and are not yet in the market, but are anticipated to be so in the coming years," says David Tett, Market Analyst at Futuresource Consulting (opens in new tab). "When it is released it is expected to provide the strongest challenge to OLED yet, as it brings many of the same benefits as OLED, with few potential drawbacks." 

There were initially rumors for Samsung to release these so-called 'true' QLED sets a few years ago, but they’re not here yet. 

If the future is bright for QLED, those behind OLED panels are hoping that one of the technology's native characteristics, flexibility, wins the day. "OLED sets can offer new audio solutions that see the panel vibrate to create sound and could also offer new form factors, both due to their flexible nature of the panel," says Tett. This is nowhere clearer than with LG's rollable OLED, the LG Signature Series OLED R, which is able to curl up into the television's base.

For now it's OLED that takes the crown for the best – and most expensive – TV tech around, but unless LG Display can up its production rate and create more screen sizes – as it's beginning to do – the immediate future of the mainstream TV could still belong to QLED. 

Henry is a freelance technology journalist. Before going freelance, he spent more than three years at TechRadar reporting on TVs, projectors and smart speakers as the website's Home Cinema Editor – and has been interviewed live on both BBC World News and Channel News Asia, discussing the future of transport and 4K resolution televisions respectively. As a graduate of English Literature and persistent theatre enthusiast, he'll usually be found forcing Shakespeare puns into his technology articles, which he thinks is what the Bard would have wanted. Bylines also include Edge, T3, and Little White Lies.

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