Despite OLED technology being used in consumer products for years now, we still get asked ‘what is OLED?’ on an all too regular basis. OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) is a display technology that utilize organic thin films places between two conductors to produce light. Unlike LED displays, OLED products don’t require a backlight to function – resulting in a tonne of benefits which we’ll touch upon shortly.
In this guide, we’ll be taking a closer look at OLED technology to answer some of the big questions that surround its usage. We’ll be looking at the price, performance, longevity, and features & benefits of OLED, concluding with our thoughts on overall value for money and whether or not now is the time to upgrade.
What is OLED?
So, what exactly is OLED?
OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode – a display technology that makes use of organic materials instead of a generic backlight to produce color and luminance. An ‘organic’ compound layer (which is comprised of carbon film in between electrical conductors) sits inside the panel before the glass screen. This layer emits its own light source when an electrical current is passed through it, allowing each of the pixels in OLED to self illuminate – better known as self-emissive technology.
As OLED displays have the ability to generate light on a pixel level, they deliver much better picture quality when compared to even the best mini LED alternatives. The CCFL (cold-cathode fluorescent light) used in LED panels means that contrast ratio and HDR isn’t nearly as expansive. A backlight effective restricts the number of local dimming zones a display has – often leading to annoying screen artifacts like blooming and haloing. You don’t get that with OLED technology as you can generate maximum luminance directly next to perfect blacks – resulting in an infinite contrast ratio.
OLED pros & cons
Like any technology, OLED displays also comes with its own unique set of pros and cons. In this section, we’ll quickly summarize what those pros and cons are, moving onto a more in-depth analysis of performance below:
- Perfect blacks
- Infinite contrast ratio
- Self-emissive pixels
- Stunning HDR performance
- Excellent colors
- Incredibly thin
- Lightweight design
- Ability to curve
- Risk of burn-in
- Incredibly expensive
- Peak brightness is lacking
- Not as reliable as LED
Should you buy an OLED?
While the price of OLED displays is still high, we’re finally starting to see reducing costs across the board. Brands that utilize OLED, such as LG Electronics, are now into their 3rd and 4th generation of OLED products – meaning the market price is starting to reduce. For that reason, more people are starting to consider an OLED display for their next big purchase.
In this section, we’ll look at some of the main qualities an OLED display comes equipped with, concluding with our thoughts on value and whether now is the time to buy OLED.
Let’s start with picture quality – as it’s one of the biggest pros an OLED display comes equipped with. OLED TVs and monitors are renowned for their incredible picture quality. They provide stunning contrast, colors, HDR, and resolution which makes gaming and entertainment consumption a truly enjoyable experience.
For us, OLED displays are at the top of the pile when it comes to general picture quality – beating mini LED and Quantum Dot technology easily.
That said, OLEDs do suffer with brightness issues – which we’ll touch upon shortly – which makes daytime usage of an OLED display not perfect. However, that’s just one small flaw that sits amongst a tonne of unmatched positives.
Additionally, OLED TVs now come in all shapes and sizes, with LG’s latest 2022 OLED TV lineup offering its widest range of sizes to date. The new 42 inch OLED TV is particularly interesting as its the brand’s first ever attempt at a sub-48″ model – tailored specifically for next-gen console gamers.
All OLED displays now feature 4K or 8K screen resolutions as well, meaning image quality is of the highest standard. Of course, 4K is fairly standard in today’s market, however, 8K has yet to roll out to the general consumer populous – making OLED TVs automatically futureproof.
Ultimately, all being said, the picture quality of OLEDs is hard to beat.
Color accuracy of OLED displays was once considered the peak in modern display technology. However, thanks to the arrival of Quantum Dot (and similar technologies), OLED isn’t quite as impressive as it once was. That’s not to say it’s now terrible, but when comparing OLED vs QLED for color accuracy, the gap is incredibly close. Some experts argue that the battle for color accuracy is now in the hands of competing technologies, however, it’s very close.
That being said, OLED producing incredibly accurate and vibrant colors overall. Most OLED displays have the ability to cover at least 95% of the DCI-P3 color space, making them incredibly accurate when calibrated.
As we mentioned earlier, OLED is by far the best display technology when it comes to contrast ratio. As OLED TVs have the ability to adjust brightness on a pixel level, the panel can deliver peak luminance directly next to perfect blacks – a feature competing technologies simply can’t replicate.
The self-emissive nature of the OLED display means that contrast ratio is unmatched in modern display technology. Even when you compare OLED to mini LED panels, there is only one hands down winner – and that’s OLED.
OLED’s infinite contrast ratio is perfect for viewing films and playing games as dark scenes look incredibly accurate and lifelike. No more will you experience annoying screen artifacts like haloing and blooming – where dark regions around a bright object are compromised due to poor local dimming.
Peak brightness is an area that sees OLED slip behind some of its competition. OLED technology relies on an electrical current and organic thin film to create its own light. While this is great for contrast, it doesn’t offer nearly as much power as a large CCFL backlight – which can generate peak brightness that exceeds 2000 nits.
By contrast, OLED panels can only push around 350 nits of brightness – meaning daytime viewing of OLED displays can be a little problematic. Major OLED manufacturers say this isn’t anything to worry about – and darkroom performance far outweighs any of its nearest rivals. While this is true, it still leaves users with poor peak brightness overall.
OLED manufacturers like LG Displays are working on new OLED technology that can produce far greater peak brightness levels. The brand’s Evo OLED panel is a prime example of the work that is going on behind the scenes to resolve this problem. Furthermore, QD-OLED is also being worked on – a hybrid display technology that combines the main pros of both Quantum Dot and OLED into one.
Longevity & burn-in
Longevity and burn-in (or image retention) is definitely a factor that must be considered when purchasing a new OLED display. Unfortunately, OLED displays have only been around since around 2013 – meaning we have no real long-term indicator of how they will perform over decades of usage. That said, industry professionals say that a user would have to use an OLED TV for ‘five hours a day for 54 years’ to see a 50% degradation in brightness.
While this doesn’t sound too bad, it’s not nearly as efficient as LED alternatives – a panel technology that has a track record for standing the test of time.
Additionally, OLED’s also run the risk of permanent burn-in, a feature which sees a ghostly image retained on the screen no matter what content you’re viewing. This often occurs when the OLED display showcases a static image for long periods of time at maximum brightness.
Of course, as time goes by, OLED manufacturers have developed anti burn-in technology that tries to eradicate this issue all together. That said, the fact still remains that OLED TVs and monitor are very much at risk of permanent burn-in.
When OLED TVs and monitor first hit shelves, the pricing was simply ludicrous. However, as time passes and new generations of OLED displays start to arrive, the market price for OLED products has started to normalize a little.
In today’s market, OLED displays are still relatively expensive – however, they aren’t nearly as expensive as they were on initial launch. Nowadays, you can actually pick up an OLED product that actually showcases fantastic value for money. LG’s now outdated OLED ‘C’ series showcases particularly good value for money – especially if you want an OLED panel that delivers high-end gaming performance.
Is now time to upgrade to OLED?
That leads us nicely onto whether or not now’s the time to upgrade to OLED technology? And the answer couldn’t be simpler – yes.
Around five years ago, we’d probably recommend not buying OLED due to lofty price tags that come attached. However, with reducing prices across the board, no probably is the time to upgrade. Of course, you have to take all the pros and cons into consideration and decide whether or not an OLED is right for you. If they are though, you’ll struggle to find a better visual experience for both gaming and entertainment consumption – they truly are exceptional.
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