If you're looking at a premium TV upgrade this year, the question of QD-OLED vs OLED will almost certainly come up – these are two types of TV panel that are both very similar and very different at the same time.
We've been singing the praises of the best OLED TVs for years, of course, but QD-OLED is a brand new tech unveiled this year by Samsung, and is about to appear in TVs from Samsung and Sony. This new OLED variant incorporates Quantum Dot technology, and promises to deliver all the advantages of OLED, but with even better brightness, colours and viewing angles.
Both will be battling for places in our list of the best TVs, but just how does QD-OLED differ from vanilla-flavoured OLED, and should you really be looking out for it when you next upgrade your TV?
Here’s what you need to know…
QD-OLED vs OLED: Technology explained
OLED flatscreens are famed for their ability to create true black tones, and provide lots of detail in extremely dark areas, but the technology has been showing its limitations in recent years.
Unlike LCD, OLED is a self-emissive technology; it uses self-lit pixels, and doesn’t require a backlight behind the panels, as LCD screens do. Because these pixels can be individually controlled, they can be turned completely off, resulting in perfect blacks and superior subjective contrast between the brightest areas and the darkest.
It’s this sumptuous character which had led to OLED becoming a favourite with film fans. OLED screens look superb in controlled light conditions, with letterbox film bars rendered inky black so you focus only on the picture.
But OLED has an Achilles' heel. It can (literally) be outshone by high-end LED LCD models, which use their extra brightness to overcome reflections more easily in well-lit rooms.
QD-OLED (it stands for Quantum Dot-OLED) goes a long way to addressing the brightness shortfall of regular OLED. It combines the benefits of OLED's black performance, with Quantum Dot’s expanded colour volume and brightness. Some might describe it as the Holy Grail when it comes to TV picture quality.
Regular OLED panels use red, green and blue sub-pixels create colours, but also include a white sub-pixel to boost brightness – but this technique impacts colour saturation, making things less vibrant than they could be if the white pixel weren't needed.
QD-OLED innovates by using a blue self-emitting layer of pixels, unlike regular OLED screens. The red, green and blue sub-pixels are replaced by a layer of quick-energising Quantum Dot material, which filters colour without meaningfully impacting on brightness, allowing QD-OLED to offer stronger brightness and HDR performance. HDR peaks between 1,000 and 1,500 nits are claimed by Samsung Display – even high-end regular OLED TVs don't tend to pass 1,000 nits in real-life use.
According to specification data published by Samsung, QD-OLED is capable of presenting 131.2 per cent of the DCI P3 colour space, so it's capable of showing a far wider colour range than regular OLED… or LCD screens. No other display tech comes close. We’re hyped for it, you should be too.
QD-OLED vs OLED: What can you buy and when?
OLED TVs are widely available in a variety of screen sizes – when you include the 2022 OLED models, the best LG TVs are available from 42 inches up to 97 inches. The previous models are available now, and new models will release in spring and summer 2022.
If you want to go beyond 4K TV, one of the best 8K TVs is OLED – again, it's from LG. It's very expensive.
By way of comparison, QD-OLED choice will be far more limited, especially when it comes to size. Initially QD-OLED will only be troubling our lists of the best 55-inch TVs and best 65-inch TVs – those are the only two size options.
We're still waiting on official worldwide prices, but they look set to compare to the highest-end regular OLED TVs. If you’re determined to be an early QD-OLED adopter, best start saving your pocket money now.
QD-OLED vs OLED: What tech offers the best picture quality?
This has to be a classroom debate at the moment – until we can get our hands on a finished TV. Clearly QD-OLED has the potential to significantly move the dial when it comes to picture quality, thanks to its wider colour fidelity and brighter HDR performance.
But OLED isn’t going to give up its cinephile throne easily. LG Display is rolling out a second generation of EVO OLED panel, which uses new Brightness Boosting technology (which enables it to deliver greater brightness through improved heat dissipation) on its flagship LG G2 TV in 2022 – we've got an LG G2 vs Sony A95K guide for how these two TVs will compare.
LG is also making last year’s brighter OLED EVO panel technology available on its more affordable LG C2 range of 2022 televisions.
Meanwhile, Philips will introduce new OLED EX panel technology on its 2022 OLED807 model. This is said to deliver an increase in light output of around 30 per cent, compared to a standard 2021 OLED panel.
OLED-EX replaces hydrogen-based compounds within its construction with deuterium, which is said to be more efficient and stable.
All this means that when QD-OLED hits the market, the performance gap between it and OLED may already have narrowed. The big question is will there still be enough of a benefit to warrant the higher price and limited choice that QD-OLED will be saddled with.
It seems the race to claim the high ground in OLED picture quality is far from clear cut.