Sometimes it seems as if the world of flatscreen displays is dense with terminology that is deliberately created to mislead – from endless, deceptively similar acronyms to old tech rebranded with new jargony monikers.
Developed by Samsung, QD-OLED is one of the newest and most exciting kids on the flat-panel block. For once, its name represents exactly what it is: a combination of the Quantum Dot (QD) displays, endorsed by market leader Samsung as well as the likes of Hisense, Vizio and Roku, and OLED technology – of which Samsung’s arch-rival LG is the dominant player, as the sole supplier of large OLED panels to other manufacturers.
The two screen types have different strengths and weaknesses, and combining them could potentially yield results greater than the sum of the parts, achieving that holy trinity of TV manufacturing: vivid colours, high peak brightness without light bleed, and dark, saturated blacks.
But how will it work? When will it be available? And why has Samsung, an avid anti-OLED campaigner until now, done a U-turn? First of all, since QD-OLED is a hybrid, let’s recap the individual components before tackling the whole.
How does OLED work?
OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) is a type of display that uses an organic carbon-based film through which two conductors pass a current, causing it to emit light. To produce an image, an OLED TV combines blue and yellow light from OLED sources to create almost white light. This is then passed through a colour filter made up of red, blue and green subpixels.
Unlike traditional LCD TVs, which rely on a separate backlight passed through a layer of pixels, each individual pixel in an OLED can take care of both brightness and image creation. Because each pixel is its own light source and can be completely blacked out if need be, this means a bright pixel can appear next to one that’s black with neither impacting the other, creating the exceptional overall contrast for which OLEDs are renowned. And, because the image doesn’t need to pass through an LCD matrix, viewing angles are wide, while the overall build of an OLED TV is thin and light due to its simple structure.
The downside is that OLEDs struggle to reach the same peak brightness as even an average backlit model, as each pixel is limited by its size in the amount of light it can produce and by energy absorption from the colour filters. To address this, LG started using a WRGB pixel structure, adding a white subpixel to try to increase brightness levels. This has drawbacks though, and can wash out the colour of the other subpixels. Also, as the organic material in OLEDs is not permanently stable, its lifespan decreases at an inverse rate to the amount of brightness it is made to produce. So pushing the white sub-pixel could shorten your TV’s life expectancy.
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