LCD, LED, OLED. What do these mean and how are they different? Televisions have come a long way since the 1950’s and 60’s. The old tube technology was bulky, inconsistent, and lacked definition. Thankfully we’ve gotten some updates along the way that help with all three of these issues and improve on other aspects too.
Let’s start at the bottom and work our way up.
The worst performer overall is LCD. This stands for liquid crystal display. This technology caught on through the 2000’s but was quickly replaced by LED-LCD displays. LCD did start us in the right direction though because it drastically reduced the thickness of the display, it lost some weight from the old tube technology, and simultaneously increased the screen size of tv’s. These type of tv’s really aren’t produced anymore so I won’t add any additional information. You can read the article below for more info on LCD.
LED tv’s are really just an updated version of LCD tv’s. Instead of being lit by CCFL, LED tv’s are lit by a panel of LED lights. In case you’re new to tv tech, LED stands for light emitting diode. New iterations of LED technology include local dimming, full-array backlight, reduced power use, and thinner screens. This allows for a clearer, brighter picture to emerge. The main drawbacks of LCD technology are still present in that the image loses color at an angle, gray uniformity of the screen is less than perfect, the blacks on the tv aren’t actually black because the pixels are still being lit, and motion handling can suffer. This type of screen has gotten substantially better in the last 3-4 years and the high-end LED model range for 2016, has gotten very close to the performance of the outstanding OLED display. More information about LED tech in the article linked below.
This type of tv panel is quite new and in short, incredible. OLED’s acronym spelled out is organic light emitting diode. It offers perfect black pixels, fantastic viewing angles without losing color, quick motion handling, and even less power consumption. These panels are also extremely thin.
Like this. Crazy, right?
These tv’s are far more expensive than even the best LED tv’s but have come down a lot in price since its original release a few years ago. You can get an LG OLED 55″ tv for less than $2,000 right now which is still a chunk of change, but this is like buying a skyscraper in downtown New York. What you pay for is what you get and you can’t be disappointed with an OLED tv. It isn’t perfect though because it can suffer from image retention/screen burn-in, which would happen if you repeatedly left a static image on the screen for extended periods of time. The only 2 remaining issues with OLED compared to LED is that it can’t get as bright as the brightest LEDs and it struggles with what is called ABL. ABL stands for automatic brightness limiter and this kicks in when you display a white or mostly white image on the tv. The tv “limits” the brightness of the screen and this is mostly due to the immature nature of this technology. It really has been out for less than 2 years for tv’s and this has already improved greatly over 2015 OLED’s. So if you don’t leave static images on the screen, don’t stare at completely white screens like a weird person, and don’t have an OLED directly next to a high-end LED, OLED is impossibly good. If you’re curious to see these in person, they are at most Best Buys and some “special” Best Buys even have a Magnolia theater that is optimally set up for viewing tv’s in a home theater environment.
If you are looking for the top of line image quality, nothing can compete with an OLED tv. If you’re a bit more budget conscious, there are still some great performing LED tv’s out there. A great resource to compare OLED to LED tv’s from a professional’s standpoint is contained in the link at the bottom of this post. My other post (Decision 2016) shows my recommended purchases on budget through not-so-budget tv sets. Take a look if you think you’re ready to make a purchase. Thanks for reading!
Updated 1/4/2017: Edited content for coherence.