Those specifying a TV for their future project will likely have found a whole host of acronyms during the buying process. At CES, Samsung threw yet another acronym into the fray – QLED. So, what exactly is a QLED TV and how does it stack up to OLED?
What Is QLED?
QLED is a new display technology launched by Samsung, although it’s a little misleading to call it entirely new. In fact, it’s a technology that Samsung has been utilising for the past two years and it still uses LCD panels.
While the QLED name is all-new, Samsung has confirmed that the acronym stands for Quantum Dot LED TV. It’s likely that Samsung opted to use the QLED acronym as it’s an easier sale than saying the full name; although it’s also easy to confuse it with LG’s OLED technology.
Unlike OLED, QLED isn’t an entirely new display technology. It still needs an LCD panel in order to function, although the name has been chosen to explain more than just the fact that it comes equipped with quantum dots.
QLED encompasses all of the variations of quantum dot, just as OLED encompasses a whole range of different architectures for organic light-emitting diodes. In fact, OLED can mean a TV that utilises either passive or active backplanes, and emissive layers that are composed of white emitters with RGB or RGBW filters, or with direct RGB emitting materials and no colour filters. That’s why not all OLEDs are created equally, and the same will be true of QLED.
True AV nerds will know the difference between emissive and transmissive, but the average consumer won’t. There is a large difference between the two technologies, however. With OLED being ‘emissive’, meaning the pixels emit their own light, while QLED is ‘transmissive’ in that it relies on an LED backlight. The latter is how Samsung is utilising quantum dot technology at the moment. That’s why on Samsung’s QLED TVs, you’ll find a film of quantum dots between the LED backlight and the LCD layer.
Samsung is working on an improved version of QLED which will bring it closer to OLED. In fact, the company is looking into making the technology emissive – meaning the quantum dots will be a light source of their very own, allowing Samsung to remove the LED backlight That’s still some way off though, so Samsung is sticking with its existing technology for the time being, although it has been upgraded for 2017 – boasting better colour reproduction and a higher brightness.
The emissive variant of QLED should be more akin to current OLED models than the QLED TVs on the market in 2017. That includes the ability to match the absolute black levels and the infinite contrast ratio, which OLED boasts. They’ll also have better power efficiency and better colours.
OLED vs QLED
OLED TVs are currently highly regarded for their picture quality and deep blacks, and that’s not surprising. Unlike most TVs, OLEDs can turn on and off individual pixels, rather than simply dimming the area. That means that blacks actually look black, rather than a grey-ish hue.
In standard dynamic range, OLED TVs will have QLEDs beat almost every time. The black levels will be deeper, the infinite contrast ratio will lead to a better picture, refresh rates are significantly better and OLEDs boast a good viewing experience no matter where you sit.
Samsung isn’t convinced that OLEDs are universally better, however. The company says that QLED technology includes a higher light output and better colour reproduction than equivalent OLEDs, especially in HDR environments.
In fact, Samsung is prepared to crack out the spec sheet in its fight against OLED. Samsung claims a boost in peak luminance up to 2,000 nits in highlights, which outstrips LG’s claim for its 2017 OLED TVs by 2:1.
OLED TVs have been quick to adopt the Dolby Vision HDR standard, which users currently can’t enjoy from the equivalent QLED TV. That’s not to say there’s a need to have an OLED to enjoy Dolby Vision – Sony’s ultra-bright ZD9 supports the HDR standard, while its 2017 line-up will also add it. That includes the LCD models.
There are a few design benefits to OLED over QLED. Those who have seen LG’s Signature OLED TV W will know exactly what that means, with it boasting a thickness of just 2.57mm. That’s significantly thinner than the 10mm thickness of the flagship Samsung Q9 QLED TV.
QLED TVs: Availability and Pricing
Those wanting to install QLED TVs in their projects will have a few to choose from, although they are all manufactured by Samsung.
In 2017, Samsung is introducing the QLED Q9F, Q8C, Q7C and Q7F. That means there are two curved QLED models and two flat QLED models launching this year.
The flagship model will be the QLED Q9F, and available in two sizes: 65in and 88in. The 65in model will be available in the UK for £4,899.99, while the 88in will cost £17,799.99. That’s more affordable than LG’s flagship OLED model, which is one major advantage Samsung will be keen on stressing.
The Q8C will be priced at £2,999.99, £3,799.99 and £5,799.99, for the 55in, 65in and 75in models. The Q7C will be drastically more affordable, with a £2,199.99 asking price for the 49in model, while the 55in and 65in models will cost £2,499.99 and £3,299.99, respectively.
The most affordable QLED TV in the UK is the Q7F, with pricing for the 49in model set at £1,999.99. The 55in model will cost £2,299.99 and the 65in is priced at £3,099.99.
OLED TVs: Availability and Pricing
Unlike QLED, OLED is a technology that has gained the support of several TV manufacturers. That means you’re not married to using one particular brand for your next installation project. In fact, several brands have recently launched an OLED model, meaning 2017 is the best year yet for the technology.
LG is the best-known name for LG TVs, with the company offering five new models in 2017. These include updates to last year’s OLEDs, such as the B7, C7, E7 and G7, as well as a brand-new wallpaper-thin model, dubbed the LG W7.
OLED TVs have traditionally held a higher price point compared to other TVs on the market, and that’s definitely true of LG’s offerings. They range in price from £3,000 for the 55in B7 and C7, to £25,000 for the 77in W7.
Despite the high asking price, OLED TVs have been dropping in cost over the last few years. It’s now not uncommon to be able to pick up an OLED TV for just over £1,000 – with John Lewis having recently sold last year’s B6 for £1,699, including a free year’s Sky Q subscription and LG SH7 soundbar.
Due to the increased competition from other manufacturers, OLED prices should come down even further over the next few years. Sony, Panasonic and Philips are also preparing to launch OLED models in 2017.
Sony’s first OLED, the A1E, officially debuted at CES 2017 with a few unique features, including an acoustic surface – negating the need for traditional speakers. This TV promises to go head-to-head with LG in terms of picture quality, as well, as it features the X1 Extreme processor to get the best image possible.
US pricing for the Sony A1E OLED TV has already been announced, although it’s expected to start at £4,100 when it launches in the UK. That’s for the 55in model, with the 65in model likely to command a higher price of around £5,300. That’s more affordable than LG’s flagship.
Panasonic’s EZ1002 OLED is also set to launch later this year, although pricing for that model has yet to be revealed. Panasonic is hoping to capitalise the market with support for professional grade image processing.
The most affordable OLED TV to launch in 2017 will come from Philips, however. The TV manufacturer’s first foray into the OLED market comes complete with its Ambilight technology, which should further immerse viewers. Dubbed the 55POS901F, this OLED TV costs around £2,799 in the UK, with only a 55in model available.