< LED vs OLED TV’s

Since posting my review and calibration of the LG 55EC9300 OLED TV, I get quite a few e-mails asking me if I think an LED 4k TV would be a better purchase than an OLED HD TV.

OLEDTV_WideShot_Small

OLEDTV_Logo_Small

My answer is no. Although 4k OLED TV’s have started to roll out, Ultra HD won’t likely push Blu-ray’s off shelves for a long time yet. Game consoles still struggle to render 30fps in 1080p. Even if 4k becomes the standard tomorrow morning, an LCD panel backlit by LED’s is simply no match for a screen full of OLED pixels.

Let’s clear up a misnomer first.
LED TV refers to a grid of LED’s that light an LCD screen from behind. It’s not an “LED TV” as much as it is a standard LCD.
OLED TV refers to the pixels on screen which are themselves Organic LED’s. Backlight problems don’t exist here because there is no backlight needed.

Let’s also clear up what I think is a common misconception.
Resolution is a small factor when perceiving overall picture quality. A 4k image is no good if it’s murky, cloudy or dull. Sure, you’ll marvel at the pores in Morgan Freeman’s freckles for a minute, but then you’ll put away the microscope and see the painting from a practical perspective where things like colour, contrast and accuracy of illumination will shape your perception.

Let’s also think about gaming. Your XBox and your PS4 combined would still struggle to render triple-A titles in 4k. “Next-gen” games are capped at 900p or 1080p, a far cry from Ultra HD. Unless you have the will power, money and patience to replace your console with a multi-GPU PC monster, slotting a 4k TV into your gaming setup right now just wouldn’t make any sense.

Don’t get me wrong. I get it. ‘Lawrence Of Arabia’ must look terrific in 4k, breathtaking on a 4k OLED no doubt. ‘Gravity’, ‘The Wizard Of Oz’, ‘Lord Of The Rings’ and ‘The Good The Bad’ are high on my Ultra HD wish-list. But I don’t think resolution is the heart of a good image. There is no way I would jump back down to an LED TV just to see more pixels.

OLEDTV_MonstersInc_Mike2

Photos of TV screens never look right, but rest assured I had to pinch myself when I popped Monsters Inc. into the player to take shots!

OLEDTV_Gravity

This pushed my camera to its limit, but as you can see, that space is truly black while stars are perfectly intact. Zero clouding, zero region dimming and of course, zero backlight issues. Not even IMAX projectors can make space feel this believable.

In an LED TV, you’ll find not one screen but two. The one you see is an LCD panel that holds the pixels, just like in your computer monitor. The other is the backlight system — a grid of LED’s that illuminates the LCD panel from behind. So not only is the screen indirectly lit, it’s done so in a broad, inaccurate fashion. For an area of many pixels, there is only one LED. If you’ve ever looked at an LED TV and thought “that looks washy”, this is why. I liken the effect to an image in Photoshop that’s been severely doctored with broad Dodge and Burn brushes.

Comparison01_LEDBacklit

The “washy” LED look, exaggerated for demonstration purposes.

In an OLED TV, there is no backlight because the pixels themselves are OLED’s. Every pixel can scale from 0% (black) to 100% (white) independently from each other. You might be thinking “isn’t that how a TV should work anyway?” and you’d be making a good point. There’s no blue backlight bleeding or regional brightening/dimming with an OLED TV. High-contrast details no matter how fine are presented perfectly.

OLEDTV_TextOnBlack1

Text doesn’t get much clearer than that.

If you’re in the market for a new TV, take your game console and your Blu-ray’s into the OLED department at your store. Test gaming lag by activating all PC and Game modes, and test picture quality by turning off Noise Reduction, Sharpening, Dynamic Contrast and any other gumf that’s doing more harm than good. As good as OLED is, the factory settings like with any TV are designed to dazzle, not to please.

More importantly, think about calibrating your TV if you want to get bang for your buck. Look at getting yourself an X-Rite colorimeter, a free copy of the excellent ColorHCFR software, and a free copy of the AVS calibration Blu-ray or DVD.

The OLED TV is a new milestone with minor teething troubles but massive advantages. Until someone like Samsung or Panasonic bring their own OLED units to market, I honestly don’t see myself selling my 55EC9300 any time soon.