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TV Buyers Guide: How to Decide if You Need OLED

With all the new tech, it’s hard to know what the acronyms on the outside of TV packages stand for—let alone what they actually mean.

So if you’ve heard OLED (organic light-emitting diode) being thrown around, but you’re not sure what it is or how it impacts your TV choices, never fear. We’ll tell you everything you need to know, so you can feel confident you’re buying the right TV for you.

OLED buyers guide summary

  • Understand what OLED is.
  • Decide if it’s worth the investment.
  • Consider whether you want LG or Sony.
  • Choose the option that best fits your budget and space.
  • Place it in a room with good lighting.

To give you a bit of context, we did lots of research and found that our top pick for the best TVs on the market is an OLED—we absolutely love the screen display. But an OLED is also top-of-the-line in cost too, so there’s lots to consider before buying.

OLED pricing

OLED display screens are premium technology, so they still have premium costs, though they’ve dropped a lot since it went on the market in 2013.

Since LG is the only real brand making OLED screens (other companies use LG’s tech), there’s not a lot of competition to lower costs, either. But LG has been making more OLED options at a variety of prices, so be sure to shop around before buying. We’ve listed some of the best OLED TVs from all across the cost spectrum here for you.

Sony’s Bravia OLED

Specs:

  • 55”–65”
  • 4K HDR processor
  • IMAX enhanced
  • Smart TV

LG C9 55” Class 4K Smart OLED TV

Specs:

  • 55”–77”
  • 4K Ultra HD TV
  • 4K Cinema HDR
  • Smart TV

LG E9 Glass 65” Class 4K Smart OLED TV

Specs:

  • 55”–65”
  • Glass design
  • 4K Ultra HD TV
  • Smart TV

All of these OLED TVs include essential modern tech like Dolby Vision, 4K Ultra HD resolution, and high-dynamic range processors. In other words, it has everything you need to get the best possible image on your screen. Even if you’re watching Avatar in 3D, the tech that OLED TVs include will still make Pandora pop with color.

These options are also smart TVs, meaning they connect with the internet and artificial intelligence tech—that means you can connect directly to Netflix from the TV’s app menu without any extra equipment. Check out the best smart TVs if you’re curious about what quality they can really offer you.

OLED Brands to Consider

Top OLED TV Brands

  • LG
  • Sony

LG is the obvious OLED TV brand of choice because it’s the main OLED TV producer. Bottom line: OLED TVs are its specialty. But you shouldn’t rule Sony out right away. It may be using LG’s tech, but it has its own quality sound system and affordable prices that make it a worthwhile brand.

If you’re looking for OLED screens for more than just your TVs, though, you’re in luck—the OLED market is growing.

Samsung’s Galaxy S9 has a version of OLED, and Apple has borrowed Samsung’s tech for its iPhone Xs series (and it plans to release more). Both brands use Samsung’s tech for their smartphones and tablets. Plus, Dell has laptops with OLED screens.
So if you really love OLED, don’t limit yourself to just TVs. Choose products so you won’t have to readjust to less-than-ideal color contrast when you switch to Hulu on your laptop, and so you can hold your phone at any angle without sacrificing a great viewing experience.

But what is OLED?

OLED is a type of display screen technology that works through electroluminescence—sounds like we’re walking right into the future with a word like that, right? But that just means the TV screen uses carbon for its pixels, which create light when hit with electric currents.

Put simply, those organic carbon molecules are put on a base of either plastic or glass, and when they’re hit with electricity, they light up in different patterns and colors to create the super sharp images you see on your TV screen.

While LED screens have been around a lot longer, OLED’s unique design offers some really cool features that LED screens just can’t.

Black levels

How does OLED make black, blacker?

OLED screens can go truly black, whereas LED screens can just get close. While almost-black is fine and nice, true black is always better for your viewing experience.

How does true black work? In an OLED TV’s design, each pixel reacts and creates light on an individual level. This means that when part of a screen goes black, those pixels are really turned off. They don’t produce any light whatsoever. So you’ll feel like you’re right there in the blackness with Eleven as she tries to connect to the Upside Down in Stranger Things.

An LED screen, with its backlight, will always have a little bit of light shining through on that part of the screen that goes black, so it’s never truly black like an OLED screen.

Our recommendation: OLED screens are definitely the way to go when you’re thinking about color quality since each pixel shows exactly the color it’s meant to show.

Color contrast

Can OLEDs really have an infinite contrast ratio?

Because of OLED screens’ ability to go truly black, they can have an infinite contrast ratio to their brightest colors. This also means their contrast ratio is always better than an LED screen, which doesn’t allow for true blacks. Individual pixels lighting up the screen makes images sharper, more crisp.

So (spoiler alert) when Harry Potter walks into the dark Forbidden Forest to die and then ends up in the extremely white King’s Cross Station, that distinction will be sharper on an OLED screen than on any LED screen.

There is a caveat, of course. LEDs can produce brighter colors. But that by no means suggests that OLED colors are dull—they are still exceptionally bright and will do just fine in a bright room. But if you’re worried about having the brightest TV, this may be where you lean toward LED options.

Physical lightness

Are OLED screens physically different from LED screens?

OLED screens are much thinner than LED screens because of the materials used, and because they don’t require the extra backlight. They’re also lighter and much more flexible, so you can hang them or sit them anywhere you want—even on a curved wall, where some OLEDs can sit flush against the wall, creating a really sweet aesthetic.

This flexibility has led to LG’s 77” Wallpaper OLED TV, which looks as thin as wallpaper on your wall. Right now, LG is also working on a rollable TV with its flexible OLED display, which sounds incredibly futuristic and very convenient.

Currently, Samsung offers curved screens for any of its phones beyond S6 edge, but there have been mixed reviews on how beneficial that really is, so we aren’t sure if that will impact future phone screens. We’re excited to see what other options become available as OLED tech expands.

Our recommendation: If the size or weight of a TV is important to the design of your room, OLED screens definitely offer more flexibility.

Viewing angles

How do OLED screens enhance viewing angles?

OLED screens’ material means they have much better viewing angles. So regardless of where you’re sitting, the image won’t have weird shadows or lighting differences ruining your viewing experience.

This is particularly helpful in rooms where your seating options aren’t directly facing the screen—everyone in the room gets to appreciate the color contrast in a Star Wars Jedi battle, whether they’re on the main couch or side couch. You can’t change the fact that you may only be able to see half the screen from your side couch, but the half you do see is going to look incredible.

Great viewing angles can also be particularly helpful with smartphones, tablets, and laptops, where you don’t always balance screens at a perfect angle with your face—you’ll still get a crisp image of New Girl on your phone, even when your phone-holding hand starts to drift a little to the right after all-night binge-watching.

Our recommendation: If you have a room with seats at multiple angles facing the TV, lean toward an OLED TV. But if you haven’t noticed any struggles with your current LED TV in your current living room, you probably don’t need to sweat this one too much.

Our verdict

OLED screens can take your TV experience to the next level. We recommend checking out LG’s options—the contrast ratio that holds up at any viewing angle is worth the price.

But OLED screens are limited to two brands, and there’s been a lot of other developments in display screens (from QLED screens to microLED screens). Honestly, we’re not sure if screens will become predominantly OLED in the future.

Still, if you’re not worried about falling behind next year’s tech, OLED is an excellent choice that can offer you a lot more than your typical LED screen (if you’re willing to pay for it).

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