(Pocket-lint) - In 2017, Samsung introduced a new type of TV technology that it called QLED.
You may think that name is incredibly similar to OLED and that's no coincidence, as both TV types are battling to attract the attention of TV buyers.
But what exactly is QLED? How does it work? And how does it differ to OLED? Allow us to explain.
What is QLED?
The name came about in 2017 because the TVs use quantum dot technology on an LED panel. Quantum dot + LED = QLED. We explain more about quantum dots below.
Although there was quite a song and dance about the new technology at launch, it wasn't actually new. It was an evolution of the quantum dot technology in Samsung's TVs, first introduced in 2015. The evolution of the name was really a marketing move to rival OLED (organic light emitting diode) at the high-end.
At the time, Samsung pushed the message that QLED was a superior technology with a number of advantages over OLED. It's part of the on-going battle for superiority between LED-based TVs and OLED TV.
Samsung also formed the QLED Alliance with Hisense and TCL and you'll find QLED TVs sold from brands other than Samsung.
What is Neo QLED?
In 2021, Samsung made another evolution to the quantum dot TV which it marketed as Neo QLED. While it still sticks to the same foundation of having a quantum dot layer and LEDs for illumination, Samsung's new Neo QLED TVs change those LEDs for Mini LED.
We've written a lot about Mini LED here, but simply put it means that Samsung can get more precise control that it could from its previous LED arrays, because those LEDs are a lot smaller. That means better control, less light bleed and more accurate graduation from dark to light.
Samsung is pushing a number of Neo QLED TVs in its 2021 line-up and we suspect it will be maintaining a number of regular QLED sets at the more affordable end of the scale.
How does QLED work?
Quantum dot TV tech works by placing a layer or film of quantum dots in front of a regular LED backlight panel. The layer is made up of tiny particles each of which emits its own individual colour depending on its size (anywhere between 2 and 10 nanometers). Basically, the size of the particle dictates the wavelength of light that it emits, hence the different colours. Samsung boasts that quantum dots enable over a billion colours.
The ability to produce these colours at higher brightnesses gives a greater colour volume than some other technologies and it's here that QLED claims to surpass the abilities of OLED. It's able to preserve colours in peak brightness areas that OLED can't and those peak brightness areas are also higher than OLED can often achieve.
The result is that QLED gives you a lot more visible colour, it's deemed better for vibrant delivery of HDR content and claims to be able to better give you the visual experience that director intended.
How is QLED different from OLED?
The lighting is really what sets the two technologies apart. Quantum dot TVs still rely on an LED backlight system working in zones, but OLEDs each produce their own light, they're either on or off. The advantage that OLED offers is that you can turn off the pixels that aren't needed, giving absolute black areas with no light bleed caused by the need for illumination in some parts of a dimming zone (in theory).
That's a big reason for the evolution of Neo QLED. With smaller pixels it can deliver some of these advantages that OLED offers, looking to narrow the gap in contrast and black levels, while retaining those colour volume advantages. As these TVs are new, we're yet to see how much things have changed compared to previous versions.
Samsung's QLED models use a mixture of direct illumination or an edge-lit LED system. In the 2020 models, the leading 8K and 4K models offered direct illumination, while some of the cheaper models opted for edge illumination, meaning that you have QLED-branded TVs at a range of price points.
That help QLED look more affordable than OLED, but there can be a big difference in performance depending on the illumination system offered. OLED is still popular because of the precision in delivering absolute black, because it can turn off the light to each individual pixel.
OLED televisions have worked hard to increase the peak brightness too, to close that gap and are still highly regarded among home movie theatre fans. One of the reported downsides of OLED is burn in. This is where you get a ghost image on the screen, perhaps a channel logo if you spend a lot of time watching the same channel. OLED is also an organic material and potentially has a shorter life than LED-based TVs.