I’m a professional TV reviewer who loves watching movies at home — here’s why I bought an OLED TV instead of a QLED

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  • I recently bought a new TV for my living room and had to decide: OLED or QLED?
  • Both display types offer excellent picture quality, but there are some key pros and cons. 
  • QLED TVs can get brighter, but an OLED TV’s infinite contrast gives me a better movie-watching experience.

I’ve been reviewing home theater gear for nearly a decade, and I test all the latest TVs every year. Though there are a few different types of displays to choose from, two options consistently rank at the top of my list: OLED and QLED.

I recently finished setting up a new living room home theater in my own apartment, and one of the first things I had to settle on was a TV. After weighing the pros and cons, I bought an LG OLED for my setup and I couldn’t be happier with my purchase. QLED TVs still have advantages, but OLED technology checks all the major boxes I look for in a high-end display.

To help you decide which TV tech is right for you, I broke down all the major differences between QLED and OLED, along with details on why I prefer OLED for my own setup. I have also included the most recent developments in these technologies as new models have been made available for preview and preorder.

What is a QLED TV?

Samsung QN90A QLED TV GameBar on screen.

Samsung’s QN90A is the company’s flagship QLED TV from 2021.

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QLED TVs are a type of LCD (liquid crystal display) that use an advanced color technology called quantum dots. Like other LCD TVs, these displays use LED (light-emitting diode) backlights to illuminate their screens. 

This is where the “QLED” branding comes from: manufacturers simply married the “Q” from quantum dots with “LED.” But, the “QLED” acronym is more of a marketing term than a truly separate TV technology.

In other words, when you buy a QLED TV you’re really buying an LED-backlit LCD TV that just happens to have quantum dots. That said, quantum dots are a cool feature and they can make a big difference when it comes to picture quality.

Quantum dots are nanocrystals that can emit different colors when exposed to light. QLED TVs include a layer or filter of quantum dots which then enables them to produce a wider range of colors. QLED TVs are available from companies like Samsung, TCL, Vizio, and Hisense.

What is an OLED TV?

Google TV interface on the Sony A80J OLED - Sony A80J 4K TV review

The Sony A80J is another high-performance OLED TV.

Steven Cohen/Insider

OLED TVs use “organic light-emitting diode” panels. Unlike QLED TVs, which use LCD screens, OLED TVs are an entirely different type of display technology. 

OLED TVs don’t need backlights at all. Instead, each subpixel in an OLED is capable of emitting its own light. This enables pixel-level precision over contrast and black levels, something that QLEDs can’t achieve.

OLED TVs are available in the US from LG, Sony, and Vizio. There are a few different variations on OLED TV technology, but most models offer very similar picture quality. LG brands its high-end sets as “OLED Evo,” which is meant to distinguish their higher brightness capabilities.

Unlike QLED TVs, OLED displays don’t typically use quantum dots. That said, Sony and Samsung are both set to introduce their first “QD-OLED” TVs in 2022. These TVs still rely on OLED technology, but they also incorporate quantum dots to offer better color performance.

QLED TVs can get very bright, but they have some issues with contrast.

Hisense U8G Android TV interface in a living room.

The Hisense U8G TV is one of the brightest QLED displays in its class.

Steven Cohen/Insider

One of the main advantages of high-end QLED TVs is their incredible peak brightness. TV brightness is measured in a unit called “nits,” and the best QLED TVs can exceed 2,000 nits. OLED TVs have a hard time getting over 800 nits, though a few high-end sets coming in 2022 can hit 1,000.

This makes QLED TVs a better fit for people who have living rooms that let in a lot of light. With the curtains closed, my living room can get reasonably dark, so this isn’t a big deal for me.

Many QLED TVs also use a technology called full-array local dimming. This feature allows the TV to dim in specific zones to enable deeper black levels. Mediocre black levels are a huge pet peeve of mine since they can make images look washed out. If you’ve ever watched TV in a dark room and noticed how black looks more like a milky gray, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

I think local dimming is a must-have feature when considering a QLED TV. That said, even with hundreds of zones, QLED TVs still can’t match the pixel-level brightness and dimming capabilities of an OLED display. 

OLED TVs are unmatched for watching movies in a dark home theater.

LG CX OLED TV hanging on a wall

In addition to pixel-level dimming, OLED TVs like the LG CX/C1 also have wide viewing angles.

Steven Cohen/Insider

I love watching movies in my living room with all the lights turned off to get that real “theater” vibe. With that in mind, there’s simply no substitute for an OLED TV’s infinite contrast ratio. 

Each pixel dims and brightens to create precise highlights and deep, inky black levels. Even the best QLEDs have issues with “blooming”, where the backlight can leak to create halos around bright objects. This isn’t an issue with an OLED TV since there is no backlight. 

Dark scenes are never washed out or marred by patchy spots of brightness. And though HDR highlights might not pop quite as intensely as they do on some QLED displays, there’s still a greater range of contrast since an OLED can achieve true black. This gives HDR content an extra level of precision that isn’t always apparent on a QLED.

OLEDs also have the bonus of much better viewing angles compared to an average QLED. You can sit off to the side of an OLED TV without contrast and colors dramatically distorting the image, which is great when I have guests over.

There are some drawbacks to OLED TVs, however. The lower brightness can lead to dark scenes looking dim, especially if you use calibrated settings. But most OLED TVs have brighter picture modes you can switch to if this becomes a problem. 

There’s also the risk of burn-in if a static image is left on the screen for hours on end — the CNN logo, for example. Other trusted TV review websites like Rtings have conducted long-term tests with OLEDs, and while their results do prove that burn-in is possible, their tests show that buyers with regular viewing habits shouldn’t worry about it. 

The bottom line

LG CX OLED TV hanging on a wall - QLED vs. OLED

Steven Cohen/Insider

QLED TVs and OLED TVs both have pros and cons, but OLED tech’s infinite contrast ratio and wide viewing angles simply win out.

New advancements are also set to take OLED performance to a new level in 2022. The world’s first QD-OLED TVs will hit the market later this year from Sony and Samsung. These OLED displays incorporate quantum dots for even better color capabilities. Based on initial preview testing with Sony’s model, it still doesn’t look like QD-OLED will be able to compete with the brightness of a QLED, but the technology does help bridge that gap even more.  

Standard OLEDs have also come down in price over the last couple years, and you can now find entry-level 65-inch models for under $1,500. For more OLED TV recommendations, check out my current picks for the best TVs you can buy.