Choosing a TV set seems to be a prosaic activity, but when we examine the subject more closely, it turns out that we are dealing with so many different technologies that you can get confused. That is why I decided to help you find yourself in all of this.
20-25 years ago, we did not have much choice when it comes to televisions, one technology reigned supreme – CRT, and the differences between individual models came down rather in appearance than image quality. If there was a choice, it was more about size and budget. Today the situation is completely different. The kinescope has gone into a well-deserved retirement, just like plasma technology, and the shelves are dominated by flat TVs with LED matrices, QLED, OLED, MiniLED, etc. So let’s start with the basics, what are the differences between these technologies?
OLED, MiniLED, QLED – what is it?
Despite many different trade names such as LED, QLED and MiniLED, it all comes down to one technology, i.e. LCD display. These types of screens dominate both in televisions and monitors, because they provide satisfactory image quality, and at the same time are cheap to produce. Among the matrices we can distinguish two types – IPS and VA. These abbreviations refer to image forming technology using liquid crystals. Without going into detail, IPS provides better viewing angles, but at the expense of a worse black level which affects the contrast. VA matrices offer much better contrast, but at the expense of viewing angles. The image loses color very quickly when viewed at an angle. Nevertheless, the latter technology can be found in televisions more often, because its shortcomings can be corrected with the help of various tricks (i.e. filters).
The LCD matrix consists of several layers which ultimately affect the quality of the displayed image. The liquid crystal layer is just one of them. On this, manufacturers impose various filters that improve the quality of the displayed image. This is where the aforementioned shortcuts come into play. The QLED technology used by Samsung is nothing more than “quantum dots” in LG TVs. It is nothing but a color layer that gives more vivid colors to the screen. On top of this, various types of polarizing filters and reducing light reflections are also applied. It is thanks to them that you can improve, for example, the viewing angles of VA matrices. And that’s what we pay for when we buy more expensive TV models.
If we look at the other side, i.e. what is in front of the liquid crystals, we will be able to explain the remaining abbreviations. LED is nothing more than specifying the matrix backlight method. The cheapest and most popular method is to install such LEDs on the edges of the screen. However, it has its drawbacks, such as the fact that it is not possible to control the light intensity in individual segments of the display. This is especially visible when we have contrasting elements on the screen, e.g. the moon against a black sky, which is then more gray than black. Therefore, in more expensive models of LCD TVs, a backlight with diodes mounted behind the matrix is used. Usually, there are several or several dozen such segments, which significantly improves the contrast, such a technology is, for example, Samsung’s FALD. Now, in the most expensive models, we have MiniLED diodes, which allow the use of not hundreds, but thousands of backlight zones, which gives even better results. However, we are all waiting for the microLED backlight, which is to allow each pixel to be illuminated separately, as is the case with OLED screens.
Yes, OLED is a completely different display technology than LCD, which has its undeniable advantages. First of all, such a display is less complex, has fewer layers and can be very thin. All thanks to the use of organic light-emitting diodes. In OLED displays, each pixel is illuminated independently. Thanks to this, we have the perfect contrast, deep blacks and perfect viewing angles. It is thanks to these advantages that OLED is so popular among enthusiasts of high image quality. Unfortunately, this technology has its drawbacks, as organic LEDs degrade, so they may glow dimly after a few years. Burn-in can also be a problem if we display static elements for a long time. However, this is not such a common problem as it might seem, and due to the fact that the prices of such televisions are constantly falling, more and more of them are being sold. For people looking for the highest image quality, this is the best proposition, because today the OLED display is cheaper than the MiniLED.
The TV set cannot be too big
Size matters, no one needs to be convinced. Yes, at first it may seem that these 55 inches is a lot, but if you have a place on a shelf / wall, it is better to take the largest TV that will fit there, both in terms of size and budget. Today, 55 and 65 inches are rather standard sizes and in both cases they are available in a very wide price range. In the case of LCD TVs, a decrease in the prices of models with a diagonal of 70 or 75 inches is also visible. In the case of OLED, it is unfortunately not visible, above 65 inches we only have 77 and 83 inches, and the price of the former can be twice as high as the 65-inch model.
Is it worth sacrificing size at the expense of possibilities? It is a very individual decision. Personally, however, I would prefer a 55-inch OLED than a 65-inch LCD. The differences in prices, however, are getting smaller and soon such dilemmas will be less important. It also all depends on what we need the TV for. Do we only watch TV and favorite series on it, or maybe you also like to play from time to time? Do you watch in the evenings if the TV is on all day? Finally, do you care about the highest image quality or is it enough for something to shine? The truth is that many people do not notice the nuances in the quality of the displayed image until they are noticed (banding, gray instead of black, etc.). For such people it is better to buy a larger, cheaper model because if you do not see the difference, why overpay? Others should consider what is most important to them.
You play Look for a TV with HDMI 2.1
If you really like to play on a TV, today it is practically obligatory to buy a TV with HDMI 2.1 and refreshing 120 Hz. Both Microsoft (Xbox Series S and X) and Sony (PlayStation 5) consoles support the new standard and can send an image with a 120 Hz refresh rate at 4K resolution. This is only possible via the HDMI 2.1 connection. Some televisions often have only one such port, but in most cases this is still enough. If there is HDMI 2.1, then there is also a 120 Hz matrix at 100%, because installing this port in 60 Hz TV sets does not make any sense. And here again we come to the point that not everyone will notice the difference in fluidity, especially if we do not compare the image side by side, but a person gets used to good quickly. In addition, the new TV sets also support VRR technology, which adjusts the screen refresh rate to the number of frames displayed. Players should pay attention to such things. Unfortunately, it is usually related to the fact that you just have to spend more on a TV set, but trust me, it’s worth it! Even if you do not have a console or a graphics card with HDMI 2.1 today, you do not buy a TV for 2 years.
So what TV to buy?
I was supposed to make your choice easier with this guide, and it seems that I only made it difficult for most of you. However, I hope that now at least you will be better prepared when the seller in the store showers you with all these shortcuts. It’s worth remembering that QLED doesn’t have much to do with OLED, size matters, and 120Hz and HDMI 2.1 are the shortcuts that appeal to gamers the most. However, if you are only looking for a TV set to watch terrestrial TV from time to time, it is not worth paying extra for all these technologies because you will not notice the differences anyway. Another issue is the choice of a smart TV system, but I have already discussed these on another occasion, so I encourage you to read that publication.