TV Buyers Guide: Brighter Images on Display (cont.)

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South Korea’s major TV stations started to broadcast in 4K in May 2017, and LG announced plans to introduce the first UHDTVs that include built-in ATSC 3.0 tuners in South Korea in fall 2017. You should stay tuned for U.S. release plans.

FUTURE CHANNELS. Experts say that eventually—at least 4 years from now—you’ll have to have an ATSC 3.0 tuner or a UHDTV that has built-in ATSC 3.0 capability 
to watch TV.

FUTURE CHANNELS. Experts say that eventually—at least 4 years from now—you’ll have to have an ATSC 3.0 tuner or a UHDTV that has built-in ATSC 3.0 capability to watch TV.


A BETTER PICTURE. The vast majority of the TVs that are available in the United States are LED models, which means that they have LCD panels and LED backlighting. However, organic LED (OLED) TVs and quantum-dot LED (QLED) TVs are the latest innovations in image quality.

Previously, LG was the only manufacturer that made OLED TVs, and it sold six models that started at $2,300. Today, LG has 22 models that start at $2,000, and it also manufactures OLED displays for Panasonic, Philips and Sony. Sony introduced its first two OLED models, the 55-inch XBR-55A1E ($4,000) and the 65-inch XBR-65A1E ($5,500), in April 2017, and it’s considering whether it will add more OLED models in 2018. Panasonic and Philips introduced OLED TVs in 2017 in United Kingdom, but at press time neither company sold consumer TVs in the United States.

LG’s latest OLED displays use a proprietary technology that’s called WRGB (white red green blue), in which each OLED pixel receives its own electrical current and emits white light without the help of a backlight through white, red, green and blue subpixels to produce color. If a pixel receives no current, then it emits no light, and the result is black.

In fact, we found that OLED screens deliver darker blacks and deeper contrast than do conventional screens that use LED backlighting to emit light. That’s because typical LED backlighting transmits light to areas of the screen, rather than emitting light from individual pixels. In other words, LED backlighting isn’t as precise as are emissive OLED displays. The backlighting will dim in parts of the screen that call for black, but experts say it won’t get as black as does an OLED screen. Experts also say that the average viewer will notice the difference that’s between LED and OLED displays.

Because OLED TV screens don’t have LED backlighting, they’re typically at least an inch thinner than are TVs that have backlights. LG’s new W series OLED TVs (starting at $8,000), which move all of the inputs and circuitry into a soundbar that comes with the TV, are less than three-thirty-seconds of an inch thick. Experts say that’s about as thin as a TV can get. However, in summer 2017, LG and Samsung demonstrated transparent, flexible OLED TV prototypes. In other words, within 3–5 years, OLED TVs could be see-through when they aren’t in use, and they could roll up out of the way the way that a projector screen does. A 55-inch transparent, flexible TV could cost about $25,000, according to a report in Business Korea.

Although OLED TVs achieve superior black levels, they struggle to produce as much light as do some LED TVs that have backlighting. As a result, we found that the latest backlit LED TVs produce more-vibrant colors in bright scenes than do OLED TVs. We believe that the average viewer will be able to notice the difference.

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In the past year, Samsung introduced 10 QLED TVs that start at $2,000. Judging by the name, one might assume that QLED TVs are some variation of OLED TVs. However, they’re more similar to conventional LED TVs.

QLED TVs have a layer of quantum dots, or nanoparticles, that are in front of the LED backlighting panel. The quantum dots glow red, green or blue when light hits them. Because of quantum physics, the quantum dots absorb many colors and emit one pure color of light, depending on their size. Small quantum dots emit blue light; larger ones emit green and red. By placing a sheet that’s filled with quantum dots in front of an array of LED backlights, QLED TVs can create any color by mixing red, green and blue light. We found that QLED TVs produce a wider range of colors and deliver more brightness than do other TVs. However, we found that OLED TVs still deliver the best contrast of any TV, because they don’t rely on backlighting.

Experts tell us that an OLED TV’s superior contrast is most noticeable when you watch the TV in a dim or dark room, where no ambient light competes with the screen.

“You pick a TV according to the environment it’s going to operate in,” says David Birch-Jones, who is a longtime TV reviewer. “If the environment is floor-to-ceiling glass and no blinds, you have a brightness battle between Mother Nature and your TV, and I’m not going to recommend OLED. I’m going to recommend the brightest QLED.”

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