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OLED vs. QLED: Which is better for you?

What's the difference between OLED and QLED? Here are reasons you should buy one over the other.
Written by Sherin Shibu, Contributor
Samsung TV showing trees in front of a tree background in a modern home

Samsung 65-inch QLED 8K Smart TV


OLED and QLED offer noticeably different display types. QLED (Quantum Dot Light Emitting Diode) TVs present brighter images than standard LCD TVs. This is because QLED TVs build on LED technology by integrating proprietary software with LED backlighting.

Also: OLED vs LED: What's the difference?

OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) TVs, on the other hand, do not use backlighting systems. Instead, self-illuminating individual pixels create a virtually blur-free picture, no matter your viewing angle. Each pixel has its own LED bulb that can dim for enhanced contrast or shut off completely to create a true black. 

Let's get into the reasons why you should buy an OLED TV over a QLED TV -- and vice versa. 

You should buy an OLED TV if...

LG 97 inch M3 OLED smart WebOS TV

LG 97-inch M3 OLED smart WebOS TV


1. You want a wide viewing experience

No matter where you're sitting in relation to an OLED TV screen, you'll most likely be able to see what's happening. An OLED TV, like the Samsung S95B (our 55-inch pick of the best OLED TVs), has wide viewing angles and unique features. 

Also: Neo QLED vs OLED: Which technology is right for you?

The Samsung OLED system, for example, has about 8.3 million self-illuminating pixels that can dim or switch off completely, creating deep colors and cinematic contrast. The S95B has an AI-powered processor that sets the stage for better scenes, pixel by pixel. 

2. You want to game

Forget the expensive monitor -- the LG C2 65-inch OLED TV and other OLED TVs like it are multifunctional and they can help with your gaming needs too. The LG C2 in particular has a game optimizer mode with Nvidia G-Sync, which has a high refresh rate, FreeSync Premium, for tear- and stutter-free gaming, and a Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), a refresh rate that automatically delivers video frames as quickly as possible. It's filled with ports, with four HDMI 2.1 ports that support Nvidia G-Sync and AMD FreeSync Premium VRR, three USB ports, and an Ethernet port, so you can connect it to whatever you need.

3. You want the most contrast

OLED TVs are at their best in darker rooms to show off their rich contrast capabilities. If you're looking for a TV for a home theater or for primarily nighttime viewing, OLED is the way to go. You'll be able to better see content with darker backgrounds and have better picture quality overall. 

Also: The best OLED TVs (and why they're so expensive)

The only problem to consider with OLED picture quality is image retention or burn-in. That's when the TV has an afterimage on it that lingers or is permanent because its pixels are in constant use. To enjoy the OLED contrast and picture quality without burn-in, turn off your TV periodically. Remember that manufacturers have incorporated preventative measures into recent OLED TVs like the LG G1 and that leading companies are committed to reliability. Make sure to choose a recent OLED TV if you decide to purchase one. 

You should buy a QLED TV if...

Man watching golf on a Samsung QN800 in a modern living room

Samsung 85-inch Class QN800 Neo QLED 8K TV


1. You intend to place the TV in a bright setting

OLED TVs look good in dark rooms or home theaters, so the contrast pops, while QLED TVs look especially good in sunlit rooms or near windows. A QLED TV like the $380 50-inch TCL 5-series QLED TV has high brightness levels so you can view your show of choice no matter what time of day it is. 

Also: The best Samsung TVs

2. You want a cheaper TV

TVs aren't as important to some people as they are to others. You could be in the market for a less expensive TV due to budgetary constraints or because you won't use it constantly -- in that case, a QLED TV will work better for your needs than an OLED TV. OLED models can come with a hefty price tag, like the 97-inch LG G2 TV (our best big-screen OLED TV pick), which goes for $25,000. By contrast, the comparably sized 85-inch Samsung QLED TV is $1,800. You can find QLED TVs cheaper than $300 -- for example, the Insignia 55-inch QLED TV is on sale now for $275 at Best Buy.

3. You want a TV that blends seamlessly into your home

If the look of a typical TV doesn't fit well with your decor, consider this: a QLED TV that blends well with the rest of your room and looks like a picture frame. When you turn it off, it displays pictures of your family or friends or works of art on rotation. Samsung's popular The Frame QLED TV does just that and for some of us, that's reason enough to get a QLED TV over an OLED TV. The 2022 model of The Frame has a matte finish and anti-reflection coating that make the TV more realistically picturesque. You can choose from a 32-inch for $599, all the way up to an 85-inch for $3,499.

Alternatives to consider

Open to other QLED or OLED prospects? Consider these ZDNET-recommended TVs:

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