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LG QNED vs Samsung Neo QLED next-gen display tech explained
LG and Samsung are often at the forefront of TV display technologies. When it comes to the bleeding edge, LG is backing its QNED format, while Samsung is peddling Neo QLED as the next best thing. Both boast improved colors, peak brightness, and contrast ratios for HDR content, and come in 4K and 8K resolutions. They can look pretty great.
But what if any differences are there between these two standards? Which should you have your eye on for your next TV? Let’s dive deeper and find out.
A quick recap on TV display improvements
LG’s QNED is a mini-LED based technology. The best way to understand what this means is to go back to the LCD/LED TVs that have become de facto in the past few years.
LCD technology produces colors by filtering a common backlight. The drawback of LCD’s original incarnation was that the backlight would often bleed into dark pixels, hurting contrast ratios. Blacks parts of an image were never truly dark. That made LCD panels markedly inferior next to OLED, especially when displaying HDR (high dynamic range) content.
To narrow the gap, LED TVs introduced multiple backlights with “local dimming.” Splitting the backlight into multiple sections allows darker areas of the screen to be dimmed or turned off, while colors and whites remain in their full glory. There are different ways to arrange backlights for dimming, each with their own pros and cons. Full-array local dimming with a grid of backlights is the best, but also costly. Edge-based dimming is cheaper but inferior-looking.
See also: OLED vs LCD display technology
Even with full-array local dimming, however, the number of dimming zones remains a limiting factor. LED TVs often exhibit a “halo” or “blooming” artifact between lit and unlit zones. Details smaller than the backlight size, such as bright stars in a dark sky, don’t benefit from the enhanced contrast ratio. They can appear washed out compared to the broader image.
Increasing the number of dimming zones helps smooth out these errors and improve performance, but makes panels more expensive. You have to turn to OLED for per-pixel-dimming capabilities, but LCD is once again closing the contrast ratio gap. That’s where LG’s QNED comes in.
LG QNED explained
LG QNED is the company’s first-ever mini-LED TV technology. This extends the LCD/LED formula we’ve discussed, with 2,500 local dimming zones and up to nearly 30,000 mini-LEDs per panel on its 8K model. The crux of the breakthrough is the small size and density of the mini-LED backlights. This greatly increases the number of local dimming zones for an improved contrast ratio and a reduction in blooming artifacts. LG promises a contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1 and a 120Hz refresh rate.
The crux of the breakthrough is the small size and density of the mini-LED backlights.
The Q part of the QNED moniker stands for quantum dot, which deals with the color filtering parts of the display. The full title is Quantum NanoCell Emitting Diode. Remember, QNED is still a filter-based LCD technology at heart, and filters block light, resulting in less saturated colors. Quantum dot technology enhances/replaces the traditional colored photoresists in an LCD color filter with submicroscopic conducting nanocrystals. In LG’s case, QNED uses its in-house NanoCell material to shape the spectral power of the backlight, which is then filtered through a quantum-dot enhancement film.
In a nutshell, quantum dot reduces the light loss and crosstalk from traditional LCD color filters. This results in more vivid colors and a wider gamut. Combined with a large number of small locally-dimmed backlights, LG QNED does a decent job at taking on expensive OLED HDR displays. Note that OLED remains LG’s premium TV technology even with the advent of QNED, which now sits between LG’s NanoCell and OLED ranges.
Samsung Neo QLED explained
Just like LG’s QNED, Samsung’s Neo QLED is a transmissive mini-LED backlighting technology, and the ‘Q’ in QLED stands for quantum. Neo QLED is related to Samsung’s Quantum Matrix Technology and its picture-optimizing Neo Quantum Processor. Samsung is using a quantum-dot layer for enhanced colors, promising 100% reproduction of the DCI-P3 color space.
The standout feature of Samsung’s technology, again like LG, is smaller backlight LEDs. Samsung’s new Quantum Mini LED is 1/40 the height of its previous design, allowing for a major increase in density. Samsung hasn’t provided exact numbers for the number of dimming zones on these TVs. To achieve its results, though, the company removes the packaging and lens from the LED chip, replacing it with a new ultra-thin microlayer to guide the LED light.
Samsung shrunk its mini-LED backlights to 1/40 their previous height.
Samsung’s Quantum Matrix technology boasts precise dimming, enhanced local power distribution, and a new Black Detail Boost option to extract more detail from dark areas. Meanwhile, the Neo Quantum Processor offers 16 different neural network models trained for content upscaling. This should help make the most of a TV’s 4K and 8K resolutions, even with older content.
Other Neo QLED features include 12-bit steps of LED brightness control for local dimming, although this doesn’t necessarily mean the panel supports 12-bit HDR content. It’s likely leveraged after Samsung’s processing chain instead. Samsung’s Nano QLED TVs also sport 120Hz refresh rates and Nvidia G-Sync support to match frame rates when gaming.
To add to the complexity, Samsung is using emissive micro-LED technology in other TVs, not to be confused with transmissive mini-LED. These models are available in 110-inch, 99-inch, and smaller sizes. As you might gather, this certainly won’t be a mainstream affordable product any time soon.
Related: MicroLED explained
LG QNED vs Samsung Neo QLED
Both LG and Samsung are banking on smaller, denser mini-LED backlight technologies to close the quality gap between more affordable LCD TVs and their premium-tier OLED ranges. While there are bound to be differences in image quality, we’d have to look at both brands side-by-side to draw any definitive comparisons.
An interesting point of comparison between LG and Samsung’s latest technologies is the LCD color filter layer used. While we don’t know what panel layer LG Display is using, it’s likely sticking with In-Plane Switching (IPS) based on previous releases. Samsung has already transitioned to Vertically Aligned LCD, which delivers better contrast than traditional IPS at the expense of narrower viewing angles. This HDR contrast versus viewing angle compromise could be the biggest discernible difference between the two.
While there are important hardware and software differences between LG’s QNED and Samsung’s Neo QLED, the two share a fundamentally similar approach to solving LCD’s contrast and color deficit with OLED TVs. If you’ve been looking for a near-OLED quality TV without the eye-watering price tag, keep an eye out for TVs powered by these standards.
Read more: Display types and technologies explained