TV technology has changed massively in a very short period of time. It wasn’t long ago that plasma TVs were the biggest competitor to LCD displays. Now, there are even more display types to consider.
Let’s compare organic light-emitting diode (OLED) vs liquid crystal display (LCD) vs full array local dimming (FALD) TVs to see which one you should pick up next.
We’ll be perfectly honest — this won’t be a short comparison. It’s difficult to get into all of the major differences in just a few words. With that in mind, we’ll try to recap with some pros and cons for each TV to keep things cleared up.
Right now, LCDs are the most popular type of displays used in TV or monitors, though LEDs are catching up. Essentially, an LCD display relies on lights mounted to the edge of the TV. The lights then shoot up through the display to provide you with a picture. Through a series of filters and other technology, your TV blocks out certain portions of the light to achieve a final image.
One of the biggest draws to an LCD TV over an OLED display is the lower cost. You won’t spend as much money for a nice LCD display, and you can find 4K and 1080p options easily. Looking for something a bit more upscale while still spending less than most OLEDs? Consider a QLED display like those offered by Samsung. Essentially, these are just LCD panels with a little extra pop to them.
See also: AMOLED vs LCD: Differences explained
All LCD TVs offer essentially the same set of features. You can typically find modern designs with slim bezels and in-plane switching (IPS) and vertical-alignment (VA) panels galore. The IPS options often have superior viewing angles while the VA panels are tops for contrast ratios. Both panels are brilliantly bright and do a good job at reproducing color.
If you walked into Best Buy tomorrow with a nice stack of cash, there’s a good chance you would leave with an LCD TV. There are plenty of options, and you can get a mountain of bang for your buck.
LCD TVs aren’t all sunshine and unicorns. LCDs come with their limits, but the trade-off is the comparatively affordable pricing. They perform worse than OLED and FALD in terms of uniform black reproduction, motion blur, and even the way they distribute heat. On the bright side, you won’t notice much difference unless you’re looking for it. If you pick up a stinker of an LCD, you’ll know it though.
- Lower cost than FALD or OLED
- Support for the latest technology
- Most common option
- Great IPS viewing angles
- Non-IPS displays have limited viewing angles
- Worst black levels and uniformity
- Tend to run hot at the bottom
- Worse motion blur than OLEDs or FALDs
FALD, or full array local dimming, is just a fancy LCD display. Instead of employing lights on one side, FALD TVs spread the love to all four edges. These light zones then pass through the same filters as above to produce the picture. However, these zones can dim independently of one another which helps to produce deeper blacks.
FALD TVs make their name by providing top performance without the cost. They won’t match OLED TVs in terms of black reproduction, but they get an awful lot closer than LCD TVs do. It all comes back to the independent lighting zones and the flexibility they offer. You get deeper, more uniform black and crisper HDR content.
FALD TVs employ independent lighting zones on all four sides.
FALD TVs tend to disperse heat better, which is good for the overall long-term health of your TV.
Once again, these TVs aren’t perfect. They are still technically fancy LCD displays, which means you can struggle with viewing angles. The independent lighting zones may struggle when bright areas are very close to dark areas. You can also expect to spend more money on a FALD TV than you would on a comparable LCD.
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These TVs aren’t as popular as LCD or OLED options, which may lead to some trouble tracking one down. Vizio offers the most FALD options, though Sony launched a few in 2020 as well.
Finally, there are no real standards for FALD TVs. Some come with as many as 72 lighting zones while others putter along with 40. You’ll also find a huge difference in prices depending on what you’re looking for.
- Deeper blacks and better uniformity than LCD
- Superior motion blur
- Support for the latest technology
- Better temperature control than LCD
- Not the most common TVs
- Tend to suffer from blooming where light and dark meet
- Same poor viewing angles on non-IPS options
- More expensive than LCDs
Last, but not least, are the OLED TVs. They skip the edge lighting in favor of illuminating each individual pixel as needed. This somewhat cheats the system because it can just turn pixels off to get the blackest black. Of the three TV types, OLED is in many ways the simplest one for this very reason.
This produces a major impact on image quality. You won’t find blacker blacks because there’s already no light coming through. OLED TVs also take the cake in terms of motion blur and HDR. You won’t notice blooming due to the individual lighting, and viewing angles shouldn’t be a problem.
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OLED TVs are often the thinnest options you’ll find as well. This makes them prime candidates for wall-mounting. You shouldn’t have to worry about temperatures as the individual lighting keeps most of the TV nice and cool.
As you could probably guess, OLED TVs are at the highest end of the spectrum. Most of them offer 4K resolutions and plenty of HDR support, so you won’t have to spend as much time on research.
While it’s mostly good news for OLED TVs, there are a few things to worry about. For starters, these beasts are flat-out expensive. You can expect to pay more than $1,000 if you want the latest and greatest option. An older model may save you some money.
You may also run into problems with “crushing blacks.” This is when your OLED TV sees a particularly dark area and just makes it fully black. If you planned to rewatch The Long Night from Game of Thrones, you might still miss out on some key details due to crushed black areas. It essentially robs you of select details in the name of a deeper black. This tends to be an issue on poorly calibrated OLEDs, so you may have to do some tinkering.
- Deepest blacks, best contrast
- No blooming effect
- Thinnest TVs and run cooler
- Support the latest technology
- Get ready for your wallet to hurt
- Not too many manufacturers make OLEDs
- Potential for crushing blacks
So which TV is best for you?
The answer to which one is best seems pretty clear to us — OLED TVs take the cake. Sure, they have their flaws, but they pack the best technology you’ll find on a modern TV. You’ll get sharp contrast, an incredible range of colors, and precious HDR support.
Of course, there are times where an OLED TV is out of the question. They’re prohibitively expensive in many cases, and sometimes it’s tough to justify the extra money. Here are a few more points to consider:
- Bright living rooms tend to accommodate LCD and FALD panels better as they often handle reflections better.
- If you can’t mount your TV centrally, you may want to go for an OLED for better viewing angles.
- Competitive gamers may want to lean towards LCD and OLED displays for their shorter input lags.
- Movie lovers who live and die by HDR will want the improved experience of FALD and OLED panels.
It’s tough to say what’s next in the TV tech sphere as 4K and even 8K are becoming more popular. We’ll be sure to keep you posted on the latest and greatest in tech.