Are OLED TVs worth it?
I’ve been observing the OLED discourse for quite a while now, and the tech has steadily lowered in cost, making it more accessible on more devices, though OLED screens are still far more expensive than traditional LCD panels.
There’s even an OLED version of the Nintendo Switch at this point, making even more people aware of just how impressive this technology can be when applied to the entertainment we love.
But if you’re still wondering whether you should consider grabbing an OLED TV for yourself, it can be difficult to get a sense of what these screens are really like unless you see them in action.
After all, watching a review of an OLED TV through an LCD panel just isn’t going to demonstrate its main advantages.
But hey, I finally purchased an OLED TV of my very own, so I would like to share my thoughts on whether OLEDs measure up to their prices, based on firsthand experience.
First, let’s talk about some of their most substantial benefits.
Ok, so we don’t have space in this article to explain, on a technical level, why OLED is so special compared to LCD, and for the average buyer, the explanation is probably less important than the results.
So if you’d like to learn more about the tech, check out this here explanation.
The bottom line is that OLED panels are better than LCD panels in many ways, and one of the most noticeable advantages is just how vibrant these screens can be.
The color vibrancy provided by a quality OLED TV is kind of astonishing, or at least it certainly has been for me.
Even simple graphics, such as the Netflix app opening animation, are stunning on OLED. It doesn’t feel like you’re seeing some version of Netflix red, you’re seeing THE Netflix red.
Especially in a dark room, bright colors stand out incredibly well, and that’s aided in a big way by another major advantage: contrast.
You probably already know this, my readers are pretty smart, but contrast is the difference between the light parts and the dark parts of an image.
As a quick example, I’ll show a photo here in both high-contrast and low-contrast versions.
Generally speaking, higher contrast makes it easier for the viewer to distinguish the different elements of an image, and low contrast tends to blend various elements together.
In filmmaking, contrast is an incredibly important tool, and unfortunately, LCD panels, which have been the norm in consumer devices ever since the death of the CRT, just aren’t very good at achieving effective levels of contrast.
There’s variation, of course. Some high-end LCDs can look fantastic in their own right, but contrast is another area where OLED has a natural advantage.
Thanks to the underlying tech, OLED screens tend to have excellent contrast and black levels.
In other words, black portions of an image on an OLED look really black, rather than just dark gray, as they do on many edge-lit LCD screens.
On the other side of the spectrum, some high-end OLED TVs can get incredibly bright, enhancing the light parts of the image.
And this natural contrast is enhanced even further by some of the forward-looking features included in many OLED TVs.
Ok, so plenty of the features I’m about to talk about aren’t exclusive to OLED TVs. HOWEVER, sine OLED TVs tend to be much more expensive than LCD, manufacturers also tend to give these TVs certain cutting-edge features.
One of these features is HDR, which boils down to variable brightness and tone mapping. Basically, HDR has discreet dimming zones for specific parts of the screen, making those sections brighter or dimmer depending on the visual content of whatever you’re watching, and we should also mention that not all content is HDR compatible.
OLEDs also aren’t considered the best HDr displays around, but paired with OLED’s natural strengths, I’ve found it incredibly enjoyable for certain UHD movies that support the feature.
Many OLED TVs also include adaptive brightness for the entire panel, adjusting to match the ambient lighting of your space. This helps to avoid a dim screen in a bright room or an overly bright screen in a dark room.
And if you enjoy motion smoothing features, then you’re in luck. Most OLED TVs that I’ve researched include some degree of motion smoothing out of the box.
These features essentially make movement in the content you’re watching appear much smoother than it actually is, meaning less motion blur. This has the effect of making the content look like it is displaying at a much higher framerate.
Personally, I hate motion smoothing. It makes me borderline motion sick and alters content in a way I just don’t enjoy, but I also know that plenty of people do enjoy it, and if you’re one of those people, then you probably don’t need to worry about whether a new OLED TV will include it. 9/10, it will.
Ok, moving on to some of the biggest disadvantages of OLED televisions, burn-in is very much the elephant in the room.
If you remember working with old PC monitors from the 80s/90s, then you definitely remember how common screensavers were at the time.
Screensavers are still around, of course, but their actual purpose back in the day was to prevent static imagery, as sitting on the same imagery for too long (most often text/an open program) could actually burn that imagery into the display itself.
This simply isn’t a problem on LCD screens, but on OLEDs it definitely is.
You really, really, really don’t want your OLED TV sitting on the same static screen for too long. That’s exactly what will lead to eventual burn-in.
So is this a substantial problem for an OLED TV? After all, we’re not talking about a computer monitor here. TVs shouldn’t be sitting on the same image for very long, right?
Well, it depends on how you use the thing. For example, I like to use a Roku streaming stick, and that means booting into Roku’s interface when I start up the TV. If I’m not careful, the TV could end up sitting on that static interface for prolonged periods of time.
Thankfully, Roku and OLEd TV manufacturers understand this risk, and they’ve taken steps to keep imagery moving or just put the display to sleep after just a couple minutes.
In fact, the LG OLED I ended up with puts the screen to sleep after only about 15-30 seconds. One the one hand, it can be a bit annoying, but I also appreciate that the TV will take care of itself, to a certain degree, if I get distracted and forget to switch it off.
Certain manufacturers are also now including additional features specifically designed to extend the lifespan of OLED panels, and that’s good news.
Does this mean that an OLED screen will last forever? Definitely not. But it’s great news for anyone willing to invest in one of these TVs.
The other major disadvantage of OLED TVs is something I’ve been referring to throughout the article: just how much they cost.
There are quite a few OLED TVs being sold for less than $1,000 US, and prices will continue to come down as the technology becomes even more common, but it’s common to see OLED TVs listed for $1,400, $1,800, or even above $2,000, depending on size and manufacturer.
For the vast majority of people, these are not low prices. Compare these price points to budget LCD TVs that now sell for between $200 and $700.
If you just need a serviceable television to watch stuff after work or school and play some games on, LCD TVs are a good bet, and they’ll last a pretty long time, too.
But if you’re really looking for quality, OLED TVs are just plain superior in many respects. TVs nowadays are just big screens that happen to have a few features built in, features that the user may or may not care about or even use.
The quality of that screen is important, especially if you have access to 4K streaming entertainment, UHD BluRays, or 4K video games.
With all these trade-offs in mind, it’s up to you to decide what you want to prioritize.