Before buying a new TV, it is essential to consider which display type best suits your needs.
There are many different types of TV display technology, each with benefits and drawbacks.
Traditional LCD panels can use IPS, VA, or TN technologies with fluorescent tubes or LEDs for backlighting.
There are also advanced variants of this technology to consider, such as QLED and QNED displays.
Alternatively, you can opt for an OLED screen that doesn’t require backlighting like an LCD.
These terms can be overwhelming when thrown around by a fast-talking salesperson or scrolling through an online store.
However, once demystified, their differences are not difficult to appreciate.
Recreating pictures with light — LCD, LED, and OLED
A liquid crystal display (LCD) is the most common display technology on the market.
Contrary to popular belief, light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are not a different technology from LCD but a different backlighting technique.
In contrast to LED LCD TVs, older LCDs use fluorescent tubes for backlighting.
Modern LCDs use LEDs to shine light through a layer of liquid crystals that apply colour to the desired image.
Displays differ depending on how many LEDs provide light and where these light sources are located behind the screen.
Regarding the position of the LEDs, displays can typically be edge-lit, direct-lit, or full-array.
Edge-lit displays have a series of LEDs around the edges of the screen and use a light diffusion layer to spread the light and create a uniform image.
Direct-lit displays use LEDs throughout the back of the screen and generally have a brighter image than edge-lit displays.
Full-array LED displays are an additional step up from direct-lit backlights since there are even more LEDs spread out behind the panel, which can be individually turned off.
In contrast to LCD — whether LED or fluorescent backlit — is organic LED (OLED) technology. Each pixel in an OLED display generates its own light rather than relying on backlighting.
The most significant advantage of OLED displays is that viewers get “true blacks” because pixels can get turned off entirely instead of just being dimmed.
More precise backlighting — Mini-LED, micro-LED, and QNEDs
Recent advancements have also introduced mini-LEDs and micro-LEDs.
Mini-LEDs are only a fifth of an average LED’s size, allowing manufacturers to fit more of them in the same area.
Mini-LED TVs’ main advantage is more precise backlighting, which leads to improved brightness and deeper blacks.
LG’s QNED TVs are an example of displays that use mini-LED technology.
Micro-LEDs are even smaller than mini-LEDs, measuring approximately 0.05 mm across — small enough for these LEDs to be individual pixels in conventional TVs.
Because these microscopic LEDs can be individually turned off, they can produce true blacks.
Micro-LEDs are also much brighter than OLED displays but are likely to be much more expensive while the technology is still being refined.
For example, Samsung’s cheapest MicroLED TV will reportedly cost R1.2 million (100 million South Korean won).
LCD panel types — IPS, VA, and TN
The three most common types of LCD panels are In-Plane Switching (IPS), Vertical Alignment (VA), and Twisted Nematic (TN).
IPS panels have low contrast and wide viewing angles, while VA panels generally have higher contrast and narrower viewing angles.
Although TN panels offer lower response times, higher refresh rates, and are cheaper than IPS and VA panels, they have the worst viewing angles and colour performance.
Quantum Dot technology — QLED
Quantum dot light-emitting diode (QLED) displays use a layer of quantum dots on an LCD matrix to produce images.
QLED TVs promise better colours and much brighter displays than traditional LCD TVs.
However, QLEDs do not have the same deep blacks that OLED displays offer since it still relies on backlighting that can bleed into darker areas.
Quantum Dot OLEDs — QD-OLED
QD-OLED is Samsung’s combination of quantum dot technology with OLED.
These hybrid TVs give consumers the superior brightness of a QLED display combined with the pure blacks that OLED TVs offer.
However, there aren’t a lot of QD-OLED TVs currently on the market, and the ones that are available are relatively expensive.
For example, Samsung’s 55-inch S95B QD-OLED TV costs R35,989.64 ($2,199.99).