TVs and monitors have a number of specifications, including resolution, size, refresh rate, and panel type.
While resolution is the defining feature of display quality, the type of panel used is equally important.
When shopping for a TV or monitor, the panel types you will see are typically LED, OLED, or LCD.
These panels each have their own advantages and disadvantages, as detailed below.
Liquid-crystal displays (LCD) are the most common panel type on the market.
LCD panels consist of a backlight, polarizing filters, and a liquid crystal array sandwiched between two glass substrates.
The backlight is constantly turned on when an LCD is powered, which is why even black colours give off light on LCD panels.
There are three main types of LCD panels found in consumer displays, and buyers should take note of the features of each type.
- IPS (In-Plane Switching) – IPS LCD displays offer increased contrast ratios and colour depth, and are often more expensive than other panel types.
- VA (Vertical Alignment) – VA LCD panels have a decent contrast ratio and viewing angle, better than twisted-nematic displays.
- TN (Twisted Nematic) – TN LCD panels are often the cheapest, and offer decent refresh rates and response times – while sacrificing image quality.
Many TVs and monitors are labelled as “LED” displays, but exhibit similar performance to LCD panels.
This is because LED TVs and monitors still use LCD display panels and the “LED” label refers to the type of backlight used to illuminate the LCD panel.
LED-backlit LCD TVs and monitors offer improved illumination and power efficiency over older backlighting solutions.
As LED TVs use LCD panels, buyers should check for the type of LCD panel to determine if the display is right for them.
Samsung’s QLED TVs use liquid crystals to display an image, but exhibit a smaller form factor thanks to improved LED technology.
OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) is a newer type of display panel and is quickly becoming more common in high-end products.
OLED displays do not require a backlight and pixels are illuminated individually by a chemical reaction.
This allows for drastically improved contrast ratios and power efficiency, as pixels displaying pure blacks will simply turn off.
OLED displays can also boast high refresh rates and extremely low response times.
They are also flexible and can be used to create TVs with slim form factors, but are expensive to manufacture and implement.
Many high-end smartphones and TVs are shipping with OLED display panels due to their wide viewing angles and superior image quality.