Are OLEDs Really the Best?

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Comparing OLED to plasma and LCD

OLED TV technology keeps making headlines. Talk around town says OLED televisions are the latest and the greatest—but is that true?

Is OLED really that much better than what you have in your living room? We got up close and personal with OLED TVs from LG and Samsung this summer—but Dr. Raymond Soneira actually got one into a laboratory. His test results indicate that from top to bottom, the rumors really are true: LG's OLED TV outperforms older technology on almost every front.

Below, I've outlined Dr. Ray Soneira's lab results for the LG 55EA9800, to show you just how much better OLED TVs can be. See for yourself:

CONTRAST RATIO

Better than plasma & LCD? Yes.

Minimum Luminance Reading: Perfect.
Dr. Ray measured a true black level, which is to say, the complete absence of light. Even plasmas don't get this dark, and LCDs don't even come close. This is the single most important area of television performance, and LG's OLED knocks it out of the park. With a perfect black reading, a television has a theoretically infinite contrast ratio.

Peak Brightness Reading: 135 cd/m2 to 308 cd/m2
On THX Cinema mode, Dr. Ray noted a reading of 135 cd/m2 . This level is plenty bright for most environments, but the television can actually ramp up even brighter on ISF Expert modes—to a dazzling 308 cd/m2 . A theater-like environment will always render the best-looking picture, though, so dim the lights and pull those shades for optimal quality.

Color & Gray Scale

Better than plasma & LCD? Yes.

Color Gamut: Displays 99% of the Rec. 709 international standard
This performance is visually indistinguishable from perfect HDTV color accuracy.

Color Points
This photo courtesy of Dr. Raymond Soneira View Larger

Expanded Color Gamut: Capable of 116% of the Rec. 709 international standard
This result means that the OLED TV can handle expanded color gamuts, not just the standard. In fact, this comes close to the Adobe RGB standard used by graphic design professionals.

Rec 709
This photo courtesy of Dr. Raymond Soneira

White: visually indistinguishable from perfect
Red, Green, Blue: visually indistinguishable from perfect
Gamma (Gray Scale): visually indistinguishable from perfect

Viewing Angle

Better than plasma & LCD? Yes.

Total Viewing Angle: visually indistinguishable from perfect within ±30º horizontally

LCDs have the worst performance of the three technologies in question, typically dropping as much as 60% in brightness and 50% in overall contrast at angles of 30º. Plasmas tend not to struggle much in this way, since like OLED TVs they do not use backlights. Nevertheless, this LG boasts the best total viewing angle Dr. Ray has currently ever measured, once again putting OLED TV at the top of the foodchain.

LG 55EA9800 OLED
An off-angle view of the LG 55EA9800 OLED View Larger

Dr. Ray also addresses the question everyone seems to be pulling their hair out over: What's with the curve? The curvature, he indicates, reduces the screen’s 180-degree opening angle, which removes reflections from ambient lighting on the sides. Additionally, the curve also takes ambient light from behind watchers and directs it away from the line of sight.

Motion Performance

Better than plasma & LCD? Undetermined & yes.

Response Time: 0.1ms
By photographing the LG OLED and an LCD with the same motion response times, and comparing the images, Dr. Soneira found that this OLED is "more than a factor of 10 faster than LCDs." LCDs use backlights that shine through liquid crystal to make an image. Since the liquid crystal TVs (LCDs) must twist and untwist to regulate light to form an image, the process is more time consuming than with OLED (organic light emitting diode) displays, which don't use backlights.

Curved OLED TV
A deep-sea jellyfish on the 55EA9800 OLED View Larger

What about plasma? Dr. Soneira doesn't discuss this in particular, but it's a well-known fact that plasmas have excellent motion performance; since each plasma cell is individually wired, response times are immediate and precise. OLEDs have the same advantage, and any improvements they make will likely be unappreciable to the human eye.