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What Is an OLED TV and Why Should I Care?

OLED technology takes TV to an unprecedented level. Here's why.

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OLED is the latest and, some might argue, greatest technology to hit televisions since the introduction of LED-backlit LCDs. In fact, it appears that OLED technology is poised to eclipse LED, just as LED did to LCD. In theory, OLED panels are capable of beating LED panels in every category. Given time to iron out some of the wrinkles, they'll do just that.

The reason OLED is going to dominate the TV market is simple: It represents a fundamentally superior approach to display technology. Like plasma technology, OLED features millions of pixels that actually generate their own light. In the case of OLED displays, these light-generating pixels are made from organic molecules—they're the “O” in “OLED.”

In chemistry terms, “organic” simply refers to molecules that contain carbon. Since each pixel can output its own light, OLED panels have much tighter control on black levels, uniformity, and peak bright levels. Additionally, since each subpixel actually emits colored light, rather than white light that went through a color filter, the colors are more vibrant and accurate than typically seen in LEDs.

Of course, none of this has anything to do with price. Since OLED panels don't house the relatively bulky liquid crystal layers and color filters, they can theoretically be produced very quickly and cheaply. Unfortunately, that reality hasn't quite happened yet. Right now, when you buy an OLED television, you're buying not just the one OLED TV you're taking home, but also the previous 5-10 TVs that came off the assembly line and had to be trashed due to poor performance.

Once manufacturers optimize the process and increase the yield, expect to see OLEDs that beat LED TVs in all categories, including price.

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