As 2023's TVs are starting to hit both the shelves and our testing benches, it's looking to be another year of incredible screens that we can watch our favourite movies and TV shows on.
However, new ranges often come with new buzzwords and display technologies - and that can get a little confusing if you're looking to buy one.
This year you can expect to see new OLED TVs, QD-OLED TVs, Mini LED TVs and even MicroLED TVs, adding to those on the market already.
Wondering what separates them all? Fear not - we explain each of the technologies below, including their unique characteristics to help you make sense of it all.
- Used by: LG, Philips, Panasonic, Sony
- Positives: Deep black levels, great colour saturation and HDR response, superb viewing angles, can be super slim.
- Negatives: Brightness not always as good as LED/LCD, limited lifespan in comparison with conventional LCDs, prone to image retention in very rare circumstances
Organic Light-Emitting Diode technology - better known as OLED - has been around for the best part of a decade and is used in TVs, as well as phones and other small-screen, portable devices.
OLED is a much simpler setup than traditional LCD, and the star of the show is a carbon-based organic compound, which produces light when an electrical current is passed through it. This means that each of the millions of pixels in an OLED is self-illuminating and can be switched on or off individually, ensuring zero light bleed from neighbouring pixels. Indeed, as they can be completely switched off, black levels are absolute and contrast is superb.
OLED TVs are also known for excellent colour saturation and accuracy, although brightness doesn't tend to run as high as top-end LED TVs. That's because the harder you drive the TV to be brighter, the shorter the lifespan of the organic compound - plus the increased risk of so-called "burn in".
More recent OLED TVs are finding ways around that though, like including heat sinks in their panels to drive them harder while keeping them cool, as well as bringing in new tech to help them too - like Micro Lens Array.
This involves a layer of tiny lenses sitting on top of the OLED pixels, which better focuses the light being emitted towards the viewer. This means the TV doesn't have to work any harder to increase its brightness, but can create figures like 2000 nits of peak brightess - something thought impossible for OLED just a few years ago.
Power consumption also benefits from the lack of a backlight - as does an OLED TV's depth as the simpler internals means the panel can be made just millimetres thick. However, you do need some space for connections and speakers, so they're rarely that slim all the way down. Some OLED TVs have separate media connection boxes to get around this, which enables the panel to sit flush to a wall.
Another caveat for OLED display technolgy is that, as it is organic, its lifespan is less than rivals'. Pixel effectiveness can fade and a set can look less bright or vibrant over time. This can take many years, though.
Perhaps more important to note is that OLED is similar to the old plasma TV technology in screen retention. In the worst case scenarios, you can even experience permanent screen burn although TV manufacturers have introduced a number of failsafes and measures to help prevent that occuring in more recent models.
LG G3 OLED evo
LG's G3 is a next-generation OLED using Micro Lens Array technology for a brighter panel. It's one of the best OLED TVs you can buy this year.
- Used by: Samsung, Sony,
- Positives: Brighter than traditional OLED, better colour volume, all the benefits of OLED
- Negatives: More expensive than traditional OLED, image retention remains a possibility
QD-OLED is a new take on OLED, developed by Samsung and used in its OLED range, and also in Sony's new flagship too.
The name comes because it is a combination of the Quantum Dot technology Samsung happily uses in its QLED range, with an adapted OLED approach. The idea? The bring the strengths of both, to one single screen.
In traditional OLED TVs, there is a filter used to change the white light emitted from the each pixel into the red, green and blue subpixels.
In QD-OLEDs, the light from the OLED material is blue, and each pixel is divided into three - a blue subpixel that just contains the original OLED material, then red and green subpixels created by red and green quantum dots. Need white light? Combine all three and you've got it.
With no filter required, QD-OLED claims to be brighter than traditional OLED, while also offering the very best colour volume.
Want to try QD-OLED? This year's flagship QD-OLED from Samsung looks to be a beauty.
- Used by: LG, Samsung, Philips, TCL
- Positives: Great brightness, better black levels in comparison with other LED TVs, more affordable
- Negatives: Thicker TV due to backlighting behind LCD substrate, some light bleed between pixels
Mini LED is a reasonably recent technology for TVs. It is also the only one here that refers to the backlight rather than the screen technology itself.
A Mini LED backlight is similar to other LED technologies that sit directly behind an LCD substrate and, much like those, it shines light through non self-illuminating pixels to give you an image on screen. However, unlike other LED backlights - even local dimming ones - it is made up of many thousands of tiny LEDs that can be switched on or off in multiple, much smaller zones.
For example, LG's current range of Mini LED TVs use 30,000 LEDs in the backlight, which sits directly behind the LCD panel. These are grouped in around 2,500 zones, which can be accurately turned on/off, dimmed or made more bright as needed.
The benefit to this technology over conventional LED backlighting is that it can be more precise and therefore provide better black levels. Colour saturation and accuracy is improved too (as is the case when you have better control over the dark areas of a screen), and there's less light bleed, as the LED zones are much smaller than usual.
The end result couldn't compare like-for-like with OLED or MicroLED, which are more precise still with each pixel being self-illuminated, but you do get a much better picture than you would usually for LED TV tech.
Another benefit to Mini LED TVs are that they are cheapest of the three here to manufacture. As a result, prices can be more attractive.
Samsung QN90C Neo QLED 4K Smart TV (2023)
Samsung's QN90C is the flagship Mini LED TV for 2023 in a lot of regions. We've given the QN95C five stars and think you'll be in good hands here too.
- Used by: Samsung
- Positives: Superb brightness, excellent black levels, modular TV technology so can be made into many different sizes
- Negatives: Extremely, prohibitively expensive, can currently only be made in massive screen sizes
Like OLED, MicroLED technology uses self-illuminating pixels with multi-coloured miniature LEDs combining to present a very accurate picture without the need for a backlight.
This presents similar performance to OLED, especially when it comes to black levels as each pixel can be turned on or off at will. However, as the pixels are made up of non-organic material they can technically also shine brighter without concerns for lifespan, therefore potentially giving MicroLED TVs much higher contrast and brightness.
That means HDR control is more pronounced on a MicroLED panel, with more extreme black levels and brightness than other technologies can achieve.
MicroLED tech can is also more flexible, as evidenced by Samsung's The Wall, which is modular and built-up using different chunks of screens pieced together to make a much bigger display.
There are a couple of caveats with MicroLED, however. First, as it is made up of groups of pixels that measure a millimetre (a module), it is really only usuable in larger screen sizes or you will lose resolution. The smallest MicroLED TV released so far is 77-inches, while the original Wall TV was 4K and 146-inch.
Other manufacturers are developing micrometre modules though, so that could be an issue solved sometime in the future.
The other downside to MicroLED is that it is currently extremely expensive. For example, Samsung's cheapest MicroLED TV will cost $80,000. It means it's really not a consumer option right now, but one day...