LED, IPS or OLED – which TV to buy?

LED, IPS or OLED – which TV to buy?

www.flickr.com/ Kārlis Dambrāns

LCD, TFT, IPS, LED, OLED, AMOLED – it is a confusing alphabet soup out there in the world of flat panel display technology.

Manufacturers put out a lot of technical jargon about display technologies. These technologies are used in a variety of devices, including computer monitors, smartphones and television sets. A casual buyer may not pay much attention to screen technology on a smartphone or monitor. But when it comes to buying a TV set, it tends to confuse a buyer.

Back in the day, there was only one display technology – the Cathode Ray Tube (CRT). CRT TVs are bulky and draw a lot of current. But the introduction of Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) TV sets changed all that. TVs became more compact and the impact on the electricity bill was less.

The viewer sees a picture when an LCD screen is backlit by Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamps (CCFLs), which are placed on the edges or behind the LCD panel. CCFL-backlit TVs have now been replaced with LED-backlit TVs. The advantage with LED-backlit TVs is lower power consumption, longevity of the backlight and a generally brighter picture.

When LCD TVs began to gain popularity from about 2000 onwards, it had only one main competitor – the Plasma Display Panel (PDP). However, PDP TVs faded away as LCD TVs were much cheaper.

A Thin Film Transistor (TFT) display is a type of LCD but the former had better contrast. Apart from TV sets, TFT LCD screens are used in smartphones, handheld devices, calculators, car instrument displays among others.

In-Plane Switching (IPS) technology is another type of LCD TV technology. These panels are more accurate in their picture reproduction and show more accurate colour from narrow viewing angles. In simple terms, IPS was better than LCD.

TV sets with Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) displays are better than traditional LCD TVs that are backlit by CCFLs or LEDs. This is because OLED TVs do not need any backlighting. Therefore, these panels produce very deep blacks and this gives very good contrast. This, in turn, means better picture quality. This is good when it comes to future technologies like 4K picture resolution. They are power efficient too.

One disadvantage of OLED panels is their lower life as compared to some other technologies.

Production of OLED TVs was started by Korean major LG but Panasonic, Sony, Toshiba and Philips are also selling them now.

Quantum LED (QLED) is another technology that Samsung is pursuing actively. OLED TVs are known to be better in terms of sharpness and back levels than QLED TVs but the gap is narrowing.

One main advantage with QLED is that the screens are visible even in bright rooms.

Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diode (AMOLED) displays work in a similar way. They are used more in smartphones.

Which TV should one buy?

Normal LED-backlit, OLED and IPS panel TVs are all generally safe bets. Getting too deep into these technologies before buying a TV will lead to confusion. Any company will obviously say that their product is the best with a lot of jargon thrown in.

If one is out to buy a new set, it would be safe to invest in a 4K resolution TV. Current high definition (HD) picture is 1920 × 1080 pixels. 4K picture is 3840 × 2160 pixels. This means 4K content will have more detail.

Buying a 4K TV might cost more, but 4K video is getting more common and it is ensuring a bit of future-proofing.

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