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Issue #757: Jan 23-29, 2022

Q: I’ve been looking at new TVs and am thoroughly confused. What are the main pros and cons of the various types: Crystal UHD, Nano Cell, OLED, QLED and New QLED.

 – Joseph B.
Fort Walton Beach, Florida

A:  I’m not a bit surprised at your confusion, Joseph.  I haven’t seen so many acronyms in one place since I retired from the Air Force in 2002.  As you probably know, each of these describes a type of technology used to build the TV’s screen.  Before we get into specifics, as usual, I want to provide some background for those not as familiar with TV lingo as you seem to be.  After that, I’ll answer your question as best I can.

The first thing I’d like to do is separate some of your terminology.  The name UHD (with or without the word Crystal attached) stands for ultra-high definition, and that generally refers to any display that’s capable of at least 4K resolution or higher.  Whoops!  So, what’s 4K?  For that matter, what does “resolution” mean?  It’s all about the number of dots that makes up a TV’s picture.  These dots are called picture elements, or pixels, and all devices with display screens have them, whether a phone, a pad, a computer monitor, or a big screen TV.  The more pixels the device has, the higher its resolution. 

Screen resolution has increased as technology has advanced, and it’s measured by the number of pixels a screen has in the horizontal direction.  The standard definition of older TVs displayed a puny width of only 640 pixels.  Then, along came high definition, or HD, and the width increased to 1280 or 1920 depending on which style of HD you were talking about.  More recently came 4K, or, as previously mentioned, UHD, with, you guessed it, around 4000 horizontal pixels. Some people claim that at 4K resolution, the human eye can no longer distinguish individual pixels on the screen.  That’s debatable, but it hasn’t stopped the forward march of technology into screens that can do 8K.  16K and even 32K sets exist or are in various stages of development.  You’re unlikely to see those last couple in your local big box stores, as the price for them would easily be in the multiple tens of thousands of dollars.  Then again, that’s where 4K sets were just a few short years ago.

Moving beyond raw resolution numbers, the “LED” portion of the acronyms you mentioned stands for light emitting diode.  The screens in these sets consist of a matrix of one of a specific type of LED, each of which has its own unique characteristics.  OLED stands for organic light emitting diode, and it actually uses a film of organic compound that emits light in response to electric current.  OLEDs do not require a backlight to make the image visible.  One of the benefits of an OLED is that when it is not emitting light, there is nothing at all visible, which provides very dark blacks, beyond what other technologies can achieve.

QLED or quantum dot display, is a type of LCD, or liquid crystal display.  It uses nanocrystals that produce pure red, green and blue light.  These so-called quantum dot particles convert the light from an LED backlight into the basic RGB colors that comprise a color picture.  QLEDs are known for improved brightness and extremely vivid and precise colors.

So, to summarize, and offer some of those pros and cons you asked for: UHD is a resolution, not a display type.  OLED is a pure LED technology.  It doesn’t require a separate backlight, so generally the thinnest TVs are OLED.  They are also known for an amazing reproduction range from true-black to vivid colors.  QLED is an advanced type of LCD screen technology that has smaller cells than older LCD technologies.  It requires a backlight behind the color layer to make the image visible.

So, let me close this discussion with some less-Geeky words, but words which you can probably use even more than everything else presented in this article.  There is far more that goes into the selection of a TV than the technology that produces the picture.  The vast majority of people can’t see the difference between HD and UHD, and the differences and benefits that different technologies provide often require laboratory equipment, to measure.  One thing that I haven’t mentioned at all is something that is often #1 on everyone’s priority list: price.  There is an amazing array of TVs available for purchase.  Visit your local store and engage with someone who knows what they’re talking about (if they can’t explain the difference between OLED and QLED, ask to talk to someone else).  Take a good hard look at the display models, then read some reviews online before you make a purchase.


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