There are many different display technologies competing for your precious dollars. Anyone who wants to buy a new TV today can choose an LCD (LCD) or LCD screen OLED television (organic light emitting diode).
Simple enough, right? Well, then you also have to decide on one of the many sub-technologies. Often hidden behind a mysterious marketing jargon. In this confusing market space, we will soon have a third candidate for display technology in the form of MicroLED screens.
While OLED TVs are usually the top (and most expensive) option compared to LCD TVs, MicroLED screens are just around the corner. Instead, should we wait for MicroLED TVs or pull the trigger on an OLED screen? We will try to answer this question as clearly as possible.
The standard LCD
Both OLED and MicroLED technologies are attempts to improve standard LCD technology. LCD panels continue to form most flat screen displays. Modern LCD screens have made giant strides in the early HD TVs and computer monitors. They have little blur, are bright and produce wonderful images. Unfortunately, LCD technology has a universal flaw that always limits image quality, screen thickness, and screen performance.
This defect is the dependence of a backlight. LCD panels do not emit light. So to really see the image on the screen, you need to illuminate it. The biggest problem here is that the backlights make real blacks impossible. If each pixel of an LCD screen is set to show in black, what you will actually get is a kind of shade of gray.
This has been addressed in several ways. Modern LCD screens use a method known as local dimming, which places a series of LED lights behind the dashboard and allows you to dim the areas of the screen independently.
However, despite the refinement of LCD technology, they still suffer from poor viewing angles, slow response times, color reproduction problems, and input latency. Its main selling point is the price. Today you can buy a large 4K LCD panel with excellent image quality for a very reasonable amount. However, it is clear that LCD technology is reaching the limits of what is possible. Which brings us to the OLEDs.
An OLED view
OLEDs deal with almost all major reviews of LCD screens. The pixels of an OLED can each produce their own light. This means you don’t need a backlight and can show off perfect blacks and whites. OLEDs can also be made with incredibly low thicknesses. They can be viewed from almost any angle, have fast response times and offer stunning color, contrast and brightness.
Sure, OLEDs seem like the perfect display technology on paper, but OLEDs have their own problems. The most serious problem is durability. Some of the elements in the organic image of OLEDs have a relatively short lifespan compared to LCDs. In addition, OLEDs are susceptible to image retention. It is sometimes known as “burn-in”.
Remember that plasma TVs, which is also an emission technology, also suffered from this problem. When the image or parts of the image do not change for a long period of time, a ghost image may be pasted. Think of network logos or HUD video game elements.
Because these parts of the image do not change, these pixels can retain them. Modern OLED screens have built-in fixes to reduce the chances of this happening, but it’s an inherent problem with technology.
We first saw MicroLED technology in practical applications in 2018, when Samsung showed off a huge 146 ”screen at the Consumer Electronics Show. This screen surprised viewers and since then we have all been waiting to see when MicroLED technology will hit consumer products.
MicroLEDs use miniature LEDs to form each pixel. They share the same advantages as OLED screens. That is, they emit their own light, can show true blacks, and offer fast response times. However, the organic nature of the elements in the OLED image makes them relatively unstable. They are susceptible to decay over time and are sensitive to image retention, as mentioned above. MicroLEDs do not have these problems.
MicroLED screens can also be built from smaller sub-panels, opening up interesting possibilities for the future. Especially when it comes to really massive screens that would be impossible to create as a single LCD or OLED panel.
The pros and cons of OLED versus MicroLED
We have put OLED and MicroLED cards on the table, so now it’s time to compare the pros and cons of each technology. Starting with OLED, here are the strengths compared to MicroLED:
- A mature manufacturing process.
- Lots of models to choose from.
- Fast price drop, comparable to high-end LCD TVs.
In the list of advantages of MicroLED, we can set the following pros:
- Better service life and image quality.
- Stable performance without degradation over time.
- The potential for mass visualizations made of modular sub-panels.
Both technologies also have their weaknesses, the most important to consider when it comes to OLED devices are:
- Tendency to over-saturate colors and suffer from image retention
- Organic decay over time, affecting brightness and color.
For MicroLED screens, there are also some serious issues:
- Absolutely crazy prices on first-generation screens that are set for release in the near future.
- For now, the advantages of image quality over OLEDs are marginal, at least when both screens are new.
Clearly the competition between OLED and MicroLED technology is about to start to burn, but what does this mean for you? Should we wait for MicroLED?
Do you have to wait for MicroLED?
At the time of writing, the answer to whether you should expect MicroLED is no. At least when it comes to big screens, such as TVs. MicroLED is now at a stage similar to that of OLED technology a few years ago. It is still very expensive to produce and manufacturers are learning to reduce production costs.
Right now, when it comes to flat screen TVs, OLED is gaining ground. Finally they are cheap enough where the jump from a high-end LCD screen to an entry-level OLED is not that great. Given the significantly better display properties of OLEDs compared to LCD screens, it’s not too hard to recommend them right now. As long as you are aware of your existing weaknesses in terms of lifespan and image retention.
It is also important not to forget about LCD technology. LCD TVs fall sharply in price in response to OLED and MicroLED technology. Not only that, there are still advances to be made with LCD technology. For example, those of Samsung QLED the technology is trying to approach black levels and OLED performance at a lower price. Each person should weigh the three technologies currently.