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  • Author Dave Stevenson
  • Published October 10, 2013

What is an OLED TV, anyway?

We demystify one of the most interesting new techs in telly history: OLED. What is it, how does it work, and why are we so excited about it?


We demystify one of the most interesting new techs in telly history: OLED. What is it, how does it work, and why are we so excited about it? Read on to find out.


What’s all this, then?

OLED? Well, it stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode, and while that sounds broadly similar to the LED TVs we’ve become used to, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. LED TVs are closer, technology-wise, to LCD TVs; the only difference is that LCD tellies use different light bulb tech to light the image.



OLED is a world apart. Instead of using thousands of pixels and a handful of backlights to illuminate the image, each OLED pixel acts as its own light source, generating both light and colour. The result: better distributed colour, and a brighter image overall.


Sounds good. Wow me, though.

Ok. With an LED TV, the backlights need to be on all the time in order for you to see anything. Variable brightness means modern sets can still produce scenes with incredible contrast, but you’re never really looking at “true black” unless the set is turned off. Because each pixel in an OLED display produces its own light, when a pixel is required to be black, it’s turned off entirely, meaning unbelievably high contrast ratios. Perfect for dark, moody films.


I want people to know all about my new state of the art telly, though. Will it look any different?

The problem with LCD and LED TVs is that the backlights they require dictate the size and shape of the TV. And while you can certainly get wafer-thin LED TVs, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Because there’s no backlight, an OLED TV can be almost unbelievably thin - we’re talking about a TV no deeper than 4mm. They can bend, too, allowing TVs such as the LG EA980W to curve gracefully, allowing them to mimic the shape of proper cinema screens.


Awesome. Now blind me with science.

You asked for it. Other OLED TVs have pixels with three sub-pixels: red, green and blue. It’s the varying intensities of each of these sub-pixels that allows a pixel to appear one of thousands of different shades. Only LG TVs use WRGB pixels, which means each pixel not only has RGB sub-pixels, but an additional white pixel as well. This means more accurate colour, better viewing angles, and a TV that will last longer.


If you prefer your tech’s scientific secrets to remain hidden, there’s plenty of wow-factor. Not least of this takes the form of LG’s Magic Remote, whose motion-sensing, voice activated trickery makes browsing even the longest of channel lists entertaining.


Dave Stevenson is a writer for Stuff magazine


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