What’s the Difference between an LCD, OLED and QLED TV?

The acronyms are coming!

TV in living room in front of couch.
Time to pick the type of TV that’s right for you.Pexels

We’re past the days of plasma versus LCD screens, but now there are new battles brewing. Today’s TVs come in three main varieties: LED, OLED, and QLED. These come in at dramatically different price points, and offer very different picture qualities. Here’s what that all means, and how to decide between them.

LG OLED55CXPUA Alexa Built-In CX 55" 4K Smart OLED TV (2020)
With a special processor, this unit can upscale pictures to a higher resolution on the fly.LG

OLED is typically the most expensive, fanciest display panel you can get these days. It stands for “organic light-emitting diode,” but what you really need to know is that OLED is a totally different type of technology from either LED or QLED. The biggest benefit with OLED is in its deep, perfect blacks (rather than the dark grey other TVs show) and the high level of contrast in its colors. You’ll notice a difference with OLED; everything is just way more vibrant. It’s ideal for gaming, sports or for anyone who just wants the best.

TCL 50S425 50 inch 4K Smart LED Roku TV (2019)
There’s no need to buy another streaming box to pair with this TV, since the software is already built in.TCL

Regular LED TVs are sort of the base model of televisions. They work by shining an LED backlight through an array of pixels. There’s nothing inherently wrong with LED LCD screens, as they’re sometimes called; they come in a wide variety of sizes, from all brands, and can span the price and quality spectrum. If you’re on a budget, this is probably where you’ll find yourself.

Samsung QN65Q60RAFXZA Flat 65" QLED 4K Q60 Series (2019) Ultra HD Smart TV with HDR and Alexa Compatibility
This set has an “ambient mode,” which will turn your TV into a frame for high-resolution digital art.Samsung Electronics

QLED—the “q” stands for “quantum”—is specifically a Samsung product, though other makers have adopted it. It’s quite similar to LED, though it adds a new layer in between the pixels and the LED light. One benefit to QLED is that it’s available in more sizes than OLED; another is that it’s typically brighter.