What is OLED?OLED is emerging television tech that's used in the best-looking TVs we've seen to date. We explain how OLED differs from regular TVs, and what you need to know.
OLED, or O, L, E, D, is a television technology that is being used in the best looking tvs we've seen to date. But how does the tech differ from regular tvs, and what do you need to know? OLED televisions produce their images via a different technological process to other kinds of tvs. And we at CNET have been very fond of the result. With the first OLED TV we reviewed producing the best picture quality we've ever seen. But to understand what makes OLED different, you first need to know how pictures are created in an LCD TV, which is the technology in common use today. At the back of LCD TVs there's a backlight which shines light through liquid crystals which acts a bit like shutters, either allowing light through or not, depending on the current that is run through them. Red, green, and blue color filters put over the top make up an individual tiny onscreen pixel Capable of producing any color, contributing to an overall visible picture on the screen. OLED uses that same color combining principle, but the big difference is there's no back light. Instead, light is generated by organic compounds that glow when a current is applied. Some OLED designs, including one favored by LG, use white OLED overlaid with red, green and blue filters but the common trait is that OLED displays don't need a backlight. So, why the better picture? Well, it's because each pixel can be shut off. When there's no current flowing, the pixel appears completely black. This extremely high contrast between light and dark makes for a lovely image and we found beats the picture quality on sets that beats back lights, even though TV makers have found clever ways to dim back lights in LCD TV's to make darker parts of the screen as black as possible. OLED screens can also be made very thin and have wide viewing angles and the tech can also be put to use in bending or transparent displays. All that is yet to go mainstream, however, and there aren't many TV makers using this technology. Plus, it remains very expensive so OLED's commercial future is uncertain, but having been deeply impressed with TVs that use it, we certainly hope we see cheaper sets at a range of prices in years to come. That should be all you need to know for an introduction to OLED. But for much more on TVs and all things tech stay tuned to CNET.