In the list of acronyms that home theater equipment comes with these days, two are particularly vexing because they are so very similar and yet so very different. If asked what the difference between LED and OLED is, most people wouldn’t be able to answer the question. We at Performance Audio can.
Shine a Light
The first thing to help distinguish LED from OLED involves light. To be more accurate, LED displays are actually LCD displays that are backlit by LEDs. As a result, the overall brightness of picture is quite high. The downside is that the image quality cannot be fine-tuned quite as well as far as colors and blacks are concerned. When you’re adjusting an LED picture, you’re adjusting everything all at once, essentially.
Meanwhile, OLED displays are generating the light directly. You’re not seeing LCD pixels backlit by an LED. Each pixel is its own LED. This makes for great fine-tuning of colors and blacks, but overall picture brightness is not quite as high as an LED display.
Playing the Angles
OLED displays have a degree of uniform clarity from any viewing angle, much the same way that plasma TVs used to have, though with considerably longer lifespan. Since the pixels are generating light, the image remains easily seen across a broad viewing arc.
LED displays, though, are best seen straight on. If the colors look darker or “shadowed” in some fashion, chances are that you’re at too great an angle to view the image clearly. While several innovations have broadened the viewing arc for LED displays, it’s still not quite as expansive as OLEDs.
Abundance and Scarcity
Probably the single biggest difference between LEDs and OLEDs lies in the availability and price points of the two types of display. LED displays are cheap to manufacture and widely available from an exhaustive range of vendors. A bare-bones home theater display can be had for less than a grand.
OLED displays, on the other hand, are labor- and resource-intensive, and only a few manufacturers produce them. As a result, they’re very much on the high end of the scale when it comes to price, owing to the production costs and limited availability.