Saturday, June 25, 2022

What is quantum dot OLED? QD-OLED technology explained

There’s a new buzz in the air: QD-OLED, or organic quantum dot light-emitting diode, and it’s looking like a game-changer for TVs, monitors and the like.

Thanks to demonstrations by Samsung and Sony During CES 2022, enthusiasts were treated to the first-ever QD OLED personal displays – and it looks like a significant leap from standard OLED and QLED technology.

What is QD OLED?

Image via Sony

QD-OLED is a display technology that combines the currently popular display technology of OLED with the enhanced brightness levels of QLED, or quantum dot LED.

The end result aims to combine the perfect blacks and response times of OLED with the better brightness and color rendering of quantum dot LED. During CES 2022, Samsung received the Best of Innovation Award, while Sony presented the QD OLED TV A95K and Alienware showed an ultra-wide QD OLED gaming monitor.

What is the difference between QD-OLED, QLED and OLED?

QD-OLED integrates OLED with QLED, combining the best of both worlds from each display technology. But to understand the differences and why it’s such an important advancement in modern displays, here’s how core OLED technology works, why it’s so popular today, and how QLED and QD-OLED play a role.

OLED or Organic Light Emitting Diode

qd-you're a telly declared
OLED technology has been used to create a range of curved displays, including this “Waterfall” exhibit at CES 2019. Image by Leon Seibert / Unsplash

OLED (or Organic LED) is the current display technology to be dethroned. You’ve probably heard the term associated with televisions (LG Display has been the undisputed OLED manufacturer for years) or the current Nintendo Switch OLED.

OLED panels are made of organic materials that generate and emit light when an electric current is passed through them. This differs from today’s LCD-LED TVs, which use light sources such as a backlight that are always on to create an image.

With an OLED TV, the millions of individual pixels are themselves the light source. Because of this, they can reproduce perfect blacks and better contrast, while LCD-LED TVs often suffer from what’s known as “blooming” – an ugly effect where brighter areas of the picture bleed into parts of the screen that should be completely black.

OLED also has a major advantage over traditional LED LCD TVs. Pixel response time – how long it takes pixels to transition from one color to another – is nearly instantaneous on OLED panels. This doesn’t affect the refresh rate of the panel itself, but it does mean that moving images are significantly clearer on an OLED panel, which can be a huge boost when trying to identify fast-moving images in games with a lot of characters or characters action (think PUBG or Fourteen days).

These faster transitions also result in better responsiveness during gameplay. Using the same PC hardware and Nvidia’s LDAT analysis tools, HDTVTest found that OLED TVs had approximately 10 milliseconds less end-to-end system delay than traditional LED LCD screens. This makes OLED much more suitable for games like Fortnite, Counter Strike, PUBG and all Twitch-based shooters.

But all these advantages come at a price. OLEDs are traditionally more expensive and, due to their lower maximum brightness, are less suitable for rooms with a lot of natural light. Another gripe is image burn-in or burn-in, although the LG display asserts that “Sensible, responsible use of an OLED combined with powerful image preservation capabilities should result in a seamless experience.”

QLED or Quantum Dot Emitting Diode

Image via Samsung

At its core, the Quantum Dot LED (QLED) is basically an extension of existing LCD-LED technology. Rather than creating images in a completely different way than OLED, QLED TVs apply a quantum dot layer over the traditional LED backlight to improve brightness, light absorption and color output.

A few downsides – especially compared to OLEDs – are that QLEDs inherit many of the disadvantages of general LCD technology, including limited contrast ratio, power inefficiency, and slower pixel response times. However, the advantage of the quantum dot layer is that it does not only have to be applied on an LED LCD TV: quantum dot layers can also be used on micro-LED, mini-LED and OLED TVs.

QD-OLED: The best of both worlds

Image via Samsung

So how can you keep all the advantages of OLEDs and QLEDs while improving on their shortcomings? The solution: QD OLED.

Currently, OLED panels generate their light and color starting point with white light. They combine blue and yellow OLED material to create a mixture of pure white light. The red, green and blue components of this spectrum are separated from the white light – this is where a color filter comes into play. Color filters filter colors well, although they reduce brightness in the process.

To overcome the OLED brightness limitation, QD OLED panels emit blue light through a quantum dot layer and split it into three sub-pixels to reproduce the full color spectrum.

This has a whole range of advantages. Since blue is the highest frequency and most powerful light, it is more energy efficient to translate it into multiple colors. (And if you’re replicating blue, no conversion is required at all, saving even more power.) Each individual pixel can still be turned off to reproduce OLED’s perfect black.

The quantum dot layer also helps with QD-OLED color reproduction, especially when it comes to deep reds, golds or other colors that often suffer from saturation issues in existing OLED TVs. And since the technology’s improved efficiency means less power is required to achieve the same level of brightness as previous TVs, it means these newer quantum dot OLEDs should last longer without suffering from burn-in.

When will QD OLEDs be available, how much will they cost?

Image: Samsung

Enthusiasts can expect the highly anticipated QD OLED displays in the first half of 2022, according to South Korean inside sources regarding Samsung Display. Also, Sony was the first company to officially announce one QD OLED model in its master series A95K, so their official release shouldn’t be too far out of reach.

As far as pricing goes, QD OLED TVs are unlikely to come cheap. But since LG Display is the leading maker of OLED displays, Samsung’s rise to the top maker of QD OLED displays should encourage competition, which usually keeps prices lower for consumers. However, any OLED TV will still have a premium, especially in the gaming monitor space where OLEDs have yet to gain a foothold.

Anticipation for QD OLED displays is high, and if it can improve the combined shortcomings of OLED and QLEDs – as it stands, then the future of display technology is bright.

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