Welcome to ‘Kagoo Explains’ - a series of short articles explaining some of the confusing terminology used to describe technology. This week we’re looking at televisions, and de-mystifying OLED screen technology.
OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode
To fully understand OLED, we need to start with the basics of how televisions work. In a standard television, the image you see if created by a liquid crystal display (LCD), which is effectively a massive collection of red,green and blue filters that can be turned on and off at will.
These are used to make up the picture - if a red colour is needed for one part of the screen, then only the red filter will be active; if it requires a brown, then the green and red filters will both be active, and so on. By using these colour combinations in every section of the screen, they build up a full picture! Below you can see a magnified portion of an TV screen, clearly showing the matrix of coloured filters that build up the image you see on the screen.
However the image is of no use if no-one can see it. Therefore behind the LCD is an equally large bank of small light-emitting diodes (LEDs) - called the ‘backlight’ These create light when electricity is passed through them - meaning they shine their light through the cells in the LCD that need to display a colour, and project the full image onto the screen. Magic!
LED backlights aren’t perfect though - the light can’t be easily contained, so one LED will light up multiple of the coloured cells. This may include cells that don’t require a colour (i.e - are black) meaning they will appear with a faint light rather than be true black. This can lead to blacks appearing washed out and closer to grey as the light ‘bleeds’ in from the backlight.
For more information on the inner workings of TVs, see this How Stuff Works article on How Televisions Work
So how does this tie in to OLED displays? Well OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode. Basically they are individual lights that can be made to emit any colour of light needed - from red to blue to pure white. This eliminates the need for a bulky backlight - which makes OLED TVs significantly slimmer and lighter than older models - and also dramatically improves the picture quality. Because each pixel on the screen is a light that can be turned on and off, it removes the light ‘bleeding’ problem mentioned above, meaning black colours become startlingly deep, and the display is capable of a far greater array of colours.
To summarise: OLED technology merges the colour-making part of the TV and the image-projecting light into one, meaning TVs are slimmer and lighter, colours are cleaner, and the backlight doesn’t negatively effect the black colours of the image.
Sounds great right? And it is, though as ever there is a downside - price. OLEDs are the cutting edge of television right now, meaning they are far more expensive than standard LED TVs. However, once you see them in action, I think you’ll agree the improvements in picture quality are worth the premium!
Ready to shop? Browse the best OLED TVs