Screen wars: LCD vs OLED

There are a host of screens in the modern world competing for your attention. We consume an immense amount of content each day, all thanks to a myriad of devices with displays. The technology behind these animated picture frames helps bring the content to life in different ways.

Many manufacturers boast about their tech in the hopes that you’ll buy one. Today, we’ll compare LCD and OLED technologies.

LCD

LCD or Liquid Crystal Displays have been around for years and dominate the screen technology market. It’s a high probability that your television, smartphone or tablet has an LCD screen. LCDs use backlights to illuminate pixels. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to see the images on-screen. Displays with LED branding (like QLED) are still LCD units because they fundamentally use the same technology. LCDs use shining lights that pass through a panel to generate an image you can see.

OLED

Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) technology is different from its LCD rival because OLED pixels generate their own light (emissive). Each pixel manages its brightness and can turn on and off depending on the image being displayed. Because OLED screens don’t need an additional light source, they are often thinner, resulting in more slender products. The LG Wallpaper TV is about the width of a pencil. Also, the iPhone 11 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S10 phones use OLED technology.

The LG Wallpaper, OLED, TV can get up to US$9,999. (Photo: Best Buy)

Brightness

Typically, LCD screens are brighter because they use a more substantial light source that shines through the pixels. LCDs tend to show brighter whites. OLEDs fall short here. However, many devices like the iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max have very bright OLED panels going over 1000nits peak brightness.

Contrast

Screen contrast is the difference between the brightest and darkest parts of your display. The higher the contrast, the more you’ll notice the difference while watching content. Screen contrast is measured in ratios, so the higher the ratio (e.g. 1,000,000: 1), the better the contrast. OLED screens win hands down in this category. OLEDs have the advantage of displaying pure black since unused pixels can shut off and produce no light. LCDs struggle in this respect as the backlight is always on, creating muddy greys where blacks should be.

The iPhone X uses an OLED screen.

Viewing Angles

OLEDs generally have better viewing angles than LCD screens. The viewing angle refers to how well the display maintains its colour and brightness when not seen head-on. Ever tried showing a group of friends a cool video on your phone’s screen only for the image to appear distorted to them? Well, your phone probably has lousy viewing angles. OLED displays are closer to the surface of screens than LCDs, so the image is susceptible to less distortion. 

Price

LCDs win this category. Liquid Crystal Display technology has been around for much longer than OLED and is much less expensive to make. An LG 65-inch, OLED, B9 Series TV is about US$2,300 while a 65-inch, LG, LCD TV is approximately US$700.

Which is a better buy?

The question about which display technology is better is like asking if electric cars are better than gas-powered ones. Each technique is different and has advantages and disadvantages.

If you want the best picture quality, the deepest blacks, and money isn’t an issue, go for OLED technology. However, If you desire higher brightness levels and want to save a dollar, get an LCD. Whether you’re hunting for a new TV, laptop or phone, it’s best to see each in person. Many stores have interactive showrooms so customers can see what they’re buying beforehand.