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What is OLED? New iPhones have OLED displays, but are they good?

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If you’ve recently looked at new TV models (or Apple iPhones), you might have seen the phrase OLED – but what does that actually mean?

This simple guide will tell you exactly what an OLED display is, what makes it so good, and if it’s worth the extra money.

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Apple’s new iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max both have premium OLED displaysCredit: Reuters
    Most of LG's best TV screens are “OLED”, an amazing type of self-illuminating screen.

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Most of LG’s best TV screens are “OLED”, an amazing type of self-illuminating screen.Credit: LG

What is OLED?

On a standard TV or smartphone, you will have an LCD (or liquid crystal) screen.

This means that your screen contains piles of tiny crystals, which are illuminated by a giant backlight on the back of your TV or phone. When the crystals light up, you see a picture – and that’s TV!

But OLED displays work in a slightly different way.

    The pixels of OLED displays light up when electricity passes through them, so there is no need for a backlight

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The pixels of OLED displays light up when electricity passes through them, so there is no need for a backlightCredit: LG

OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode, and it’s a way of describing the type of screen your TV or phone has.

It is basically an organic compound that emits light when you pass an electric current through it.

This means that your OLED display does not need a large backlight, because the pixels on your display will light up on their own.

How do you know if a TV or smartphone is OLED?

If a TV is OLED, you’ll know it.

TV makers like to make a big deal on technology, so the brand will be very obvious. It could even be the name or model number of the TV.

Apple made a big deal out of OLED displays on the iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max announced in September 2018, for example.

Please note, not all TV manufacturers offer OLED screens. For example, Samsung does not currently sell OLED TVs.

LG is the main brand that markets high-end OLED displays, but you’ll also find other companies that sell them, including Sony.

Is OLED good?

The simple answer is yes.

OLED displays are generally better than conventional LED backlit LCD displays.

    OLED TVs, like the awesome LG G7, can be much thinner because there is no need for a backlight

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OLED TVs, like the awesome LG G7, can be much thinner because there is no need for a backlightCredit: LG

For starters, they are much more energy efficient. This is because you are not paying to power a huge backlight which absorbs a lot of energy.

But the lack of backlighting also means OLED displays can be much thinner.

The big advantage of OLED is the improvement in image quality.

On a normal TV, you never really see true black, because there is a backlight.

On OLED screens, individual pixels can be either completely turned off or significantly dimmed, so you’ll see much sharper blacks during dark scenes in TV or movies.

In general, this means that OLED displays offer a wider range of lights, darkness, and colors overall.

    OLED displays generally offer a wider color gamut and improved contrast i.e. better lights and darks

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OLED displays generally offer a wider color gamut and improved contrast i.e. better lights and darksCredit: LG

Should you pay extra for an OLED TV or phone?

The problem with OLED displays is that they massively increase the price two or three times on TV – and a fair amount on phones, too.

This is because it is very difficult to produce OLED display panels, and only a few companies in the world can do it successfully. For TV-sized OLED screens, South Korean LG produces the lion’s share of the offering.

Meanwhile, Samsung has a tight grip on most smartphone-sized OLED displays in the world.

Do you want to buy an OLED TV?

Here are some of our top picks …

These are all 4K models, and will deliver supreme picture quality, if you can foot the bill:

That means you’ll have to shell out a pretty dime for a quality OLED TV or phone.

If you’re looking for really high-quality TVs, then OLED is the way to go – if you’re willing to pay over £ 1,500 for a screen, of course.

Alternatively, you can wait a few years for manufacturing methods to improve and OLEDs to become more common, driving prices down.

If you buy an OLED display, you’ll notice the difference, but they’re really only for TV freaks right now.

Do you have any technical jargon that you want us to decode? Let us know in the comments!


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