WE’VE never had more choice in how we consume entertainment content at home and one of the benefits of advancing technology is how television picture quality has markedly improved in only a few short years.
Two of the high-end display options for the latest in 4K or ultra-high definition TV involve technology known as OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) or ULED (Ultra Light Emitting Diode), depending on how it works.
It’s tempting to think of LEDs as those little red or blue indicator lights on common household electronics, but the LEDs found in flat panel TVs are an entirely different kettle of fish.
A “standard” LED TV uses a liquid crystal display (the liquid is sandwiched between two polarised layers of screen) and is lit from behind using a matrix of many LEDs to provide a high-definition picture.
OLED TVs have organic material in the screen that displays colours after receiving an electrical current — every single LED in an OLED TV can be turned on or off this way, unlike in a standard LED TV.
The advantages of an OLED unit include much darker blacks, brighter whites and a higher contrast ratio than an LCD or plasma screen TV. OLED TVs are much thinner than their predecessors and — most importantly for gamers and sportsball fans — the refresh rate on an OLED TV is higher than on a standard LED/LCD TV, meaning in practical terms it offers a smoother image when motion is involved.
Electronics firm LG are one of the major manufacturers of OLED TVs and LG Home Electronics Australian marketing manager Tony Brown said it was a special category the business continued to innovate.
“Ultimately, the category sets a new standard for cinema-like TV viewing in the home,” he said.
“Unlike LED/LCD TVs which have backlight technology, LG OLED technology is built with self-lighting pixels. This means there is no backlight leakage and light is only shown where it is required, producing perfect black on the screen.
“Take a night scene as an example; the stars will shine brightly on a perfect black screen — just like what you would see if you were camping out in nature. “
Mr Brown said that combined with High Dynamic Range technology, LG’s OLED TVs provided a full dynamic range in lower black levels than LED/LCD TVs due to the OLED’s self-lighting pixels.
“It’s really a technology you need to see to believe,” he said.
The downsides to OLED mostly relate to higher cost and potentially shorter screen life — some estimates place the life of an OLED screen at roughly three to five years before it begins to dim, depending on how much use it gets.
LG claim a much longer lifespan, saying users could OLED TV for eight hours a day for 10 years.
OLED sets also use a bit more power than conventional TVs, but if you can afford the higher price tag of an OLED TV you’re not likely to be worried about that.
ULED stands for Ultra Light Emitting Diode, a term referring to several technologies developed by appliance manufacturer Hisense and used in its top-end televisions to provide ultra high-definition display images.
Hisense marketing head Andre Iannuzzi said the goal in developing ULED had been to provide the very best picture quality using core LCD TV technology.
“4K ULED encompasses 17 different patented technologies with regard to colour, brightness, resolution and motion, that all come together to create a truly immersive and unique viewing experience,” he said.
Mr Iannuzzi said there was a lot of “very smart, very hi-tech wizardry” involved in both OLED and ULED technology.
“I think what consumers will notice the most (about ULED) will be the sheer vividness of the colour, the detail available in darker scenes, and the crisp, fluid motion that brings all the action on screen to life,” he said.
“The best thing is, consumers will get to experience it for longer. The brightness on an OLED display might begin to fade after three years, but a ULED screen will shine bright for up to 10.”
So which one should you buy? As with most things in life, it comes down to money.
A side-by-side comparison of an OLED and a ULED TV gives the edge to OLED in terms of picture definition and contrast, but it really must be stressed the image quality from both technologies is fantastic — it’s like trying to decide which luxury supercar is better.
If you’re a videophile or home entertainment enthusiast seeking the absolute best, then you’ll probably find yourself looking at OLED offerings.
On the other hand, if you want to be able to watch or play ultra-high resolution entertainment without breaking the budget, ULED is the more attractive option of the two. Either way, both technologies offer cutting-edge visuals that will bring your home entertainment to life.