The MicroLED vs OLED: What’s the Difference?.
Different display technologies are competing for your precious dollars. Anyone looking to buy a new TV today can choose an LCD TV (Liquid Crystal Display) or OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) TV.
Simple enough, right? Well, then you also have to choose one of the many sub-technologies. Often hidden behind cryptic marketing jargon. In this confusing market space, we will soon have a third contender for display technology in the form of MicroLED screens.
While OLED TVs are generally the best (and more expensive) option compared to LCD TVs, MicroLED displays are around the corner. Should we wait for MicroLED TVs or pull the trigger on the OLED instead? We will try to answer this question as clearly as possible.
The LCD Standard
Both OLED and MicroLED are attempts to improve on standard LCD technology. LCD panels still make up the majority of flat panel displays. Modern LCD screens have vastly surpassed early high definition televisions and computer monitors. They have a bit of blur, are bright, and produce great images. Unfortunately, LCD technology has one universal flaw that always limits image quality, screen thickness, and performance.
This disadvantage is the use of backlighting. The LCD panels themselves do not emit light. So, to really see an image on the screen, you need to shine light through it. The biggest problem here is that the backlight makes true blacks impossible. If every pixel on the LCD is set to black, you will actually end up with something like a gray tint.
This has been addressed in different ways. Modern LCD screens use a technique known as local dimming, in which an array of LEDs is placed behind the panel to dim areas of the screen independently.
However, despite all the improvements in LCD technology, they still suffer from poor viewing angles, slow response times, color issues, and input lag. Their biggest selling point is price. Today you can buy a large 4K LCD panel with excellent picture quality for a very reasonable price. However, it is becoming clear that LCD technology is reaching its limits. This brings us to OLED.
An OLED Overview
OLEDs eliminate almost all of the major disadvantages of LCD screens. Each pixel in an OLED screen can emit its own light. This means you don’t need backlighting and can display perfect blacks. OLEDs can also be manufactured with insanely thin thicknesses. They can be viewed from virtually any angle, and feature fast response times and stunning colors, contrast and brightness.
OLED certainly sounds like the perfect display technology on paper, but OLED has its challenges. The biggest issue is durability. Some of the organic picture elements in OLEDs have a relatively short lifespan compared to LCDs. On top of that, OLEDs are prone to image retention. It is sometimes referred to as “burnout”.
You may remember that plasma TVs, which are also emission technology, also suffered from this problem. When the image or parts of it do not change for a long time, a ghost image may remain. Think of network logos or video game HUD elements.
Since these parts of the image do not change, these pixels can hold them. Modern OLED displays have built-in fixes that reduce the likelihood of this happening, but this is a problem inherent in the technology itself.
We first saw the practical application of MicroLED technology in 2018 when Samsung showed off the massive 146-inch display at the Consumer Electronics Show. This screen amazed viewers and since then we have all been waiting for MicroLED technology to enter consumer products.
MicroLED uses miniature LEDs to create each pixel. They have the same benefits as OLED screens. That is, they emit their own light, can display true blacks, and provide fast response times. However, the organic nature of OLED picture elements makes them relatively unstable. As mentioned above, they degrade over time and are sensitive to image retention. The MicroLED has no such problems.
MicroLED Wall by Samsung
MicroLED displays can also be built from smaller sub-panels, which opens up interesting possibilities in the future. Especially when it comes to really massive displays that cannot be created as a single LCD panel or OLED panel.
The Pros and Cons of OLED Vs MicroLED
We put both OLED and MicroLED cards on the table, so now it’s time to compare the pros and cons of each technology. Starting with OLED, here are the main advantages over MicroLED:
- Mature manufacturing process.
- Lots of models to choose from.
- Rapidly falling prices comparable to high-end LCD TVs.
In the list of MicroLED advantages, we can note the following advantages:
- Longer lifespan and image quality.
- Consistent performance without degradation over time.
- Ability to create massive displays from modular sub-panels.
Both technologies also have their own weaknesses, the most important of which to consider when it comes to OLED:
- a tendency to oversaturated colors and degrade image retention.
- Organic degradation affects brightness and color over time.
MicroLED displays also have some serious problems:
- The absolutely insane price tag for the first generation displays scheduled for release soon.
- At the moment, the picture quality advantages over OLED are negligible, at least when both displays are new.
It is clear that the competition between OLED and MicroLED technologies is about to escalate, but what does that mean for you? Should you wait for MicroLED?
Should You Wait for MicroLED?
At the time of this writing, the answer to the question of whether the MicroLED is worth waiting for is no. At least when it comes to large displays like TVs. MicroLED is now at the same stage as OLED technology just a few years ago. Manufacturing is still very expensive and manufacturers are learning to cut production costs.
As with OLED, we will first see this technology in devices such as phones and tablets. Premium tablets like the iPad Pro are likely to be the first samples anyone can buy.
Right now, when it comes to flat screen TVs, OLED is starting to show itself. Finally, they have become quite cheap, while the transition from higher-end LCDs to entry-level OLEDs is not that great. Given the significantly better display performance of OLEDs compared to LCD screens, it is not difficult to recommend them now. If you remember their existing weaknesses when it comes to longevity and image preservation.
It is also important not to forget about LCD technology. LCD TVs are plummeting in price due to the advent of OLED and MicroLED technologies. Not only that, LCD technology has yet to be improved. For example, Samsung’s QLED technology is trying to get closer to black levels and OLED performance at a lower cost. Each person must weigh all three technologies as they are.
MicroLED vs OLED: What’s the Difference?
MicroLED vs OLED: What’s the Difference?
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