Are all OLED TVs the same or are there differences? All explained
OLED in brief
Important to know: unlike LCD panels that can come from different manufacturers, all current OLED panels are manufactured by LG Display, the branch of LG that deals with screen technology. All TV manufacturers, such as LG Electronics, Sony, Panasonic, or TP Vision (Philips) buy their panels from the same manufacturer: LG Display.
All OLED TVs that you can currently buy (2022) therefore use the same basic technology, namely WOLED or WRGB-OLED. White light is generated by an OLED layer that can be switched on and off at the pixel level. A color filter then creates the WRGB pixel structure. In addition to the RGB subpixels, there is also a white subpixel.
The OLED layer itself consists of several OLED layers, which together provide the white color. If you want more background, we would like to refer you to our article about the operation, and the advantages and disadvantages of OLED.
If we wanted to distinguish OLED TVs based on the specific differences in the technology, we could do it for example as follows: conventional OLED, OLED with an extra cooling layer, the new generation of OLED panels as used in the LG evo models , and the new EX panels.
Although we must immediately mention that you are not allowed to use these as fixed categories, nor should you draw any hard conclusions from them. The reasons for this will become apparent in this article, but for now we’ll use this breakdown to highlight the main differences.
The pixel structure of an LG OLED65E8 (2018)
Standard OLED TVs are devices with a panel, such as we saw in 2018 and earlier. It is important to emphasize that even in 2018 the panels had already evolved, after all we are already five years after the first OLED TV. But there were no substantial differences in performance, at least none that LG made public. In that period we often got the answer to the question whether a new panel was in a model: yes, but the performance is virtually unchanged. For standard OLED panels you can count on a brightness of about 145-155 nits on a completely white field and around 750 nits on a 10% window.
Panels with extra cooling
In 2019, Panasonic launched the GZ2000 Series, and it was equipped with a modified OLED panel. The panel was provided with an extra layer that ensured better cooling. This allowed it to be driven more strongly, allowing it to present a higher peak brightness. That difference was especially noticeable on the 10% window where the Panasonic could present about 930 nits. On a completely white field, the profit was more modest, where he delivered 160 nits. But that better cooling would also have a positive impact on the sensitivity to burn-in. That extra cooling has become a permanent element on Panasonic top models (HZ2000 and JZ2000), but also found its way on the 2021 JZ1500. Meanwhile, other manufacturers are also using this approach. The 2021 Sony A90J and the 2022 A90K and A80K. In 2022, LG will also use that technology on some models.
The Panasonic GZ2000 series was the first to introduce an extra cooling layer on the OLED panel
Can you recognize the models equipped with this? Only if you read the specifications very carefully and know what to look for. Panasonic markets this technology as “Master HDR OLED Professional Edition”. At Sony you search for “XR OLED Contrast Pro” and LG markets it as “Light Booster”.
Next gen panels (LG OLED evo)
In 2021 LG launched on the G1 Series the “LG OLED evo” technology. LG OLED evo is a brand name of LG Electronics, and is based on a new, more efficient panel from LG Display and the performance of the Alpha 9 Gen 4 processor. The panel has a new structure, with an extra green layer, as shown in the figure below. As a result, it has a slightly different color spectrum, and less light has to be filtered out, so that it works more efficiently, i.e. it can become brighter.
Source: display supply chain
LG claims 20% improvement over conventional OLED panels. In our tests we measured less. The G1 got 160 nits on a completely white field and about 800 nits on a 10% window.
Although the LG OLED evo name is exclusive to the LG G1, other manufacturers can also use the new panel. However, we notice that they never do so under a specific name. For example, the Sony A90J, Philips OLED936 and Panasonic JZ2000 use it. But you won’t find that anywhere in the specifications. The only way to recognize the new panel is to analyze the spectrum, which is obviously not possible for the average consumer.
We also notice that performance can vary. For example, the Sony A90J presents comparable results to the LG G1, while the Sony is nevertheless equipped with the new panel and an extra cooling. The Panasonic JZ2000, also equipped with both the new panel and a cooling, does achieve 910 nits on a 10% window, but has to leave the Sony and LG ahead of the Sony and LG on a completely white field with 150 nits. The Philips OLED936 then again achieves 180 nits on a completely white field, while it achieves around 880 on a 10% window.
LG Display (the panel manufacturer, not the TV manufacturer) recently announced a new OLED panel called OLED.EX. EX would stand for Evolution and eXperience. According to the press release, the new technology uses the heavier deuterium instead of hydrogen in its OLED materials. These would not only provide a more efficient panel, read brighter again, but the deuterium-based materials also have a longer lifespan.
The OLED.EX panel also uses a new algorithm, based on machine learning, to use the required power more efficiently. The algorithm learns that based on viewing patterns. That should, at least according to LG Display, lead to a more accurate representation of color and detail. But we suspect that will also help prevent burn-in.
The new OLED.EX panels are said to be up to 30% brighter than conventional OLED panels. That is another 10% extra compared to the LG OLED evo panels. In concrete terms, such a panel could thus possibly achieve about 900-1,000 nits on a 10% window, and 190-200 nits on a completely white field. Although that is of course pure speculation at the moment, for real results we have to wait for the first devices.
It is not clear at the moment what those will be. The 2022 LG G2 and C2 are possible candidates, but we have no hard confirmation about that. There is also no communication about this from other manufacturers.
A new panel doesn’t just mean a brighter picture
Burn-in, it remains a point that we must pay attention to. There was clearly a risk of burn-in with the first OLED panels. That risk no doubt still exists, but it’s clear that manufacturers have put in place a whole host of measures to prevent it as much as possible: pixel orbiters, logo detection, regular ‘clean-up’ cycles to name the most important. This significantly reduces the risk of burn-in. But that is not everything. After almost 10 years, people know the technology much better, so that they can intervene better where necessary.
Another important factor: the panels have changed. Even before the arrival of the new panel in the LG OLED evo, there were changes. And while that wasn’t communicated, it’s perfectly possible that newer panels were more resistant to burn-in. The LG OLED evo panel and the latest OLED.EX panel are both more efficient. But you can use that in two ways. You can choose to control the panels as strongly, resulting in more brightness, or you can reduce the control slightly to keep the brightness at the same level as before. In the latter case, you send less current through the panels, which reduces the risk of burn-in.
That may also partly explain the differing results we see on some OLED models that use the same panels. Manufacturers may make different decisions about how to use that improved efficiency.
Other OLED Variants and Related Techniques
When you talk about OLED, you may also come across the terms below.
Since 2022, there is now also QD-OLED image technology. It uses OLED material, but also quantum dots! It is therefore no surprise that this technology has features of both OLED if quantum dots has. We think that QD-OLED actually deserves its own category, if you want to know everything about it, read our background article about it QD-OLED.
However, Sony, the first manufacturer to show a QD-OLED TV, groups the device under its ‘OLED models’. The A95K is the QD-OLED model, but the A90K/A80K are ‘normal’ OLED models. As a consumer you have to be careful.
The Samsung KE55S9C (2013) was the only RGB OLED available on the market for a short time.
All OLED TVs we know today use a WRGB sub-pixel structure, as noted earlier in our article. RGB-OLED uses an RGB sub-pixel structure and therefore does not need a color filter. That approach is used today on smartphones, but not on TVs. Samsung put an RGB OLED on the market in 2013 (the KE55S9C), but stopped production. The technical problems turned out to be too difficult. In the meantime, we are almost 10 years further, and RGB-OLED has still not made a comeback, but that is of course never excluded.
All current OLED devices use the same basic technology (WRGB-OLED or WOLED), but that does not mean that there cannot be differences. Different generations of panels may have slightly different characteristics. How a manufacturer can also differ, for example does he aim for more brightness or less consumption? As a consumer, it is almost impossible to look up all those differences, often because the manufacturer does not communicate about them. Or because the communication is hidden in an obscure brand name. But it may not be helpful either. Although our inner geek likes to have that kind of information, you can’t always draw firm conclusions from it. You can almost always assume that the more expensive model performs better. And for OLEDs, that almost always means more brightness and better burn-in resistance. If you really want to know more about a specific device, you can only read our reviews to find out what an OLED TV uses, but especially how that is reflected in performance.