LCD displays used in TVs, computer monitors, phones and tablets use a backlight overlaid with a layer of liquid crystals. An Organic LED (OLED) screen uses light emitting diodes and works without a backlight. OLED screens provide better picture quality and consume less power but are more expensive. Another advantage of OLED displays is the possibility of having flexible (bendable and rollable) displays, which would likely revolutionize how gadgets are designed, used and stored. This is an in-depth examination of LCD and OLED technologies, how they work and their pros and cons.

Comparison chart

LCD TV versus OLED TV comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartLCD TVOLED TV
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Thickness Minimum 1 inch OLED TVs are thinner than LED TVs (hence all other TVs) because of the size of their diodes
Power consumption Requires less power to operate when compared to plasma, but more than OLED TVs Requires less power than an LCD or Plasma TV
Screen size 13 - 57 inches Up to 55 inches (yet)
Burn-in Not an issue Burn-in is unlikely, but OLED TVs are susceptible to burn-in if TV is abused.
Cost Much cheaper $9,000 - $15,000
Life span 50,000 - 100, 000 hours Not yet tested. Recent improvements allow up to 43,800 hours
Viewing angle Up to 165°, Picture suffers from the side 170 degree viewing angle
Mechanism Backlight covered by a layer of liquid crystals Organic Light emitting diodes
Backlight Yes No
Used by iPhone, HTC Sensation, iPad 2 Samsung Galaxy S II, Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Nokia Lumina 800
Contrast Ratio (measure of the blackest black compared to the whitest white) Up to 15000:1 (not as good as Plasma) 65000:1 - 1,000,000:1
Energy consumption Much greater Less
Motion lag Not an issue Too early to tell
Kyocera Flexible Kinetic Phone is capable of folding up like a wallet and consists of a soft, semi-rigid polymer skin surrounding a flexible low-energy OLED display
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Kyocera Flexible Kinetic Phone is capable of folding up like a wallet and consists of a soft, semi-rigid polymer skin surrounding a flexible low-energy OLED display

Pros and Cons

OLED displays have higher contrast ratios (1 million : 1 static compared with 1,000 : 1 for LCD screens), deeper blacks and lower power consumption compared with LCD displays. They also have greater color accuracy. However, they are more expensive, and blue OLEDs have a shorter lifetime.

However, LCDs are more readily available, and are usually considerably cheaper than OLED screens.

The following video shows a comparison between LG15" OLED display TV and a Dell Notebook with LCD display.

Advantages of OLED over LCD screens

Disadvantages of OLED compared with LCD screens

Common drawbacks of LCD and OLED displays

Technology

How LCD screens work

LCDs use liquid crystals that twist and untwist in response to an electric charge and are lit by a backlight. When a current runs through them, they untwist to let through a specific amount of light. They are then paired with color filters to create the display.

How OLED screens work

OLED uses organic carbon-based compounds that emit colored light when stimulated by an electric current.

LCD and Polarized Light

In this video, Stanford Assistant Professor Aneesh Nainani demonstrates how an LCD screen appears totally black when covered by a sheet of polarizer.

Products and Availability

Many products use LCD screens, including TVs, phones and tablets such as the iPad.

OLED is available for a range of gadgets, including phones, A/V players, digital cameras, TV and watches. A full list is available at oled-info.com

AMOLED

AMOLED (Active-Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode) is a different form of OLED used in some mobile phones, media players and digital cameras. It offers higher refresh rates with OLEDs and consume a lot less power, making them good for portable electronics. However, they are difficult to view in direct sunlight. Products with AMOLED screens include Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy S II, HTC Legend and PlayStation Vita.

Production size and cost

The Sony OLED SEL-1 is 11” and costs $2499, but prices may come down as production rises. A 15” LED screen costs approximately $180.

References

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