saw huge announcements from companies ranging from GM to Intel. But it’s the TVs tech giants like Samsung, LG, and Sony (SONY) that tend to grab the most headlines. And this year’s technology extravaganza was no different.
And as usual, they delivered, debuting striking new sets that blow away the 10-year-old flat screen you’ve got sitting in your living room.
There’s just one problem: manufacturers tend to make it incredibly difficult to understand the technology packed into their sets. Rather than 4K and 8K, this year’s biggest buzzwords were Mini-LED, MicroLED, and OLED.
But telling the difference between the three can be confusing. Which type is brighter? What has better color? Which is the least expensive? It’s a lot to take in.
But that’s why I’m here. So buckle up, because we’re about to take a crash course in TV tech.
What’s the difference between Mini-LED, MicroLED, and OLED anyway?
Before we get started, let’s talk about LED TVs. LED TVs use LEDs to light up their screens. Usually, they have strips of LEDs aligned on their inside top and bottom or side edges. The light from the LEDs passes through a liquid crystal display layer (LCD) and polarizing materials to light up the massive number of pixels that create images on your screen.
The problem is LEDs are relatively large, which means they cause light to bleed between pixels. So if you’re watching a movie where someone in a dark cave turns on a flashlight, the light will bleed into parts of the scene that are supposed to stay dark, making them look washed out.
OLED, or organic light-emitting diode, TVs have individual pixels that emit their own light. So they don’t need LED backlights. That also means individual pixels can be turned off completely, allowing for complete blackness. That enables these sets to have a better overall contrast ratio and more vibrant, dynamic colors. But OLEDs are still pricey, with most easily costing more than $1,000 compared to hundreds of dollars for LED TVs. What’s more, they don’t have the same level of brightness as LCD TVs.
Mini-LED TVs are a relatively new kind of TV tech. Samsung and LG debuted their first mini-LED models at CES 2021, and added even more to their lineups at this year’s show.
Mini-LED TVs offer improved color and contrast over standard LED TVs by using, well, smaller LEDs packed together in greater numbers to light up a television’s pixels. The idea is to allow for better light control, thus cutting down on light bleed. It’s an improvement over standard LED TVs, but still not as good as OLED sets. That said, they’re generally less expensive than OLED.
Finally, MicroLED TVs use a newer kind of technology combining the best of both LED and OLED TVs. Instead of passing light through a combination of panels including an LCD sheet to light up pixels, MicroLED TVs, like OLED TVs, light their own individual pixels. And with literally millions of those MicroLEDs packed into a screen, that means incredible light control, brightness, and contrast.
It’s more or less the holy grail of television technology. But, and this is a big but, they’re only available in MASSIVE screen sizes. We’re talking 98 inches and larger. And they don’t come cheap, either. Prices are in the tens of thousands of dollars, and Samsung even showed off one priced at more than $100,000 in 2021.
What LG, Samsung, and Sony are offering
Got all of that? Good, because now it gets tricky. See, TV companies love to use their own branding for these technologies, or tinker with them to a degree to make their televisions seem more exclusive than the next company’s. Samsung has a TV technology called QLED, for instance, that uses quantum dots, basically another layer in the stack of sheets that make up an LED TV, which it says improves overall image quality.
With that in mind, let’s talk about the televisions LG, Samsung, and Sony showed off at CES 2022, since they’ll likely show up in your living room in the near future.
LG is the undisputed leader in OLED TVs, having made them a key part of its offerings for years. And this year, the company pushed the technology into a wider range of sizes. The company will now sell OLEDs with screens from 42 inches to 97 inches. LG also showed off its new MicroLED screen, a 136-inch beast, though it didn’t announce a price. Chances are you’ll need a second mortgage to pay for it, though.
Samsung came into CES 2022 with a host of new TVs using both Mini-LEDs and a “smaller” 98-inch MicroLED TV. It also showed off its own QD-OLED TV, which is an OLED TV that uses quantum dot technology and is supposed to provide the capabilities of OLED with the brightness and col