OLED - The where, the why and the how

OLED has been touted as the biggest development in TV technology for more than 10 years, but what the heck is it?

11 Apr 2013


Not so long back Peter Kay told us the future was garlic bread.

His northern accent added about fifty As to the word 'garlic' and boy did we laugh like drains.

But although it was a great line, garlic bread has had its day - for these days the future is OLED.


OLED has been touted as the biggest development in TV technology for more than 10 years, but what the heck is it?

What is it and does it differ from LED?

OLED is short for organic light-emitting diode. This may sound a bit Star Trek or 'to infinity and beyond', but you really should listen up - even if you reckon you're too hip for acronyms. Because put simply OLED means TVs with better pictures, thinner screens and greener credentials.

On the surface it appears the only difference between OLED and LED is an O. But dig a little deeper and you'll find much has changed - they really are different kettles of fish. OLED generates its own light by putting electricity through materials, while LED TVs need a backlight to make the colours visible.

Fatboy slim - ultra skinny TV

OLED's self-sufficient approach to generating light would win major brownie points with the cast of the Good Life. But as well as saving power, the lack of a backlight also allows the TVs to be slimmer than a Vogue cover star.

The TVs are just a few millimetres in depth, with LG's 55-inch OLED measuring 4.5mm thin and weighing just 7.5kg.

When checking it out at CES in Vegas, its profile looked slimmer than my show programme and made me seriously reconsider the burger I was holding - so imagine how it'd look on your living room wall? Fit.

Picture perfect

But as much as super-skinny TVs impress, that's not why we buy a new set. It may be stating the obvious, but TV is all about what's going on on-screen - and OLED relays that in truly glorious fashion.


Response time may sound like something to do with the Territorial Army, but in terms of TVs it's a real deal-maker. It refers to how fast pixels change colour, and OLED panels do this around 1,000 times faster than an LED TV - Usain Bolt would surely be proud.

Blur bassist Alex James called his biography "A Bit Of A Blur" and as much as we all love the dapper cheese-maker, that's the last thing you want on your box when you're having a TV dinner.

With OLED's speedy response time you can enjoy blur-free viewing, whether watching Alex and the boys at Hyde Park or MOTD on Saturday night. Seriously, it creates detail so sharp you'd be able to see the individual streaks in Chelsea striker Fernando Torres' hair - if he hadn't shaved it all off.

Paint it black

In the days before OLED, 'infinite contrast' was dismissed as marketing bluster. What a difference an O makes. Pixels on an OLED panel can be controlled individually, so each one can be shut off to create the deepest of blacks and the crispest of whites.

Also, if your living room turns into a battleground each weekend over who gets the seat in front of the TV, you'll be wanting to hand your OLED the Nobel Prize for Peace. For it provides wide and consistent colour no matter where you are sitting in the room - kiss goodbye to the weekly armchair wars.  

The rub

So we've given you the low-down on OLED and how it's going to change your life, or at least your living room. But if you'd prefer to hear it from the horse's mouth (so to speak) here's LG's UK president Brian Na talking about the 55-inch OLED set.

He said: "LG's next generation display is a true game-changer, which will forever alter the way we think about TVs.

Since OLED TV was first unveiled, we've been working tirelessly to bring what we call 'the ultimate display' to market. I'm sure you'll agree that our 55-inch OLED TV has definitely been worth the wait."

Ahead of the curve

OLED TVs were first unveiled at CES 2012, where LG's 55-incher was named Best In Show.

But they also had a presence in Las Vegas in 2013. Samsung showed off a curved OLED prototype, while Panasonic and Sony melded together the hottest TV technologies of our times - OLED and 4K - into single sets of their own.

4) Panasonic Shows Off Its 4K OLED Prototype At CES 2013

These prototypes led us even deeper into the future of display technology, and won't be entering our living rooms for the foreseeable.

However, you'll be able to get your hands on LG's 55-inch OLED pretty damn soon - watch this space.