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The Best Reasons to Avoid a Full Array LED TV Today: A Digital Tech Expert‘s Perspective

When it comes to choosing a new television, it‘s easy to get lost in the sea of acronyms and marketing jargon. OLED, QLED, HDR, 4K, 8K, 120Hz, HDMI 2.1—the list goes on. But one buzzwordy tech spec you may want to think twice about is full array LED backlighting, often shortened to FALD (full array local dimming).

While positioned as a premium feature in many of today‘s LED LCD TVs, in practice the benefits of full array LED are often overstated—especially compared to competing display technologies like quantum dot QLED. As a digital technology expert and professional TV reviewer, I‘ll break down the key reasons why I believe most shoppers would be better served by choosing a QLED TV over a full array LED model.

Understanding Full Array Local Dimming (FALD)

Before we get into the pros and cons, let‘s take a step back and explain what exactly full array LED means and how it differs from other TV backlighting methods. In all LCD televisions (which is still the vast majority of TVs sold), there are two main components that work together to produce the picture:

  1. The LCD panel itself, made up of tiny pixels that can let varying amounts of light through based on the incoming signal. This is what forms the actual image you see.
  2. The backlight system which provides the light source behind the LCD panel. This backlight needs to be bright enough to illuminate the pixels so you can see a clearly visible picture.

The three most common types of LCD backlighting in use today are:

  • Edge-lit LED – Uses LEDs arranged around the edges of the screen, allowing for ultra-thin designs. Provides minimal local dimming capabilities.
  • Full array LED – Employs a grid of LEDs across the entire back of the LCD panel. Enables more precise local dimming and better overall brightness control by dividing the LEDs into independently dimmable zones.
  • QLED – A more recent variation on LED backlighting that adds a layer of quantum dots, microscopic nanocrystals that emit intensely colored light when excited by the LEDs. Significantly expands the color gamut and enhances brightness and efficiency. Usually combined with full array local dimming.

So in basic terms, FALD aims to improve contrast and black levels by giving the TV more granular control over which areas of the screen are lit up and which stay dark at any given moment. Sounds great in theory, but in practice there are limitations…

The Downsides of Full Array LED

Despite frequently being marketed as a premium feature, in my experience reviewing dozens of TVs, full array LED technology falls short in several key areas—especially when compared to QLED. Here are some of the main reasons I typically recommend QLED over FALD:

Limited Dimming Zones

The biggest weakness of most full array LED TVs is that they simply don‘t have enough local dimming zones to avoid some degree of "blooming" around bright objects on dark backgrounds. When you divide a 65" screen into 100 dimming zones for example, each zone is over 10 square inches. That‘s a large chunk of screen that the LED grid can only control as one—leading to some inevitable halo effects.

Number of Full Array Local Dimming Zones by TV Size and Price Range:
| Screen Size | Budget TVs | Mid-Range TVs | High-End TVs |
| 55" | 20-48 | 60-90 | 120-480 |
| 65" | 30-60 | 100-132 | 200-700 |
| 75" | 40-80 | 120-180 | 250-1000 |

Data compiled from 2021-2022 TV models from Hisense, Vizio, TCL and Sony. Exact zone counts vary by model.

As you can see, most budget and even mid-range FALD sets have under 100 zones at 55", and at most 200 zones for a 75" screen. Only the most premium tier TVs get into multiple hundreds of dimming zones, which is where blooming becomes very minimal.

But with QLED technology now trickling down to surprisingly affordable price points, I‘d argue that it often makes more sense to sacrifice a bit on the raw number of local dimming zones in favor of the expanded color, brightness and efficiency benefits of quantum dots. Which leads to the next point…

Inferior Color Capabilities

While full array LED backlights have steadily gotten better over the years, they still lag behind the color performance of QLED (and OLED) displays, particularly in the all-important DCI-P3 color space used for HDR content.

Percentage of DCI-P3 Color Space Coverage:
| TV Type | Typical Range |
| Edge-lit LED | 70-85% |
| Full Array LED | 85-95% |
| QLED | 95-100%+ |
| OLED | 95-100%+ |

Measurements obtained from various TV manufacturers, reviewers and calibrators.

As the data shows, even the best standard full array LED TVs struggle to reach full DCI-P3 coverage, topping out around 95%. Whereas nearly all QLED models today hit 100% or slightly above.

That extra 5% might not sound like much on paper, but it translates to richer, more vibrant and lifelike colors, particularly in the extreme green to red range. So if you want your nature documentaries, animated films and gaming landscapes to really pop off the screen, QLED is the clear choice.

Less Energy Efficient

It may seem counterintuitive, but QLED TVs with quantum dot enhanced LED backlights are actually more energy efficient on average compared to standard full array LED sets. The reason comes down to the inherent luminous efficiency advantage of quantum dots.

Whereas a white LED backlight must be filtered through red, green and blue color filters to produce the full spectrum, quantum dots directly convert blue LED light into relatively pure red and green, resulting in much less wasted energy. Several TV manufacturers now use blue LED backlights in combination with red and green quantum dots to maximize this efficiency gain.

Typical Power Consumption (Watts) for 65" TVs:
| TV Type | Avg Power (SDR) | Avg Power (HDR) |
| OLED | 115W | 185W |
| QLED | 125W | 210W |
| Full Array LED | 150W | 280W |
| Edge-lit LED | 110W | 205W |

Data compiled from published ENERGY STAR and manufacturer specs across 2021-2022 TV lineups. Usage will vary based on specific model and picture settings.

As the data illustrates, a 65" QLED TV typically draws 15-20% less power than comparably sized full array LED model, especially when viewing HDR content in Movie or Cinema modes. Over a 5-7 year TV lifespan, that more efficient QLED backlight can add up to hundreds of dollars in electricity cost savings.

Viewing Angle Limitations

Another potential downside of many full array LED TVs is their relatively narrow viewing angles. This means the picture tends to look best when you‘re sitting near dead center, and progressively washes out in color and contrast as you move to the sides of the screen.

QLED TVs are not immune to these viewing angle limitations, particularly in the low to mid-range price categories. However, the best QLED models often employ additional optical layers and pixel structure enhancements to help maintain color and contrast at wider angles—tech you won‘t find in your typical FALD display.

For example, Samsung‘s flagship 2022 QLED lineup introduces an upgraded "Ultra Viewing Angle" filter combined with a unique QD Display panel that approaches OLED levels of off-axis performance. Mini-LED backlighting also helps improve viewing angles by reducing the size of each dimming zone.

So while not all QLEDs are suited for super wide seating areas, the top models are noticeably superior to traditional full array LED designs when it comes to accommodating less than ideal viewing positions. Something to consider for rooms where not everyone gets the center seat.

Increased Flashlighting

A final nit-picky issue that I encounter more often on FALD displays compared to QLED is "flashlighting" or "clouding". This refers to the phenomenon of seeing uneven backlight brightness on what should be a uniformly dark screen—imagine clouds moving across a night sky.

Flashlighting is often a result of uneven LED placement within the backlight grid, or mediocre dimming algorithms that can‘t smoothly ramp each LED zone‘s brightness up and down. Cheaper FALD models with fewer dimming zones are unsurprisingly more prone to distracting clouding effects.

In my experience, QLED TVs are not perfect in this regard, but their more advanced video processing and superior backlight control tends to minimize bothersome flashlighting artifacts. Mini-LED backlights with thousands of tiny LEDs are especially adept at maintaining smooth luminance across the screen.

So if you‘re sensitive to backlight uniformity issues and don‘t want to risk playing the panel lottery, a QLED model will generally be a safer bet than rolling the dice on a budget full array LED TV.

Why Not Just Go OLED?

At this point you may be wondering—if quantum dot QLED beats traditional full array LED, isn‘t OLED technology still the cream of the crop? It‘s a reasonable question, and in some cases, OLED may indeed be the best choice for discerning viewers. The key OLED advantages include:

  • Perfect black levels – With each pixel generating its own light, OLED TVs can completely switch off individual pixels for true inky blacks and unmatched contrast. No blooming or flashlighting to speak of.
  • Wide viewing angles – OLED‘s self-emissive pixels maintain consistent colors and contrast even at extreme off-angles approaching 90°, making them great for wider living room setups.
  • Superior motion handling – The near-instantaneous pixel response times of OLED enable excellent motion clarity with minimal blur, benefiting fast-paced sports and gaming content.
  • Thinner, lighter designs – With no need for a backlight system, OLED displays can be incredibly slim and even gently curved—though QLED panels are quickly catching up.

However, OLED is not without some downsides compared to QLED. The most commonly cited concerns are around peak brightness limitations and the potential for permanent image retention or "burn-in" if a static picture element is left on-screen for extended periods (think channel logos, gaming HUDs, etc.)

While OLED TVs have steadily gotten brighter in recent years, they still fall short of the best QLED models, topping out around 800-1000 nits peak compared to 1500-2000+ nits for flagship Mini-LED QLEDs. So in a bright room or for HDR content mastered at 4000 nits, a high-end QLED will provide noticeably punchier specular highlights and overall sparkle.

As for the burn-in boogeyman, OLED TVs have become much more resilient against image retention with pixel refresher routines and user features like logo luminance adjustment. But it remains an area where QLEDs have a clear long-term durability advantage, not being susceptible to burn-in at all.

Lastly, there‘s the issue of price. While 55" and 65" OLEDs have come down in cost considerably, the savings often aren‘t enough to justify the brightness trade-off versus a premium QLED for most living room and daytime viewing scenarios. And in larger screen sizes like 75" and above, QLED still enjoys a significant value advantage.

QLED vs Full Array LED: The Verdict

When you add it all up, I believe the smart money for TV shoppers today is on quantum dot enhanced QLED displays rather than traditional full array LED designs.

Yes, having a high number of local dimming zones is still better than an edge-lit model. And the most premium 500+ zone FALD TVs like the Vizio P-Series Quantum X or Hisense U9H get extremely close to QLED performance at a competitive price.

But for the vast majority of mid-range and even budget LED TV options, you‘ll get a better overall viewing experience with QLED when you factor in:

  • Wider, more saturated colors
  • Brighter HDR peak highlights
  • Enhanced energy efficiency
  • Improved viewing angles
  • Reduced flashlighting

Specific model recommendations will of course depend on your screen size needs, budget and viewing environment. But in general, you‘ll be well-served by the Samsung Q60B/Q70A, TCL 5-Series/6-Series and Hisense U6H/U8H QLED series this year—all of which offer an excellent balance of picture quality and value.

For the ultimate flagship QLED experience, the Samsung QN90B and TCL 8-Series Mini-LED models deliver reference-level performance that challenges OLED in many respects, but with significantly higher peak brightness and no burn-in concerns.

Conversely, if you‘re looking at a 65" or smaller high-end TV for a light-controlled dedicated theater room, an LG C2 OLED or Sony A80K OLED could make sense to maximize shadow detail and off-angle viewing.

But for most mainstream living room setups and content preferences, QLED TVs hit the sweet spot of bright room performance, color volume, HDR impact and long-term value. So the next time you‘re shopping for a new TV, I highly recommend prioritizing QLED models over standard full array LED options—your eyes (and wallet) will thank you!