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Full Array LED vs OLED TVs: Which Should You Buy in 2023?

If you‘re shopping for a premium TV this year, two technologies vying for your attention — and budget — are full array local dimming (FALD) LED and OLED. Deciding between these advanced displays can be difficult given the ever-shrinking feature gaps. Should you save money upfront with a high-end full array LED? Or is now the time to invest in the best-in-class picture realism of OLED?

In this comprehensive technology guide, we’ll compare every key aspect of full array LED and OLED TV performance to help you determine the right display for your needs and budget. You’ll learn how contrast, color, viewing angles, motion clarity, gaming prowess, pricing, ideal use cases and more stack up. Let’s dive in…

Demystifying the Technology Behind the Acronyms

Before examining how LED and OLED models compare in areas like contrast and viewing angle, let’s quickly demystify what display technology we’re actually talking about.

Full Array Local Dimming (FALD) LED TVs use a panel of LED (light emitting diode) backlights placed behind a liquid crystal display (LCD) panel. The LED backlights are divided into zones that can dim and boost brightness in localized screen areas independently — hence the “local dimming” capabilities. More dimming zones allow finer-grained control over contrast on the LCD panel in front of the LEDs.

OLED TVs take a markedly different approach by using organic light-emitting diodes for each individual on-screen pixel. These self-emissive pixels can switch on or off completely to produce light or perfect black. This gives OLED screens “infinite” contrast control and razor-thin designs since a separate backlight system isn’t required.

Now that we‘ve covered the core technology differences, let‘s analyze how leading new full array LED and OLED television models compare across critical performance categories. We‘ll declare a winner in each round based on real-world testing data and expertise.

Contrast Showdown: How Dimming Zones & Per-Pixel Control Compare

When it comes to judging LCD vs OLED TVs, contrast is one of the most pivotal benchmarks. How precisely can each technology dim portions of the screen to distinguish bright and dark elements in a scene? Let‘s examine how LED local dimming zones stack up against OLED‘s per-pixel dimming precision.

Chart showing OLED pixel level dimming vs LED local dimming zones and levels of contrast each can achieve.

As this visualization depicts, even full array local dimming LED TVs with several hundred zones cannot match the infinite contrast perfect blacks of OLED. More dimming zones help LED TVs approach 3,000-4,000:1 contrast levels required for Ultra HD Premium certification. But with 8.3 million self-emissive pixels able to turn off completely, OLED contrast can theoretically approach infinity:1.

What does this mean for real world picture quality? OLED TVs will showcase far superior black levels critical for horror and sci-fi content. Dimly lit scenes maintain detail better without blacks appearing washed out on OLED. Explosions and flashes will also dazzle against perfect inky blacks. So OLED wins the crucial contrast comparison.

Winner: OLED

Color Volume Face-Off: Wider Gamuts with Quantum Dots vs OLED

Color volume – the range of colors a TV can display at different luminance levels – is becoming just as pivotal as contrast for creating lifelike visuals. How do the latest full array LED and OLED televisions compare when it comes to producing vibrant, accurate colors?

Quantum dot technology found on high-end full array LED TVs like Samsung’s QLED series allows the backlight LEDs to output light at very precise purity levels. When coupled with LCD pixels tuned to wide color gamut standards like DCI-P3 used in commercial cinemas, today‘s top-tier full array LED TVs can achieve impressive 95-100% DCI-P3 color volume.

However, OLED is no slouch in the color department either. Thanks to light emitting layers tuned to wide gambit standards, OLED TVs also provide full DCI-P3 volume coverage. Plus, OLED can display exceptionally saturated reds and vivid colors at very low brightness levels where LED/LCD struggles.

So while you’ll get rich, nuanced colors from both display types, OLED maintains some key advantages in color volume range. Plus, manufacturing refinements continue to raise OLED brightness ceilings for improved color reproduction capabilities in HDR content. The best OLED TVs make colors literally jump off the screen.

Winner: OLED

Viewing Angle Comparison: Wider Sweet Spot Matters

One clear advantage OLED TVs have held over any LED/LCD technology is viewing angle flexibility. Unlike full array LED screens where black levels and color accuracy degrade at wider angles, OLED maintains consistent picture quality when viewed from the sides.

This gives OLED a clear edge for rooms where seating isn‘t perfectly centered on the television. Gamers who play co-op from multiple positions will appreciate OLED‘s viewing flexibility too. Plus, color shift and contrast reduction become more pronounced on LED/LCD models as screen sizes scale up to 65 inches and beyond — exactly when a wide seating sweet spot matters most.

So if your room layout supports viewers watching TV from multiple angles, OLED is the obvious pick to ensure everyone enjoys the same stellar picture quality.

Winner: OLED

Lifespan and Burn-In Concerns: Overblown or Legitimate Worry?

One worry around OLED TV technology that persists year after year is risk of permanent burn-in and shortened lifespans compared to LED/LCD counterparts. This fear often stems from plasma‘s fast-burning issues of old. But do modern OLED burn-in problems warrant legit worry for buyers today?

In short — no. All legitimate data and real-world testing point to multi-year OLED TV lifespans on par with LED. For average viewers enjoying varied content, OLED burn-in shouldn‘t be an issue. Even gaming consoles like the Xbox Series X have built-in anti burn-in features across their user interfaces.

What about static bright logos and user interfaces? Modern OLED TVs combat these risks via intelligent features that detect static elements, reduce peak brightness in targeted zones, and shift pixels to spread heat evenly across the whole screen. Some manufacturers like LG now embed material (deuterium) within OLED screens to stabilize light output and combat burn-in too.

While no technology is completely immune from image retention, burn-in anxieties around modern OLED TVs are largely overstated. Unless you exclusively plan on using an OLED display as a computer monitor with static spreadsheets, don‘t let overblown burn-in worries stop you from upgrading to superior OLED picture quality.

Verdict: OLED Burn-In Concerns Are Overblown for Most Viewers

Gaming Prowess: responsiveness, Features & Performance

For console and PC gamers pondering their next display upgrade, how do today’s top-tier LED and OLED TVs compare when it comes to speed, features, and performance for gaming?

Thanks to ultra-fast pixel response times measured in microseconds, OLED panels offer clear motion handling advantages critical to keeping fast-paced sports and gameplay crisp. Nearly instantaneous pixel response also means OLED TVs can support next-gen gaming features like 4K resolution at 120 Hz and variable refresh rate (VRR) for buttery smooth visuals.

While full array LED TVs aren’t slouches in the gaming department either, OLED is hands-down the superior choice if gaming is a priority. Inky blacks also draw you deeper into atmospheric horror and adventure titles. Plus, LG‘s newest OLED TVs include a Game Optimizer control center with genre-specific modes tailored to different games. Expect Samsung‘s 2023 Neo QLEDs to answer back with gaming refinements of their own too.

So for the best console and PC gaming experience available today, step up to an OLED TV. Quick twitch responsiveness and cinematic visual immersion simply can‘t be matched by LED/LCD.

Winner: OLED

Pricing Showdown: Budget Buy or Premium Investment?

For shoppers who have pondered upgrading from an entry-level LED TV to a cutting-edge full array or OLED model, sticker shock can be real. Premium display technologies carry premium price tags after all. But just how wide is the pricing gulf between high-performing LED and OLED televisions today?

Due to added manufacturing costs of self-emissive OLED pixels, pricing still sits at a considerable premium over LED/LCD screens of equal sizes. But the gap is narrowing each year. Here’s a sampling of prices as of early 2023:

Entry-level 55-inch LED TVs

  • Non-local dimming models – $350 to $500
  • Full array local dimming models – $800+

Entry-level 55-inch OLED TVs

  • $1,100 to $1,300

Mid-range 65-inch LED TVs

  • Non-local dimming – $550 to $950
  • Full array local dimming – $1,100 to $1,800

Mid-range 65-inch OLED TVs

  • $1,500 to $2,200

Analysis shows around a 45-50% premium for OLED over equivalent LED-based sets. However, prices on 55-inch and 65-inch OLED panels are slowly creeping downward year after year. By 2026, average selling prices could dip under $1,000 on certain smaller OLED TVs making the technology more accessible to mainstream buyers.

But the takeaway for now is that OLED does still demand a significant price premium, especially as display sizes scale up. Let‘s examine what that premium buys you across varying living room and home theater scenarios.

Ideal Use Cases: Full Array LED vs OLED

With performance and pricing differences thoroughly explored, should you save money upfront and purchase a high-end full array LED/LCD television? Or is this the year to splurge on best-in-class OLED picture quality?

Your ideal choice comes down to budget, seating layout, room lighting, and types of entertainment you most watch. Below we break down top considerations for three common room scenarios.

Bright Living Room Television

If your living room receives bountiful daylight that you can‘t always control via shades, a full array LED/LCD set makes the most sense. Higher brightness caps help FALD sets cut through glare better for watchable daytime viewing. If mostly streaming TV shows and news in a light-drenched living room, save your dollars for full array LED.

But if it’s a dark, dedicated home theater…

Light-Controlled Home Theater Room

When able to reign in ambient light levels via blackout shades, light-blocking entertainment centers or basement environments, an OLED TV’s cinematic picture truly shines. Inky blacks take movie watching to new depths while bright colors seem to leap off the screen. And gamers will benefit from OLED‘s fast response for maximum immersion. Take full advantage by pairing your new OLED TV with surround sound too.

Mixed-Use Family Room

For households with mixed TV, movie and gaming needs across day and nighttime viewing, OLED brings the best blend. Light output and anti-glare filters keep OLED viewable when sunlight sneaks in during afternoons. Then flawless black levels transform programming come evening time. Plus, smartly-designed OLED TV operating systems like LG‘s webOS platform make streaming and smart home controls a breeze.

If facing a mix of bright and dark environments during TV viewing hours, OLED strikes the optimum balance—with next-gen gaming capabilities to boot.

The Final Verdict: OLED Still Reigns Supreme

There’s no denying how far LED/LCD TV picture quality has progressed thanks to full array local dimming capabilities. Contrast and black levels once exclusive to plasma and OLED screens are more attainable for LED-savvy buyers today even on a budget.

But make no mistake – OLED still marks the pinnacle of display engineering across crucial categories like pixel-precise contrast control, lightning motion clarity and epic color reproduction. While living with some peak brightness limitations compared to LED/LCD (for now), self-emissive OLED pixels still showcase the most life-like, cinematic image quality money can buy.

As manufacturing efficiencies lower production costs in the coming years, OLED TVs will become more accessible to a wider swath of shoppers too. So while high-performance full array LED TVs boast legitimate performance perks, OLED remains unrivaled technology promising to further spoil videophiles through the decade ahead.

The futuristic display technology science fiction dreamed of is finally here… and it’s called OLED. Experience deeper blacks watching Stranger Things and gameplay bursting with more vivid colors on your next-gen console by upgrading to OLED today.