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QLED vs LED TVs: An In-Depth Technology Comparison

If you‘re looking to upgrade to a premium TV viewing experience, Samsung‘s QLED (quantum LED) and standard LED-backlit LCD televisions likely top your list. But beyond the acronyms and marketing claims, how exactly do these two display technologies differ? Which brings the best picture quality and features for the money? As a home theater technology expert, I‘ll compare QLED and LED TVs in depth so you can determine the better display for your needs and budget.

What Makes Up These Televisions?

Before examining how QLED and LED models stack up, let‘s briefly cover what constitutes each technology. This informs why one handles certain aspects like high dynamic range (HDR) better. It comes down to how light passes through each television‘s layered components to produce the images you see.

Quantum Dot LED Televisions

As its full name implies, quantum dot LED TVs contain two key enhancements:

  • Quantum Dots – When excited by blue LED backlight, these semiconductor nanocrystals emit extremely precise red and green light. This helps LCD panels display much wider color gamuts with saturated, accurate hues.

  • LED Backlight – QLED TVs utilize full-array backlighting – LEDs distributed across the entire back panel for uniform screen illumination. Combined with advanced local dimming, this LED backlight enables higher contrasts between bright and dark areas.

So in QLED TVs, blue LED backlights pass light through a quantum dot layer. This enriches colors before images are displayed on a VA-type LCD panel – customized by Samsung for wider viewing angles. Resulting pictures showcase incredible vibrancy, accuracy and realism.

LED-Backlit LCD TVs

The LED portion refers to how these liquid crystal display (LCD) televisions are illuminated:

  • LED Backlights – Just like QLED TVs, LED-LCD models light up their displays via LEDs instead of old CCFL tubes. Most now use full-array backlighting for superior uniformity.

  • LCD Panel – This layered grid of pixels routed by electrodes manipulates how light passes through using liquid crystals that shift alignments when electrically charged. The standard LCD panel provides the foundation for the image.

So in LED-LCD TVs, white LED backlights directly pass through and get filtered by the LCD panel to produce all colors and shades you see on screen. Allowing LEDs to individually dim or boost in brightness enables solid contrast.

If you want to dive deeper, this guide examines display layers further. For now, let‘s see how these composition differences manifest picture quality results.

Head-to-Head Picture Quality Comparisons

Based purely on lab measurements and viewing tests, QLED televisions objectively achieve better color, contrast, motion handling and high dynamic range performance over standard LED-LCD models. Here‘s how the two stack up in key picture quality areas:

Color Volume

Thanks to ultra precise quantum dots emitting colored light, QLED TVs produce a wider range and variety of rich, accurate shades. This expansive "color volume" enables beautifully vivid images full of fine detail:

Color volume comparison between QLED and LED televisions

QLED TVs (right) achieve visibly larger color volumes for more rich, saturated shades that remain accurate

The enhanced colors prove especially noticeable in vibrant footage like nature documentaries or movies with lush scenery. Skin tones also appear more lifelike. LED TVs still display great looking colors, but can struggle with oversaturation in some hues.

Contrast Ratio

By combining quantum dot technology with full-array local dimming – LED backlight zones that individually adjust brightness levels – QLED televisions produce astonishing contrast ratios:

QLED TV Contrast Ratio LED TV Contrast Ratio
Over 5000:1 Up to 5000:1

This equates to outstanding light and dark differentiation in images. Standout brightness specs also enable QLED TVs to truly take advantage of high dynamic range content by hitting upwards of 2000 nits peak luminance.

Next to QLED, LED TV contrast depends more upon backlight configuration. While full-array local dimming boosts performance, some lower-end models only use edge lighting and no dimming resulting in 900:1 ratios – perfectly fine for standard dynamic range content but lacking for HDR.

If you don‘t know your TV terminology, this LED contrast and dimming guide has you covered!

Viewing Angle

QLED TVs hold a slight edge in terms of optimal viewing position before contrast and color start shifting noticeably. The customized VA panel places filters at optimal angles to widen the viewing "sweet spot."

QLED vs LED viewing angle comparison

QLED TVs maintain excellent contrast and color from around 30° while LED TVs begin washing out around 20° off-angle

For LED TVs, picture uniformity changes quicker the further you sit from direct center. This matters if placing your television in a corner or room with multiple viewing positions. While modern LED TVs have improved greatly in this area, QLEDs handle off-angle visibility a bit better.

Why QLED Struggles for Gaming

Given its superb picture processing specs, shouldn‘t QLED performance translate flawlessly to gaming? Being Samsung‘s premium television offering, shouldn‘t QLED models offer best-in-class gaming features? Unfortunately right now, the answer is no on both accounts.

The stumbling block lies with subpar motion handling. While fine for movies and streaming shows, QLED TVs have difficulties smoothing out and clearly rendering fast gameplay motion without judder or blurring:

qled tv motion blur

Fast moving elements in video games cause motion blur on QLED TVs

Couple this with lower native refresh rates – even premium 2019 QLED sets top out at 120 Hz – and pixel response times up to 8 ms, the amount of input lag generated becomes detrimental to gamers. Simply put, QLED TVs focus display processing power on maximizing visual quality for cinematic content rather than optimizing speed for live gameplay.

By contrast, LED-LCD televisions cater perfectly towards gaming needs. With crisp images rendered at up to 240 Hz refresh rates and ultra fast 1 ms response times on high-end models, motion flows smoothly without lag or image tearing.

Combined with dedicated game modes disabling extraneous post-processing, LED televisions rank among the best gaming TVs out there. Even mid-range options offer superb clarity and input lag averaging between 20-30 ms – very playable for most.

Comparing QLED and LED Specs

Now that we‘ve tackled major performance differences, here‘s a general specifications comparison evaluating all other major factors television shoppers examine:

Feature QLED Televisions LED-LCD Televisions
Screen Sizes Up to 82" Up to 98"
Resolution Up to 4K UHD (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) Up to 4K UHD (3,840 x 2,160 pixels)
HDR Support HDR10, HDR10+, HLG HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG
Refresh Rate Up to 120Hz native Up to 240Hz native
Response Time 8ms As low as 1ms (gaming TVs)
Viewing Angle Around 30° before contrast/color shift Around 20° before contrast/color shift
Lifespan 100,000 hours Up to 100,000 hours
Audio Good quality starting models, premium sound optional Usually basic sound, premium audio optional
Pricing Starts around $1500 for 55" models Starts around $400 for 55" models
Best Uses Streaming 4K video content Sports, video gaming, TV, everyday viewing

Both technologies support the latest must-have features like built-in smart platforms for streaming access and HDMI 2.1 ports enabling 4K/120fps gaming on next-gen consoles. But QLED TVs focus visual performance on cinematic excellence while LED models better tailor overall responsiveness towards live sports and gaming usage.

Picture Comparison In Real Viewing

Sure measurements and numbers tell a helpful story, but seeing these television technologies side-by-side reveals clearer differences. Viewing expert calibration test patterns, 4K HDR movie clips and gameplay in controlled lighting, QLED televisions showcase noticeably better contrast, color accuracy and motion clarity with video content, especially in brighter rooms.

But switch over to fast gaming sequences and suddenly QLED displays struggle, generating visible motion artifacts while LED TVs show each precise detail crisply thanks to faster pixel response. Overall, if choosing a display mainly for pristine cinematic viewing, QLED panels take the crown. However gamers and sports fans need to look towards LED televisions for optimal performance.

Pricing Breakdown by Screen Size

Cost often plays a significant role when weighing display options. Here‘s how mid-range QLED and LED 4K Ultra HD televisions with comparable feature sets typically price out by screen size:

TV Screen Size QLED Price Range LED-LCD Price Range
55 inches $1,500 – $1,800 $500 – $800
65 inches $2,200 – $2,500 $750 – $1,200
75 inches $3,500 – $4,000 $1,500 – $2,000
82 inches $5,500 – $6,500 $2,500 – $3,500

As expected, QLED commands premium pricing given its cutting-edge quantum dot enhancements and sleek, minimalist Samsung design. Comparable LED-LCD televisions run anywhere from 50% to 70% cheaper across identical screen sizes. And budget LED models can check in even lower. Value seekers find lots of big screen options on a tight budget.

Keep in mind that larger screen TVs exaggerate issues like motion blur and viewing angle limitations. So the quality gap between QLED and LED expands on displays 65" and up. Take your seating arrangement and room lightning into consideration as well.

Buying Recommendations

So which technology fits your viewing preferences and room setup? Here are some final pointers when deciding between QLED and LED televisions:

Opt for QLED if you…

  • Want the absolute best 4K picture for movies, streaming and shows
  • Have well controlled lighting or watch mainly at night
  • Consume majority high quality cinema or video content
  • Appreciate rich, saturated colors and infinite blacks
  • Crave cutting-edge display technology

Choose LED if you…

  • Want great visuals at more budget friendly prices
  • Need a gaming/sports TV with fast response
  • Watch lots of cable TV, YouTube or other lower quality content
  • View primarily during day or in bright room lighting conditions
  • Want huge 78" to 98" screen size options

Both technologies deliver spectacular 4K images that annihilate outdated HDTVs. But analyzing them further shows LED TVs provide better all-around versatility – especially considering more affordable costs for most buyers. QLED remains enticing for discerning home theater enthusiasts wanting mesmerizing contrast and color. Ultimately, let intended viewing habits and room setup guide your decision between exceptional visuals and value.

I hope breaking down these two advanced television technologies assists you on your next TV shopping quest. Let me know any other display questions in the comments!