What is QD-OLED? The next-gen TV display explained

As TV manufacturers look past traditional LCD displays, new screen technology is emerging onto the scene. One contender is QD Display, also referred to as QD-OLED.

OLED and QLED have established themselves as names in homes around the world over the past several years. 2021 alone has seen mini LED and Micro LED make an impact, while LG has brought out its range of QNED TVs.

But the TV market is always looking towards the next best thing, which is looking likely to be QD-OLED or QD displays.

So, what is QD-OLED and how does it matter to you?

What are Quantum Dot TVs?

To explain what QD-OLED is, it’s worth revisiting what Quantum Dot and OLED are.

Samsung 2020 TV range

Quantum Dot displays are more advanced versions of LCD TVs. They use nano-sized particles to absorb and emit light – when light is passed through these particles, different sizes produce different wavelengths (re. colours). Quantum Dots are known for their purity so they can display colours more accurately, and their light efficiency allows for greater brightness, which is especially useful for HDR programming.

What’s more Quantum Dots are very stable. That means consistency of image quality is maintained over a longer period than, say, OLED TVs, which degrade over time.

What are OLED TVs?

OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode. Each pixel is self-emissive, which means it can produce its own light. This produces high levels of contrast as a pixel that’s ‘on’ can sit next to a pixel that’s ‘off’.

This also helps OLED TVs to deliver the deep black levels they are known for, something that’s trickier for LCD based TVs to achieve given the they employ a backlight panel that can ‘leak’ light through to the screen. OLED TVs currently don’t go as bright as TVs with Quantum dots, and with static images there is the potential for images to be retained in the screen, more commonly known as image retention and burn-in.

What is a QD-OLED TV?

So, what does that mean for a QD-OLED hybrid display? It would be an emissive display – much like OLED – with pixels emitting their own light, and that in turn would help produce deep black levels, high contrast and wide viewing angles.

Then there’s a QD Layer – a Quantum Dot filter – which much like it does in a QLED TV, intends to help create more accurate and wider range of colours.

Samsung is also betting its hopes that a QD Display would be brighter than OLEDs currently on the market. In their analysis of the technology, it was mentioned that they were looking to hit 1000 nits of brightness, with a higher contrast ratio (1,000,000:1) aiding its attempt to create ‘perfect blacks’ for a more detailed and convincing image.

How does QD-OLED work?

A TV display creates three different colours of light: red, green, and blue. How these colours are combined creates the image on screen.

credit: Samsung Display

A TV with Quantum Dots such as a Samsung QLED beams blue light into a Quantum Dot filter to create red and green light. When this blue light source is combined with the red and green light, it creates a white light made up of saturated red, green and blue to cast an image on screen.

OLED displays produced by LG Display use blue and yellow OLED materials to produce a white light passed through a colour filter to create red, green and blue pixels to make the images you see on screen.

breakdown of QD Display
credit: Samsung

A QD-OLED or QD Display, as Samsung is now referring to them, would use a blue self-luminescent layer to shine blue light into the quantum dot filter. The filter would take some of the blue light and convert it into red and green, and the combination of this red, green and blue light creates the image.

As a QD display requires fewer layers it could be cheaper to fabricate than OLED. However, considering that Samsung appears to be pursuing the strategy of incorporating it into large displays, it’s not likely to be affordable.

What are the chances of a QD-OLED hybrid TV appearing?

Previously we sat on the fence as whether a QD Display could happen, but after Samsung Display detailed the technology in greater detail it appears to be more of a reality than it was before.

Reports out of South Korea in the first half of 2021 indicated that Samsung was still evaluating the viability of QD Displays. It’s worth explaining that Samsung Display and Samsung Electronics are two parts of the company; the former creates screens for all types of products, including iPhones, while the latter makes the TVs.

In 2019, Samsung Display invested $10.9bn into production facilities to manufacture large panels at its production facility in Asan City. However, Samsung Electronics – home to the Visual Display TV arm – was said to be lukewarm about the technology.

Given Samsung has been busy with its QLED TVs for several years, it’s also been developing MicroLED technology and 2021 saw its neo QLED branded TVs with mini LED hit the market too.

Prototype of a QD Display
Prototype of a QD Display – Samsung Display

LCD panel production is thought to have complicated matters, too. Samsung Display had confirmed it was ending LCD panel production due to falling profitability, which was an issue given Samsung Electronics relies on LCD panels for its QLED TVs.

But the pandemic led to a surge of interest in LCD panels, so production has been extended until the end of 2021.

A prototype display was delivered in January 2021 but reportedly rejected on the count it wasn’t bright enough. There have also been issues with production yields too, as Samsung Electronics is said to want a higher rate of panels than the production assembly line is currently capable of.

But, considering Samsung Display has gone through the technology on its website, this is a much clearer sign that Samsung is proceeding with the display technology, and with more prototypes said to be in the pipeline, they could launch as soon as 2022.

Who’s else is producing a QD-OLED TV?

TCL has confirmed it’s making its own QD-OLED TV or what it’s calling a H-QLED. This would employ an inkjet printing method that could be more efficient and cost effective than other methods.

Other reports have suggested that Panasonic and Sony are interested in QD Displays, the latter for gaming displays.

In any case, QD-OLED is on the horizon, and could be coming to a retail store near you.

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