Explaining QD-OLED, Samsung’s display technology that’s impressing at CES | GeekComparison

QD-OLED monitor explosion
enlarge Samsung Display uses a blue light source for its QD-OLED panels and says it’s the strongest.

Samsung screen

The Consumer Electronics Show, the largest tech exhibition in the country, is always filled with exciting new products and concepts. But one of my favorite things about the show is the spotlight it puts on the emerging technologies powering these product launches.

One piece of next-generation tech that’s generating buzz at this year’s CES is QD-OLED. A variation of OLED from Samsung Display, the technology has made a splash through large TV and PC monitors. But what exactly is QD-OLED, how is it different from regular OLED, and do we really need another acronym?

What is QD OLED?

Samsung's 65-inch QD-OLED TV should be available this year.
enlarge Samsung’s 65-inch QD-OLED TV should be available this year.

QD-OLED stands for “quantum dot organic light-emitting diode”. The tech comes from Samsung Display, which started teasing it in 2019 and reportedly started mass production in November. You may also see Samsung refer to QD-OLED as “QD-Display”.

Whatever the branding, don’t be fooled. This is not brand new technology. It’s simply an updated version of OLED that offers the “greatest range of color expression among existing display technology,” claims Samsung Display. Samsung says its QD-OLED TVs can cover 99.8 percent of the DCI-P3 range, CNET reports. That’s very colorful, but it doesn’t go beyond what we’d expect from a premium OLED TV or monitor these days.

Long story short, Samsung’s QD-OLED panel should be like traditional OLED, known for its impressive contrast produced by rich, deep blacks, but with more consistently vibrant colors across all brightness levels. Samsung claims its QD-OLED panels will deliver more detail in highlighted areas, while standard OLED panels will look more faded and give better colors to dark areas so shadows aren’t overwhelming. The company also claims that the technology delivers superior viewing angles because of the way quantum dots work (we’ll get to that).

Samsung Display points to QD-OLED that boosts HDR, thanks to the ability to show details in highlights and shadows.
enlarge Samsung Display points to QD-OLED that boosts HDR, thanks to the ability to show details in highlights and shadows.

Samsung screen

QD-OLED is also a big deal for observers of the OLED TV wars. LG Display makes the vast majority of the larger OLED panels (such as for TVs and monitors) these days. Samsung, meanwhile, has only offered one short-life OLED TV and has focused on QLED, a more colorful type of LED that OLED can’t replace, for its high-end TVs. QD-OLED represents a new panel option for OLED TV brands, including Samsung, LG, Vizio, Panasonic, Philips and PC monitor suppliers.


The difference between QD-OLED and current OLED is the use of small semiconductor particles called ‘quantum dots’. When hit by a certain frequency of light, a quantum point can emit light. The color of that light depends on the wavelength, which is influenced by the size of the quantum dot, which ranges from 2-10 nm.

Different sized quantum dots emit different colored light.

Different sized quantum dots emit different colored light.

Samsung screen

Again, larger OLED screens usually come from LG Display. LG Display’s OLED panels use yellow and blue OLED materials to emit a white light. The light is applied to a filter with red, green, and blue sub-pixels to create the many colors you see on screen. Some newer OLED panels, especially HDR TVs, add a white sub-pixel for extra brightness, as OLEDs are generally weaker than LED panels.

QD-OLED, on the other hand, uses a blue OLED material to generate its light source because, Samsung Display says, blue “has the strongest light energy.” That light passes through a layer of quantum dots to create a supposedly greater number of colors. QD-OLED displays also use a TFT layer to control the two layers.

Like traditional OLED, QD-OLED uses fewer layers, resulting in a thinner profile than LED screens.

Like traditional OLED, QD-OLED uses fewer layers, resulting in a thinner profile than LED screens.

Samsung screen

Why does Samsung add quantum dots to the equation? To get “precise colors at any contrast level,” Samsung explains, avoiding a faded look. Samsung says quantum dots have a simple structure and use light more efficiently because light isn’t partially eaten by a filter. QD-OLED should also combat poor viewing angles, as quantum dots emit light evenly. According to CNET, Samsung Display gets its quantum dots from a “specialized supplier.”

Don’t expect QD-OLED to be dramatically brighter than an LED display or even a standard OLED display. Samsung Display claims that a full QD-OLED TV can hit up to 200 nits full screen or 1,000 nits with a 10 percent patch, according to CNET. CNET noted that it measured the LG C1 OLED TV at 800 nits with a 10 percent patch, while an LED TV can reach 2,000 nits. Meanwhile, the QD-OLED PC monitor announced at CES this week can reach 250 nits in full screen and up to 1,000 nits. With high-end PC monitors exceeding 1,400 nits, there’s a definite downside.

However, the ability to boost brightness in smaller patches could help QD-OLED deliver its claimed superior highs. And extreme contrast and color (plus detailed highlights and shadows) can mitigate the drawbacks of a dimmer screen. But we’ll have to see QD-OLED in action to know if it’s enough of an upgrade.

Starting in Q2 2022, all LG Display’s OLED TV panels will feature its new OLED EX technology, which uses deuterium compounds and machine learning for up to 30 percent more brightness than traditional OLED, the company says.

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