If you’re wondering whether 4K or OLED is the technology of the moment, you’re not alone. Anyone who tries buy a new television will be inundated with new TV buzzwords, and of them all, perhaps the two most important to understand are: OLED and 4K.
So what will it be, OLED or 4K? Actually you can have both. But not you need until. There are OLED TVs that don’t offer 4K (go for the much more expensive instead) 8K resolution) and there are plenty of 4K TVs available that don’t use OLED display technology.
However, most of the best 4K TVs are in fact OLED TVs, so it’s worth taking a look at how the technologies are intertwined, what specific models are out there, and why you should consider investing in OLED and 4K, if not both.
Why OLED vs. 4K?
It’s not really a case of OLED versus 4K. The first is a display technology and the other is the resolution of most new TVs. You can find OLED TVs with 4K resolutions, but there are many 4K TVs that use display technologies such as LCD, LED, Micro LED and QLED, which are nothing like OLED.
Do you need 4K? Yes probably. If you’re looking for a lower-resolution TV, you’d be ignoring one of the most common TV features of all. That’s not true of OLED, a flagship, step-up TV display technology that requires a significant additional outlay. Yes, it’s getting more affordable every year, but you shouldn’t make an active decision to buy an OLED TV until you understand why it’s the best AV technology out there.
So let’s start by exploring what’s so good – and bad – about OLED and 4K to help you make the right decision when buying a new TV.
What is OLED?
Available in consumer TVs for over a decade, Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED) is a display technology that uses a carbon-based film between two conductors that emits its own light when an electrical current is passed through it. Pixels are self-illuminated and can be controlled individually. As a result, two pixels next to each other can simultaneously produce deep blacks and bright whites. The result is incredible contrast and color, while such pixel-level control means high refresh rates, so no juddering or motion blur. Once you’ve seen an OLED TV, it’s really hard to go back.
On the downside, OLED TVs can appear a bit dimmer than LED or QLED TVs, although new light sensors and new innovations for 2021 will improve OLED TV’s performance in bright environments.
OLED TV panels are manufactured exclusively by LG Display in South Korea, although these panels are used in TVs sold by LG, Sony, Panasonic and Philips.
Read more: What is OLED?
What is 4K?
A magnitude sharper than old ‘Full HD’ TVs, 4K resolution – also called Ultra HD – is an abbreviation for 3840×2160 pixels. That is an 8 megapixel image in contrast to the 2 megapixel photos from a Full HD set, so you get much more detail in your shots.
With many TV channels offering 4K feeds and showing Netflix and Amazon Prime 4K content, now is a great time to invest in a 4K TV.
Read more: What is 4K?
4K vs OLED Prices: What Do They Cost?
Where OLED and 4K compete is on price. You can easily buy a 4K TV – in fact it’s now incredibly hard not to, unless you are indeed going for a really small TV – but if you’re going to buy an OLED TV, it’s going to cost you.
Most OLED TVs are flagship products from the major TV brands, or thereabouts. That has changed somewhat in recent years, with the most expensive OLED sets on offer from LG, Sony, Panasonic and Philips with an 8K resolution.
8K OLED TVs are out of almost everyone’s price range and, for now, just loss-leading brand extension products that we can all dream of but definitely don’t need. That certainly does not apply to 4K OLED. Here’s what you need to know about the 4K OLED TVs currently available from the major brands.
What 4K OLED TVs are there?
LG’s 4K OLED TVs for 2021
The actual manufacturer of OLED display panels is always the most important brand to look at when it comes to finding an affordable 4K OLED TV. New for 2021 from LG is a collection of 4K OLED TVs to tempt your wallet, from the affordable A1 4K OLED Series (48, 55, 65 and 77-inch) and LG B1 4K OLED (55, 65 and 77-inch) to the LG C1 OLED TV (48, 55, 65, 77 and an all-new 83-inch) and the flagship LG G1 4K OLED ‘Gallery Series’ (in 55, 65 and 77-inch) which offers all-new brightness-enhancing technology called ‘OLED evo’.
Sony’s 4K OLED TVs for 2021
The famous Japanese company 4K OLED TVs from the Bravia brand for 2021 include the A90J Series (83, 65 and 55-inch) – said to be the brightest OLED TV of all – and the A80J series (55, 65 and 77-inch).
Panasonic’s 4K OLED TVs for 2021
New 4K OLED TVs for 2021 from Panasonic include the JZ980 (48, 55, and 65-inch), JZ1000 (48, 55, and 65-inch) with 30W Dolby Atmos audio, and JZ1500 (48, 55, and 65-inch) built on its custom-built Master HDR OLED’ panel. The flagship JZ2000 series (55 and 65-inch) offers an increase in peak brightness and HDR color, as well as 125W speakers with side-firing and upward-firing sound.
Vizio’s 4K OLED TVs for 2021
Buyers in North America are most likely to get their hands on a 4K OLED TV for less than in Europe, thanks to the huge Vizio brand. in 2021 Vizio sells the 55-inch OLED55-H1 and 65-inch OLED65-H1. They are the most affordable, budget-friendly OLED TVs out there, with our review indicating that the drawbacks are limited brightness and poor scaling.
Philips’ 4K OLED TVs for 2021
The Dutch brand proposes a bevy of 4K OLED TVs for 2021. The OLED 806 is available in 48, 55, 65 and 77 inch sizes and includes a 50W 2.1 sound system. The step-up OLED 856 series in 55- and 65-inch sizes features a T-bar stand.
The future of OLED and 4K technologies
OLED and 4K are both mature TV technologies, but each year they get better and more affordable – together. Founded as the high-end TV display technology for AV enthusiasts, LG Display, the makers of OLED panels, continues to innovate and showcased its new ‘OLED evo’ brightness-enhancing technology on LG’s in 2021 G1 Gallery Series. The LG Signature OLED R – a 65-inch 4K rollable screen that disappears into a base – also has just become available, albeit for $99,999 / $99,999.
OLED TVs are also about to go mainstream. Until recently, OLED TVs were expensive, mainly because they were only available in large screen sizes; 55-inch, 65-inch, 77-inch and 88-inch, to be exact. Over the last year or so, the popularization of a new 48-inch size of OLED TV, helping to make this once high-end display-only technology more affordable. Production has been ramped up in 2021, so expect some tempting deals on 48-inch 4K OLED TVs.
A wallet-breaking 83-inch size has also become available for 2021, an innovation that has also enabled the introduction of 42-inch 4K OLED TVs (after all, you can cut an 83-inch panel into four 42-inch panels). So expect to see even smaller, cheaper 4K OLED TV sizes in the future.
Which one should I buy?
If you buy an OLED TV, it comes with a 4K resolution. However, you must want to buy an OLED TV as there are countless other TV display technologies. So go to an OLED TV in a store, compare it to the LED and QLED TVs in the area and you’ll see that while OLED TVs may not be as super bright as some other displays, it’s OLED that has the looks best in terms of its 3D-like fluidity, contrast, deep blacks and lack of judder or motion blur.
The TV tech mash-up of choice for anyone looking for the best picture quality, 4K OLED TVs will only get better and more affordable in the coming years.