OLED vs LCD vs Plasma – What’s The Difference?

When it comes to OLED, LCD and Plasma displays, there's a clear winner. Here's the most up-to-date comparison between these technologies.

Answer:

OLED and plasma displays output their own light, which allows them to produce true blacks, whereas LCDs rely on their backlight that makes blacks look grayish in comparison.

No new plasma TVs are being made nowadays, while CCFL LCDs have been replaced with LED-backlit LCDs.

Modern display terminology can undoubtedly be confusing due to the various types of technologies used, as well as their quick advancement over the years.

In this article, we’ll clarify these differences.

Plasma

plasma tv vs oled

As previously mentioned, plasma TVs are no longer being produced.

Plasmas were quite popular due to their incredible picture quality with true blacks, as well as a rapid response time speed. However, they also suffered from having a too reflective screen, which washed out the colors in very bright rooms.

Although LCD TVs can’t produce deep blacks like plasma TVs, they slowly replaced them as they were a lot cheaper to make and had a much thinner design.

OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode)

lg oled cx tv

Similarly to plasmas, OLED TVs and monitors are capable of producing true blacks for life-like picture quality. Besides, they have impeccable viewing angles, meaning that the picture doesn’t change in color and contrast when the display is viewed at skewed angles.

Although early OLED displays had issues with high input lag, awful image burn-in, and high price tags, newer models have managed to solve these problems.

Modern OLED TVs have various software, such as screen savers and pixel refreshers, to deal with image retention and burn-in, while a dedicated Game Mode provides responsive gameplay with minimal input lag.

More importantly, the prices have drastically dropped; and although they are still relatively expensive, they are worth the price.

As far as OLED monitors are concerned, at the time of this writing, there are only a few available, and they are intended mainly for professional use; they are also very high-priced.

LCD (Liquid Crystal Display)

difference between led and plasma

There are two types of LCDs.

The older models were backlit by cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFL), but nowadays, all modern LCDs have a LED backlight, which requires less power and also allows for the display to be even thinner.

LED TVs either have an IPS or a VA panel, while LED monitors can also have a TN panel in addition to IPS and VA.

The type of panel determines the picture quality, among other things.

IPS displays have the most accurate colors and the widest viewing angles, while VA panels offer the highest contrast ratio for deeper blacks. Lastly, TN panels have the quickest response time speed, which is why they are mostly used for gaming monitors.

Learn more about different panel technologies and see how LED TVs compare to OLED TVs.

Quantum Dots

QLED TVs, popularized by Samsung, are based on the quantum dot technology, which further enhances the image quality of the display. Though the term ‘QLED’ may sound misleading, these TVs aren’t OLED, but rather regular LED TVs with quantum dots.

While QLED displays can be brighter than OLED, many prefer the infinite contrast of the latter, and since both types of these high-end TVs cost roughly the same, OLED is usually more favorable at this time.

We have a dedicated gaming TV buyer’s guide where you can see how different types of TVs compare to each other.

Local Dimming

what is the difference between plasma and led

Some LED TVs feature local dimming as the means to compensate for the limited contrast and grayish blacks. This feature basically dims parts of the screen that are supposed to be dark, without affecting bright areas. 

In some high-end LCD TVs, this can do wonders for the image quality, but if the local dimming is poorly implemented, it can also cause undesired defects, such as halo and bloom.

For the best results, you should look for a TV with full-array local dimming (FALD) instead of edge-lit local dimming.

4K Ultra HD & HDR

oled refresh rate vs plasma

Finally, modern OLED and LED-backlit LCD TVs offer a high screen resolution. 4K or Ultra HD makes the picture incredibly crisp and sharp in comparison to the standard 1080p HDTVs.

Furthermore, high-end TVs also feature HDR (High Dynamic Range), which further extends the color, contrast, and brightness for the compatible content.

Conclusion

In the end, your choices will boil down to OLED and LED LCD TVs since plasmas and CCFL LCD TVs are obsolete nowadays. If you can afford a high-end TV, then we recommend going the OLED route.

As far as monitors are concerned, almost every monitor on the market is LED-backlit, so you should look out for other specs such as refresh rate, panel type, response time, and so on.

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Rob Shafer
Rob Shafer

Rob is a software engineer with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Denver. He now works full-time managing DisplayNinja while coding his own projects on the side.