Types of TV screen - the basics

There are effectively two types of TVs on the market:

  1. LED LCD
  2. OLED

Unless you are considering a high end, premium purchase the chances are that you will be buying a LED LCD TV.

LED LCD screens

An LED TV is just a specific type of LCD TV that is backlit.  So these days the terms are interchangeable.  These TV sets use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to illuminate the LCD screen and are usually extremely thin.

Backlighting

There are two main ways for LED TVs to illuminate the screen.

1. Full-array backlighting

LEDs stretch across the back of the LCD screen with set zones that can be lit or dimmed.  This is referred to as ‘local dimming’.  This is a great feature to enable a TV to recreate scenes more accurately.

2. Edge lighting

As the name implies, edge-lit TVs have LEDs along edges of a screen in different configurations.  There are some drawbacks to edge lighting when compared to full array backlighting.  Fewer LEDs are used, which in turn affects brightness and contrast.  

Therefore cheaper sets tend to be edge lit, although this isn't always the case.

OLED screens

OLEDs are a premium TV experience that have significantly more lighting zones than an LED LCD TV.  Instead of a backlight there is a layer of organic LEDs where each individual pixel can be controlled.  This produces stunning results in brightness and contrast.

The images are not as bright as LCD, but in my opinion are more realistic.  Expect to pay a high price for these TV sets.

Here are my 4 tips to think about when shopping for a new TV:

  1. Take your time and take a good look at the picture quality, there can be marked differences in various models.
  2. Check how dark the TV screen is switched off.  A TV cannot produce a blacker result than the screen itself, so if it is grey or green this will be a low quality screen.
  3. When the TV is on check to see whether the lighting is even across the whole picture.  Poor quality will be demonstrated by light bleeding from the edges or spotlighting in certain sections of the screen.
  4. Ask about backlighting and whether a TV has local dimming.  This is a great way to sort out the potential quality of a TV you are thinking about buying.  You can check this yourself in the TV picture settings.

Please don’t be seduced by curved screen TVs.  They add nothing to the viewing experience and cost more for no value adding reasons.  These are likely to be phased out over time.