OLED vs. 4K: Explained and Compared

September 5, 2021

You’ve finally decided to upgrade or buy a new Ultra HD TV. The picture quality of your old TV just doesn’t cut it anymore.

You want the beautiful image resolution the new televisions deliver when viewing your favorite movies on your preferred streaming services. The new 2021 OLED, QLED, 4K UHD, and 8K models produce more than four times the resolution of your old HDTV.

You’ve narrow down the screen size you want and decided whether you will go with a flat or curved TV screen.

This is where most people get confused. Oftentimes, many people will search for OLED vs. 4K.

They are really comparing two completely different things.

Did you know there are OLED TVs that are also 4K?  Also, there are 4K televisions that are not OLED.

I’ll show you what to actually compare and how to determine which TV technology is best for your budget.

To clear everything up, let’s quickly examine OLED and 4K.

OLED vs. 4K

Compare OLED vs 4K UHD TV
Instead of comparing OLED vs. 4K, the real comparison is OLED vs. 4K LED TVs. Image Source

The real question to ask: What is another 4K TV display technology that compares with OLED 4K TV displays?

In 2018, for most budgets, you’ve got one other choice:  4K LED (UHD or Ultra HD) LCD panel technology.

The largest number of TVs sold today are based on LCD screen technology. We often refer to them as LED LCD TVs, or just LED TVs, because these sets use an LED backlight.

OLED is a newer, competing TV technology that is gaining in popularity.

So what is the difference between 4K Ultra HD and OLED TVs?

This article will explain the differences between these two TV types and talk about why you might choose one or the other.

We will help you make sense out of each television technology and then show you the difference.

We will also show you which offers more satisfying home entertainment viewing experiences based upon your budget.

What is 4K LED?

Samsung 4K LED UHD TV with slim features and vibrant colors
Get more out of your content without missing tiny details with Samsung Premium UHD TV. HDR Elite offers a wide range of brightness levels that let you see clearly even in the darkest and the brightest scenes. Image Source

LED stands for light-emitting diode and is the oldest and least expensive HDTV technology.

LED-based LCD TVs use “light-emitting diodes” behind the liquid crystals. LEDs are little solid-state devices that make light due to the movement of electrons through a semiconductor.

They’re ranged in clusters behind the panel (called ‘back-lit’ LCD LED TVs) or on the sides (called ‘edge’ or ‘edge-lit’ LED TVs).

Back-lit or edge-lit LED TVs greatly improve contrast levels over fluorescent-based LCD TVs. These panels show deeper blacks for more depth of an image.

LCD LED TVs display brighter, richer, and more vibrant colors.

Thinner and lighter than older television technology, making table and wall mounting much easier.

LED TVs are less expensive than OLED technology. They provide the greatest selection in size and brand.

They’re a great value and you can buy an LED TV in virtually any size you want.

There are a few drawbacks. Since LED TVs get their light from an external source this increases the size of the HDTV.

LED televisions can’t produce a true black. In blackout scenes, you’ll notice uneven brightness and a lack of shadow detail in dark areas of the screen.

Adding 4K to LED TVs

4K (UHD or Ultra High Definition) refers to the number of horizontal display pixels on the screen (4096 by 2160 pixels). The new 4K Ultra HDTVs have 4 times the resolution of the 1080p display. You’re in the range of 8 million pixels for any size screen.

Adding 4K technology, the level of picture quality is startlingly better than on the televisions you’ve watched in the past. There is less fear of pixelation as you approach the television since the pixels are a lot smaller and grouped tighter.

No matter how close you get or how big the screen is, you’re basically unable to see the individual pixels on the screen. That’s why the picture quality on a 4K TV is simply stunning

Top Rated 4K Ultra HDTVs

LED Pros and Cons

  • More Affordable
  • Available in any TV size
  • Lightweight for mounting
  • Bright and colorful
  • Beautiful picture quality

  • Average contrast
  • Narrower viewing angle
  • Aging technology
  • Uneven darkness in blackout scenes

What is OLED?

LG OLED TVs boasting the latest panels with brighter, self-illuminating pixels and stunning color for the Best Picture Ever. Image Source

Pronounced ‘oh-led’, OLED stands for “organic light-emitting diode”.  Newer OLED TVs are made from carbon-based materials.

When electricity is applied through them they emit light that glows either red, green, or blue.

Most OLED televisions are only a couple of millimeters thick. OLED TVs are incredibly thin because each pixel is its own source of light.

These televisions are thinner than LED TVs because no back-lighting is required.

You can control images at the pixel level in an OLED display.  Each pixel self-illuminates, so OLED TVs deliver unprecedented contrast ratios, and exceptional brightness compared to older LED back-lit TVs.

OLED TVs are much more energy-efficient than other TV panel types.  In an OLED panel, organic films are placed between semiconductors, then supplied with an electrical current.

Each and every pixel can be switched on and off individually. This makes total black possible, and simultaneously uses less power to create peak brightness levels.

This unlimited contrast means OLED panels deliver the whitest whites and the darkest blacks.

These televisions respond lightning-fast and deliver beautiful colors.

Is OLED a 4K TV?  The latest LG OLED TVs offer 4K resolution.

Watching an OLED TV, for the first time, is a pure ‘Wow’ moment.

The downsides?  OLED TVs are very expensive, and no one is quite sure how long OLED panels will last.

OLED TVs are only available in large sizes: 55 inches and bigger. LG is the only company that currently manufactures OLED panels for TVs.

Sony has an agreement with LG to put LG OLED panels into certain Sony televisions. Otherwise, you won’t find OLED in any other televisions sold in the U.S.A.

Top Rated OLED TVs

OLED Pros and Cons

  • The slimmest TV
  • Wider viewing angle
  • Highest contrast
  • More accurate blacks
  • Brighter colors
  • Faster refresh rate

  • Limited screen sizes
  • Muted brightness
  • More expensive
  • Unknown lifespan

What is the difference between OLED and LED?

The lighting source is the major difference. Each pixel of the carbon-based “organic light-emitting diode” of the OLED is its own light source. In contrast, all of the pixels in an LCD TV are illuminated by “light-emitting diodes” (LED) back or edge lights.

The major difference between OLED and LED is lighting source
OLED is newer television screen technology and more expensive.  LED is an older and less expensive TV panel technology. Image Source

13 Point OLED vs. 4K LED TV Comparison

Now let’s compare the two technologies, head-to-head against one another. Since OLED is a premium TV technology, we have compared it to premium LED TVs.

Let’s see how they stack up, one on one, when it comes to important features such as black levels, brightness, contrast, viewing angle, and other key performance considerations.

1. Color

OLED vs. 4K LED picture color

OLED TVs produce truer colors than LED. Image Source

Each OLED pixel contains red, green, and blue elements, which work together to create millions of color combinations.

LED TV tech has improved significantly over the last few years. However, since the Liquid Crystal Display requires LED backlights, they still lack the depth and richness of OLED TV colors.

Since each OLED pixel contains all the elements needed to produce every color in the spectrum, true colors are more accurately reproduced by OLED technology than LEDs.

Our tests reveal OLED TVs produce richer, deeper, and greater color accuracy than 4K LED TVs.

Winner: OLED

2. Brightness
When it comes to screen brightness, LED TVs have a considerable advantage.

LED backlighting can produce brilliant whites and almost unlimited levels of brightness. There is no backlight, and the size of each organic light emitting diode pixel  (OLED) somewhat limits brightness.

Winner: 4K LED

3. Black Levels

OLED produces true black levels

OLED TVs produce near perfect blacks

A TV screen’s ability to display deeper black levels is arguably the most important element in producing an excellent picture image.

Deep, dark blacks create higher contrast and richer colors.  These specific features allow for a more realistic and brilliant image.

The individually lit OLED pixel offers unlimited grayscale and deeper blacks. Blacks are near perfect in the new OLED TVs.

While there have been incredible improvements in LED TV black levels, they will never match OLED TVs in this area.

LED backlights shine behind an LCD panel in LED LCD TVs. 4K LED TVs have to rely on advanced dimming technology, which selectively dims LEDs that don’t need to be on at full blast.

As a result, LED TVs can suffer from an effect called “light bleed”, where lighter sections of the screen create a glow in adjacent darker areas.

This is not a problem for OLED TVs.  An OLED pixel doesn’t produce any light when it does not get electricity. Therefore, it produces the deepest blacks because it is totally black.

Winner: OLED

4. Sharpness and Clarity

4K LED display strong sharpness and clarity

4K LED TVs display incredible sharpness and clarity. Image Source

Incredible clarity and sharpness is a major strength of new 4K TVs.  The millions of screen display pixels produce great depth and detail.

OLED TVs can create ‘motion artifacts.’ Motion artifacts create a slight blurriness around the edges of images.

Winner: 4K LED

5. Screen Uniformity

Screen uniformity applies to how consistent the image is distributed across the screen. A uniform screen displays an image quality that remains consistent in terms of brightness, color, and clarity at all points along the display area.

Screen uniformity is a drawback specifically related to LED TVs.  It is due to having backlights rather than individually lit pixels.

Turning the backlight setting down usually alleviates the problem.

By contrast, since each pixel cell is lit individually, OLED TVs have an extremely even spread of light across the picture.  Screen uniformity really enhances the beauty of the entire image.

Winner: OLED

6. Viewing Angle

OLED offers the widest viewing angles when compared to LED

OLED TVs maintain consistent colors, picture quality and clarity at wider viewing angle. Image Source

As a result of even lighting from each individually lit pixel, OLED TVs display excellent side angle viewing.

While 4K LED TVs are getting better, increasing the viewing angle, they still lag behind OLED models.

It is due to the LED backlights being farther away from the front of the screen panel.

Winner: OLED

LG Signature OLED Wallpaper TV

This ultra-thin wallpaper TV offers a revolutionary design that has no rival.  Paper-thin and incredibly lightweight, the OLED wallpaper TV from LG features self-lighting image pixels, making blacks more black while allowing the color to pop off the screen. LG wallpaper TVs create a 360-degree immersive viewing experience, delivering crystal clear images from any viewing angle. View your favorite movies, TV shows,  and sporting events, with picture clarity and brilliant color unlike anything you have ever seen.
7. Respone Time

Response time is the time it takes for each individual diode to change from “on” to “off”.  Faster response time creates less motion blur.

OLED currently produces the fastest response time of any TV technology today.

The individual OLED pixels are lightning-fast.  The LED TV diodes are much slower and operate in a cluster of pixels, not individually.  These factors result in a slower change between “on” and “off” states.

Winner: OLED

8. TV Size

4K LED TVs come in the widest variety of sizes

4K LED TV wide size range.  Image Source

OLEDs have made significant strides in this area. However, the size range is still limited compared to LED TVs.

Screen sizes for OLED models usually begin at 55 inches.  Even though OLED displays are now pushing 90+ inches, they are still dwarfed by the largest 4K LED screen sizes.

100+ inch LED displays are now being offered to the public.

Winner: 4K LED

9. Lifespan
LCD front panels have been around for many years.  4K LED TVs use time-tested LED backlights. This technology should produce 60,000 viewing hours.  That equals 41 years of TV viewing based on 4 hour a day usage.

Over time, LED bulbs will fade, and screen uniformity will degrade.  Economically replacing LED backlights is not currently possible.

OLED technology is new and untested.  True longevity is unknown.

LG says its OLED TVs can be watched 5 hours a day for 54 years before they fall to 50-percent brightness.  That claim remains to be seen, as OLED TVs have only been out since 2013.

We give the OLED vs. LED lifespan nod to 4K LED panels because of this uncertainty.

Winner: 4K LED

10. Power Consumption
OLED requires no extra backlight, making them more efficient.  OLED panels are considerably thinner and usually weigh less than LED TVs.

They require less power overall.

Winner: OLED

Samsung Super Big TV Size Comparison

Compare TV sizes of 43, 65 and 82 inches and see how big Samsung Super Big is.
11. Overall Picture Quality

When you consider the most important picture quality elements, specifically deeper blacks create better contrast, resulting in brighter colors and picture depth.  OLED screens get my vote for overall picture quality.

Winner: OLED

12. Price
4K TVs are available for a dynamic range of prices.  Even “high end” 4K LED TVs are priced considerably less than OLED televisions.  OLED TVs are still being sold at premium prices.

Winner: 4K LED

13) Overall Value
If premium OLED and 4K LED TVs were offered at the same price, the better picture quality of the OLED panel is an easy choice.

When you consider the significant savings you can enjoy, it’s hard to pass up a top-quality 4K LED TV.

Winner: Draw

Overall Score

OLED TV – 7 Wins, 1 Draw

LED 4K TV – 5 Wins, 1 Draw

Samsungs 4K UHD LED TV has exceptional image quality
With PurColour and HDR capabilities, the feature laden Samsung UHD TV can provide an incredible viewing experience, rich in color, contrast and resolution. Image Source

Should I buy an OLED or 4K LED TV?

The decision to purchase an OLED vs. 4K LED TV can be a tough one. What you decide to buy largely comes down to the budget.

Is OLED worth it?  If money is no object, no question about it, go for an OLED.

If the price is more of a consideration, go with a mid-range or premium full-array back-lit 4K LED TV.

They might not have quite the same level of contrast and pure black levels, but they can come very close. Your wallet will thank you.

So what did you decide to buy?  Share with us in the comments below?

Previous Updates for 2019

LG continued to lead the way with the premier picture quality of OLED TVs in 2019. Most UHD TV manufacturers, Samsung being the front-runner, are doubling down on improving 4K LED back-lit QLED (Quantum Dot) TV technology and adding features.

Panasonic and Sony joined LG with OLED TV offerings in 2019. Both are purchasing OLED panels directly from LG. Sony OLED differentiates its sets with superior processing technologies.

2019 Highlights

  • OLED TV continues to enjoy the best overall picture quality
  • OLED TVs are still more expensive than quality 4K LED TVs
  • LG has 4 new OLED TV models
  • Sony and Panasonic joined LG in producing OLED TVs
  • 55″ and 65″ UHD are the two dominant sizes that are reasonably priced
  • Samsung remains the best selling brand of HDTVs