OLED vs LED: What’s the difference?

If you’ve been researching LED lighting systems, you have probably come across the term OLED, which stands for organic light emitting diodes. How does OLED technology differ from LEDs, and which is better?

How OLED Works

OLEDs are films rather than bulbs. The O stands for organic because OLEDs are made from hydrocarbon chains, whereas LEDs are made with different types of heavy metals. While OLEDs are trending now, the technology actually dates back to the 1980s.

OLEDs were first developed by Kodak on the principle of LEDs, which is to use electroluminescence to create light. LED lights produce photons of light by placing electrons into dedicated electron holes in the emissive layer of the device (i.e., a light or a television screen).

OLEDs work similarly, with each panel have four layers: The structural framework, the anode (this draws electrons), the cathode (this generates electrons), and a divided organic layer that rests between the anode and cathode. One part of the organic layer conducts by providing the holes for electrons, while the other portion of the organic layer produces light. Colored plastic layers — red, blue, green — can be added to the structural framework to produce colored light rather than pure white light.

What are the Benefits of OLEDs?

OLEDs use plastic layers rather than glass bulbs to produce color. This makes every screen lighter and more durable than its LED counterpart. The screens are also flatter and thinner than comparable LED/LCD screens.

The design differences allow OLEDs to produce brighter whites while consuming less energy than LED and LCD screens. They are also better for the environment, a fact that appeals to many consumers.

In televisions, OLEDs produce every color of light due to the plastic layers. They also produce deeper blacks and more vivid colors in general, and they provide superior wide angle viewing, which some users enjoy. LED televisions, on the other hand, only produce white light. The individual colors are created when white light passes through an LCD shutter. To create black hues, LED televisions close the shutter while the light still shines. OLEDs, in contrast, turn off the individual pixels altogether, which saves energy.

OLED vs. LED: Which is Better?

While OLEDs have their benefits, they are quite pricey. Most OLED televisions cost three times the price of a comparable LED television, for example.

This is the biggest drawback for many shoppers, who don’t have the budget for an OLED.

Colors in the OLED age differently, too. For example, blue light deteriorates faster than red or green. Over time, this can throw off the color balance—another main selling point of OLED screens. Consumers would need to recalibrate their devices when the blue light starts to fade.

Both LED and OLED can be good choices. It depends on your budget, personal preference, and priority.

OLEDs should go down in price; however, this day is still a while off. The average shopper can wait until OLEDs are truly competitive with LEDs to invest in this new technology.

For most users, moreover, LED technology offers very good quality at extremely competitive price—and with many environmental benefits.