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What is QD-OLED? The next-gen TV display explained


As TV manufacturers look past traditional LCD displays, new types of screen technology are emerging onto the scene and one contender is QD-OLED.

OLED and QLED have established themselves in the TV market over the past several years, and 2021 has seen Mini LED and Micro LED make inroads too, while LG has made a splash with its range of QNED TVs. But the world of TVs is ever looking forward for the next best thing and it’s eyeing the potential of QD-OLED or QD displays.

So, what is QD-OLED and will this next-gen display make it to the market?

What is QD-OLED?

To explain what QD-OLED is, it’s worth revisiting what Quantum Dot and OLED are.

Quantum Dot displays are, essentially, more advanced LCD TVs. They use nano-sized particles that absorb and emit light – different sizes produce different wavelengths (re. colours) when light is passed through them. As Quantum Dots are known for their purity, they can display colours more accurately and their light efficiency allows for greater brightness, which is especially useful for HDR content.

What’s more Quantum Dots are very stable, and that means consistency of the image is maintained over a longer period than, say, OLED TVs, which degrade over time.

OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode. Each pixel is self-emissive, which means it can produce its own light. This produces high levels of contrast as a pixel that’s ‘on’ can sit next to a pixel that’s ‘off’. This also helps to deliver the deep black levels OLED TVs are known for, something that’s trickier for LCD based TVs to achieve given the backlight panel they employ. They’re not as bright as a TV with Quantum dots, and with static images there is the potential for images to be retained in the screen.

So, what does that mean for a QD-OLED hybrid display? It would be an emissive display – much like OLED – with pixels emitting their own light, and that in turn would help produce deep black levels, high contrast and wide viewing angles, while those Quantum Dot filters would help create more accurate and wide range of colours, as well as potentially hit higher brightness. Screen retention could potentially be resolved with a QD display, though reports have indicated suggest it is still an issue.

How does QD-OLED work?

A TV display creates three different colours of light: red, green, and blue. How these colours are combined creates the image on screen.

A TV with Quantum Dots (a Samsung QLED for example) works by beaming blue light into a Quantum Dot filter to create red and green light. When this blue light source is combined with the red and green light, it creates a white light made up of saturated red, green and blue used to cast an image on screen.

OLED displays produced by LG Display use blue and yellow OLED materials to produce a white light that is passed through a colour filter to create red, green and blue pixels that make the images you see on screen.

Breakdown of a QD-OLED panel – credit: Nanosys

According to Nanosys – a company that manufactures Quantum Dots – a QD-OLED or QD Display (as Samsung refers to them) would use a stack of blue OLED materials to shine blue light into the quantum dot filter. The filter would take some of the blue light and convert it into red and green, and the combination of red, green, and blue light would create the image. You can see what would look like in the diagram above.

As a QD display would require fewer layers Nanosys has asserted that it would be cheaper to fabricate compared to OLED. That was stated a few years ago though, and with manufacturing costs of OLED dropping as production has ramped up, news out of South Korea suggests that a QD Display may be more expensive than initially thought.

What are the chances of a QD-OLED hybrid TV appearing?

From what we can surmise, a QD-OLED/QD Display could happen, but there’s no guarantee about it at the moment.

Judging by reports out of South Korea, Samsung is still evaluating the viability of QD Displays. It’s worth explaining that Samsung Display and Samsung Electronics are two parts of the company; the former creates screens for all types of products, including iPhones, while the latter makes the TVs.

In 2019, Samsung Display invested $10.9bn into production facilities to manufacture the panel at its production facility in Asan City. However, Samsung Electronics – home to the Visual Display TV arm – was thought to be lukewarm about the technology.

Given Samsung has been busy with its QLED TVs for several years, it’s also been developing MicroLED technology and 2021 will see its neo QLED branded TVs with Mini LED hit the market too.

Prototype of a QD Display

Prototype of a QD Display – Samsung Display

LCD panel production is thought to have complicated matters, too. Samsung Display had confirmed it was ending LCD panel production due to falling profitability, an issue given Samsung Electronics relies on LCD panels for its QLED TVs.

But the pandemic led to a surge of interest in LCD panels, so production has been extended until the end of 2021. In return it seems Samsung Electronics is looking at QD-OLED’s viability.

A prototype display was delivered in January 2021 but reportedly rejected on the count it wasn’t bright enough. There have also been issues with production yields too, as Samsung Electronics is said to want a higher rate of panels than the production assembly line is currently capable of. There are question marks over costs, too.

A prototype hybrid TV is thought to be in the works for evaluation later this year, but with rumours that Samsung may be looking to purchase OLED displays from LG Display, it may indicate QD Displays aren’t ready yet.

Who’s else is producing a QD-OLED hybrid TV?

TCL has confirmed it’s taking a stab at its own QD-OLED TV or what it appears to call a H-QLED. We could even see a prototype at IFA 2021. This would employ an inkjet printing method that could be more efficient and cost effective.

Other reports have suggested that Panasonic and Sony are interested in QD Displays, the latter for gaming displays, but that would be dependant on whether QD-OLED can be made to work.

In any case, QD-OLED would appear to be on the horizon, but it seems a little further out than it was before.



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