Types of Flatscreen TVs: Complete Guide

So the time has come to buy a new TV but the problem is you have not been keeping track of the latest TV developments. Don’t worry, it’s normal to feel a little out of touch when it comes to these technologies.

In this article, I’ll cover the most important types of flatscreen TVs, along with their pros and cons. When you’re done reading this post, you’ll have all the info you need to buy the best TV for your budget and needs.

Here’s the thing:

Types of Flatscreen TVs Explained:

While there are many different types of TVs, there are really only two main categories: LCD and OLED. LED, Mini-LED, and QLED, all use LCD panels, with many modifications and enhancements. OLED uses a completely different technology which I’ll get into more detail later on.

With that in mind, let’s continue with the article.

LCD

LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display and it describes the type of panel used on a display. It was the next technology leap from the bulky CRT monitors. An LCD panel uses a series of filters combined with a nematic liquid crystal layer to create images.

LCD panels require a backlight to work. The backlight is usually powered by a fluorescent bulb. LCD panels are used in the vast majority of low to mid-level displays on a wide variety of consumer electronics. The exact history behind LCD displays is complicated and there are many different variations on the market.

Another way to think of LCD displays is the first flat-screen display, it’s the foundation for all the other panel technologies. Most of the technologies that we will discuss later are modified versions of the standard LCD panels.

LCDs are the cheapest and most common type of display out there. Almost all of the digital displays found on consumer electronics use LCD panels.

The latest versions of LCD panels are decent and you can even buy LCD displays that support 4K resolution.

LED

LED stands for Light Emitting Diode, a semiconductor light source. Many TVs are advertised as LEDs, the truth is LED is not really a type of panel. It only means the backlight uses LEDs, but the pane is LCD. You can imagine LEDs as a strip of lights in the back of your TV.

The advantage of using LED as a backlight is they’re cheaper to produce, consume less power and offer decent brightness levels.  Most of the TVs on the market use some variations of LEDs. And there are a lot!

Speaking of LED, Local Dimming is a new feature that allows can adjust the brightness levels on the batches of LEDs. These batches are called “dimming zones” and the more dimming zones the better.

When it comes to image quality, LED TVs are usually better than standard LCDs. The reason for that is the backlight is brighter and when combined with local dimming it can create some impressive visuals. Read our article on local dimming vs full array.

The main issue with LEDs (and the variations) is the core technology still requires a backlight. TVs that use LED backlights can’t achieve the absolute best contrast and black levels because the backlight always has to be on.

For example, most LED TVs can’t show true black, it’s more of a dark grey because of the backlight. Dimming zones attempt to eliminate that issue, to a degree, but LED TVs will always struggle with pure black.

There are many different versions of LEDs, and I’ll briefly cover the most popular ones below.

QLED

QLED stands for Quantum Dot Display and it’s a marketing term for Samsung’s flatscreen TVs. Quantum Dot displays improve on the LCD technology by adding an extra film layer of quantum dots that filters colours.

The film layer improves the colour gamut while maintaining peak brightness. It also helps keep colours pure and accurate. However, QLED TVs still use LEDs as a backlight with an LCD panel, so technically they are considered LCD TVs.

The upsides are QLEDs are very bright and the colours are quite accurate. Not to mention they can come will a wide variety of other media enhancement features such as local dimming, post-processing, HDR, and others.

QLEDs are Samsung’s most popular mid-tier TVs and they offer good and bright colours.

Mini-LED

Mini-LEDs take the core concept of using LEDs as a backlight and shrink it down.  Mini-LEDs are much smaller than regular LEDs, an LED that is under 0.2 millimetres is called a Mini-LED. Mini-LED TVs use an entire sheet of Mini-LEDs to create the backlight but the panel is still LCD.

The image quality, colours, and brightness are great on Mini-LED TVs. For that reason, they’re a bit more expensive than other LED TVs. Since Mini-LED TVs have more LEDs (and smaller models), they can use full-array local dimming which makes scenes a lot more immersive.

Mini-LEDs are usually a bit better than QLEDs because of the full array local dimming feature.

OLED

Now here’s where we switch things up a little.

The technologies above are all based on the core LCD TV model; a TV with an LED backlight and an LCD panel.

OLED is a completely different technology. OLED looks like a sheet of material that can create light based on an electric current. The boiled-down version is each pixel creates its own light, so no backlight is needed.

Because each pixel is a light source on an OLED TV, there’s no light-bleed or grey-blacks like with typical LCD panels. OLED TVs offer true-black with the best contrast ratios of any other display technology out there.

When it comes to visual quality, OLEDs offer the absolute best experience. OLED TVs are much better than LCDs and their many variations.

But that comes with a cost.

OLED TVs are not the most budget-friendly option on the market. They’re also a little dimmer than TVs that have a dedicated backlight and some OLEDs are prone to burn-in too. Burn-in is a type of permanent damage that leaves a faded image on the screen.

Read more about OLED burn-in here. 

Generally, most people agree OLED is still the winner when it comes to image quality.

QD-OLED

A new type of OLED is on the horizon, it’s called QD-OLED. Samsung advertised a couple of their QD-OLED TV models during CES 2022. It’s also going to be available for gaming monitors.

QD-OLED is a combination of Samsung’s Quantum Dot technology combined with OLED panels, an attempt to boost brightness levels, taking the OLED technology even further. The quantum dot filter converts some blue light into red and green which can slightly improve the brightness.

QD-OLED TVs will be the top-of-the-line TVs to hit the shelves in the coming months. You can think of QD-OLEDs as a brighter version of OLED which is what most people want.

QD-OLEDs will likely be the most expensive type of TV out there.

What’s the Best Type of Flatscreen TV?

Don’t have time to read through specifications and just want some recommendations?

Here’s what you need to know:

When it comes to picture quality, OLED beats all of the other LED technologies because it can achieve pure blacks. While the peak brightness on OLED TVs is not as high as other technologies, most people watch movies in the dark anyway, so it’s not much of a setback.

If you want the absolute best visuals, I recommend a 4K OLED TV. The C1 OLED Series still holds up quite well.

Here are some other OLED TV recommendations.

And if you have extra money to spare, you might want to wait a bit to see what the QD-OLED technology has in store.

The good news is, as new technologies emerge,

Best for Budget Buyers:

On the other hand, not everyone has the budget for a fancy OLED TV. Maybe you’re looking for a mid-tier TV that is more affordable.

In that case, the Samsung QLEDs are a good choice. Most 4K QLED TVs offer a good experience for most tasks, such as watching movies and games.

QLEDs don’t have pure blacks, and they can suffer from light-bleed due to the backlight, but they’re still good quality TVs.

Buyer Guide:

Wondering what other features you need to look for in a new TV? Here are some suggestions:

Resolution

Most people are used to the Full HD resolution which is 1920×1080 also known as 1080P. It’s the most common resolution on displays out there, but it’s slowly being phased out. While 1080P TVs are very cheap nowadays, upgrading from 1080P to 4K is a major improvement.

If you need to replace your main TV, I highly recommend looking for a model that supports 4K resolution. 4K should be the baseline. Today there are some 8K TVs on the market but it’s a little bit overkill because there’s very little 8K media out there.

Refresh Rate

Most TVs have a 60 Hz refresh rate, which is fine for watching movies and TV shows. However, if you want to use your TV for gaming on the latest consoles, you might want to consider buying a TV that has a 120 Hz refresh rate. The higher refresh rate will make your games appear much smoother and more responsive.

HDR:

HDR (High Dynamic Range) is another feature to keep an eye out for. Almost every 4K TV will include the standard HDR10 but some come with advanced HDR such as Dolby Vision.

The Bottom Line:

To summarize, there are so many types of flatscreen TVs out there, and now you know the basics of how each one works. Generally, OLED offers the best visuals, and QD-OLED should offer an improvement on OLED. The other types of TVs are good for people on a budget.

The good news is the price of OLEDs has been steadily dropping and they’re much more affordable soon.

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About Tim Gagnon

Timothy Gagnon is a tech blogger and writer. When he's not dissembling computers, he's researching the latest tech gadgets and trends.

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