Is an OLED TV worth it? I bought one, and I have some thoughts...

Cinephiles around the world praise OLED screens as the best for home theaters, but they have their drawbacks.

LG C1 85-inch TV mounted to wall opposite cream sofa in home cinema room
(Image credit: LG)

Is an OLED TV worth it? Millions of happy cinephile owners would say so. But to suggest this type of high-performance TV is perfect for everyone simply isn’t true.

If you're out to buy one of the best 85 inch TVs, or whatever size suits your home, it's worth understanding that though while many people love OLED TVs, there are three significant drawbacks. 

I’ll get on to those in a moment, but first what is OLED TV tech, and why does it offer the kind of picture quality that makes cinephiles get all evangelical?

What is OLED TV tech and why do cinephiles love it?

Philips Ambilight 55OLED936/12 55" Smart 4K Ultra HD HDR OLED TV with Google Assistant

(Image credit: Philips Ambilight 55OLED936/12 55" Smart 4K Ultra HD HDR OLED TV with Google Assistant)

OLED TVs’ big advantage is that, unlike other televisions (if you're comparing QLED vs OLED for example), each pixel is self illuminating, rather than relying on a backlight. While that makes the screens more energy efficient — a perk that’s not to be sneezed at with electricity prices creeping up — the main advantage is in picture quality.

Put simply, the fact that each pixel lights itself means that the contrast of OLED TVs is literally infinite, because they can turn themselves off to offer true black — the same black you’d see if your set was switched off. Even if a turned-off pixel is next to one that’s brightly lit up, the light won’t bleed over, making for a simply incredible image. With backlit TVs, what you’re really getting is actually a very dark grey which means that images just aren’t quite as good, especially atmospheric scenes with plenty of shadow.

There are three other less significant bonuses. The first is that OLED technology generally offers more flexibility with viewing angles. You have to sit at quite an uncomfortable angle before colors distort, which is perfect if you can’t always guarantee the best seat in the house on family movie night. 

The second is a plus for gamers: response times are far better than LED screens, meaning that the inputs on your gamepad will be near-instantly replicated on screen.

Finally, because they don’t need a backlight panel, OLED screens are about as thin as you can get. Scarily thin when you’re pulling your brand new panel out of the box for its initial setup, in fact — but worth it when it’s in place, looking all stylish.

What are the drawbacks to OLED TVs?

Sony 48" A9S Smart 4K OLED TV

(Image credit: Sony)

Firstly, OLED TVs are expensive. You undoubtedly pay a premium for the technology and if you’re not a dyed-in-the-wool cinephile you might consider it overkill for your needs. That’s a completely legitimate view, especially with QLED tech offering a picture that’s more than ‘good enough’ without the other drawbacks. However, 'tis the season, and you may be able to find a good Black Friday TV deal that scores you an OLED TV for a prettier price tag. 

What other drawbacks? Well, the second issue is brightness. Because each pixel is individually lit, there’s no backlight and that means that even the brightest OLED TVs don’t get all that bright. That in turn means that if your home theater setup is in a room with lots of natural light, you may find an OLED TV a no-go, unless you invest in some heavy-duty blackout drapes. The image simply may be unwatchable during the day if light is beyond your control, and in-room lights have a nasty habit of reflecting too.

Finally, if you do any online research into OLED TVs, you’ll inevitably find some people cautioning against buying due to the risk of burn-in. That’s where static images (think news tickers, sports scores, channel logos or in-game HUDs) are left in place so long that they ‘burn in’ an outline onto the screen that’s visible forever more.

This historically has been a problem, but is largely assumed to be a non-issue in 2022 due to software tweaks and the aforementioned dimness of panels reducing the overall risk. Extended tests suggest this is true and that the risk is probably theoretical with normal use these days (opens in new tab), but you may want to try and find an insurance policy that covers this just in case as I did (most manufacturers’ warranties don’t.)