OLED TVs are the premium focal point of many modern-day home theaters, but they’re still imperfect technology. As usual, last week’s CES in Las Vegas featured a smattering of upcoming TVs, plenty of them OLED-based. We saw bigger sizes and increased competition among OLED panel makers; however, the most interesting development was claims of boosted peak brightness.
A dimmer screen has long been the weak point of OLED displays, especially compared to their cheaper LCD rivals. But while 2023’s upcoming OLED TVs largely trumpet improved brightness capabilities and present potential for unprecedentedly rich highlights, it’ll still be years before you want to put an OLED TV in your sun-filled living room.
OLED’s brightness problem
If you listed the drawbacks of an OLED TV compared to an LCD one, they’re typically price and dimness. Despite having inky, deep blacks, OLEDs are known to be noticeably dimmer than LCD displays. Dark blacks still help the screens deliver next-level contrast, and good OLED TVs can make highlights in HDR content pop dramatically. But less overall luminance makes it hard to enjoy the image on an OLED TV in a brightly lit room or positioned under a light.
Let’s take LG TVs as an example. According to FlatPanelsHD, the LG G2 from 2022 recorded full-screen brightness of 269 nits with SDR out of the box and 166 nits with HDR. RTINGS.com reported 199 nits with SDR and 177 nits with HDR. That’s a visible difference from LG’s most premium 4K LCD TV, the LG QNED90 The Mini LED TV hits 571 nits with full screen of white in SDR mode and 622 nits in HDR mode, according to RTINGs’ review.
Of course, there’s way more to image quality than a TV’s max full-screen brightness. When it comes to rich HDR highlights, the 2022 LG G2 has an advantage over the Mini LED QNED90 (976 nits versus 750 nits, respectively). And the OLED TVs’ deep black levels and greater dynamic range create more nuanced colors and details in dark areas.
But when it comes to selecting a TV for a bright room where people may view the screen from side angles, full-screen brightness capabilities are (or should be) a serious consideration.
The tough truth, even with the next-gen OLED TVs promised this year, is that OLED TVs are really much better geared for darker rooms. For an extremely expensive piece of tech, that can be a huge deal-breaker.
And while HDR with OLEDs is a sublime experience, some will opt for an LCD TB with advanced features, like Mini LEDs and local dimming backlights to have a bright picture in bright rooms and with SDR content and strong, but not OLED-level, contrast when it comes to HDR.
New LG OLED TVs
At CES, LG made an announcement that sounds pretty good: brighter OLEDs. But how and when do the new TVs manage to squeeze out those extra nits?
LG’s 2023 OLED TVs include the G3 series of 55-, 65-, and 77-inch 4K screens that claim to be up to 70 percent brighter than traditional OLED TVs. The TVs have a Brightness Booster Max that uses an updated “light control architecture and light-boosting algorithms,” LG says, and it is unavailable on all other LG 2023 OLED TVs.
An LG spokesperson told FlatPanelsHD that the G3 series would be able to hit a peak brightness of around 1,800 nits, with the TV’s Vivid Mode possibly being brighter. Further, the publication said it saw a document suggesting that this mode will support 2,100 nits peak brightness; both numbers will only apply to highlights in HDR mode. According to LG Display, which makes the G3’s OLED panel, its updated OLED tech can achieve 2,100 nits in a 3 percent window.
Meanwhile, full-screen brightness can be expected to hit 235 nits, according to the document FlatPanelsHD saw.
With the TVs lacking any firm prices or release dates, though, these numbers can all be subject to change, and there’s still a lot to see and test. From what we’re hearing from early demos, LG Display’s 2023 OLED panels at least “look very bright” at first glance, per CNET. A YouTube video from HDTVTest examining an early production sample of the OLED tech behind LG’s G3 series said the panel reached 1,514 nits in a 10 percent window and 209 nits of full-screen brightness.