Samsung announces QD-OLED – with a major flaw?
Background informationTV

Samsung announces QD-OLED – with a major flaw?

Luca Fontana
Zurich, on 18.03.2022
Translation: Veronica Bielawski

Samsung’s new screen technology – QD-OLED – could be the new gold standard for TVs. Emphasis on «could». Heise Online, a German tech news portal, claims to have uncovered a major flaw. Is there anything to it?

There’s one thing television enthusiasts agree on: 2022 could be a great year for TVs. Samsung is planning its OLED comeback. Said comeback is called QD-OLED.

  • Background informationTV

    Here’s what you need to know about Samsung’s OLED TV comeback

This new technology promises to eliminate OLED’s two greatest weaknesses. QD-OLED is supposed to:

  1. Provide a brighter image
  2. Reduce the risk of burn-in

Samsung throws in the more vibrant and vivid colours as a nice bonus. LG, the OLED monopolist to date, is likely on edge. For the first time in years, QD-OLED could be what QLED or Mini LED promised to be but never quite became – namely, serious competition.

But now, Heise Online, a German tech news portal, claims to have discovered a glaring weakness in Samsung’s QD-OLED.

A major flaw: is there anything to it?

The shortcoming was noticed in a review of Alienware’s new gaming monitor, the AW3423DW. Its QD-OLED panels are manufactured by Samsung Display, a Samsung subsidiary. The scathing verdict:

«Samsung’s display technology is kaput.»

In its review, Heise Online criticises the fact that high-contrast edges come with disturbing colour gradients. According to the magazine, the issue starts with the font, continues with «Windows» windows and ends with «Cyberpunk 2077», for example, when looking at signs or skyscrapers against the backdrop of the sky.

Not good. See the green and purple around the edges? (Click on the image to enlarge it.)
Not good. See the green and purple around the edges? (Click on the image to enlarge it.)
Image: Mark Mantel, Heise Online

The culprit behind this is the pixel arrangement. Let’s recap: every TV consists of millions of pixels arranged in a grid. Each individual pixel contains a row of three tiny subpixels made up of:

  1. A red subpixel
  2. A blue subpixel
  3. A green subpixel
Each pixel consists of a red, green and blue subpixel.
Each pixel consists of a red, green and blue subpixel.
Visual: Sven Mathis

Instead of putting these subpixels in rows, Samsung has opted to arrange them in triangles.

In a QD-OLED panel, the subpixels are arranged in triangles.
In a QD-OLED panel, the subpixels are arranged in triangles.
Visual: Luca Fontana

This is what causes the colourful edges. According to Heise Online, the horizontal lines of light elements against a dark background are green at the top and purple-red at the bottom. For dark elements against a light background, the opposite is true. Heise Online has ruled out colour undersampling as the cause.

Are QD-OLED TVs also affected?

The question is, «Can the results from the monitor be applied to TVs?» Yes. Heise Online has already received a presale model of a QD-OLED TV from Samsung for testing. It reported the exact same problems with high-contrast edges on the TV as on the Alienware gaming monitor. Author Ulrike Kuhlmann therefore concludes that TV panels use the same pixel structure as gaming monitor panels.

Samsung Deutschland (Germany) confirmed to Kuhlmann that the pixel structure in the presale model corresponds to that in the final model.

«Whether the coloured edges can be reduced with the help of software or internal controls remains to be seen. Reportedly, the hardware shown definitely uses the panel type that will also be used in the upcoming OLED TVs.»
Ulrike Kuhlmann, 17 March 2022, Heise Online

QD-OLED: to wait or not to wait?

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to say at the moment. Samsung has scheduled the launch of the S95B in May. The South Korean company has also bid farewell to original name «QD-OLED»; instead opting to simply refer to its TVs as «OLED». Sony is also aiming for a May release for its QD-OLED TV, the A95K.

But if the past few months are anything to go by, delays are to be expected. It’s quite possible that the TVs won’t be launched until June, or later. Conversely, this means that Samsung and Sony (who will (most likely) purchase its QD-OLED panel from Samsung) still have time to fix the problem with a software update – assuming that’s even possible.

Or necessary.

Who else has noticed the problem?

So far, only Heise Online has mentioned the coloured edges. Numerous other industry experts, including Luke Larsen from Digital Trends, can’t stop raving about the Alienware gaming monitor in their reviews.

Interestingly, Larsen even shows clips with skyscrapers from «Cyberpunk 2077» in his video, which is one of the glaring negative examples in the Heise article. Larson doesn’t mention anything about coloured edges, though. This is not so say that Heise Online is wrong; the pictures provided are proof enough. What it could mean is that the coloured edges are barely noticeable, if at all, in the moving image, or that they’re only noticeable if you look very closely at them, which is more likely to happen with a monitor than with a TV.

Either way, teething problems in new display technologies are normal and to be expected. Whether you want to deal with them as an early adopter is your decision. Personally, I always advise waiting at least a year or two before investing in new technologies. There tends to be a lot of room for improvement, especially at the beginning. It’s quite possible that QD-OLED will be better and cheaper next year – and more finished.

Cover image: Ulrike Kuhlmann, Heise Online

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I'm an outdoorsy guy and enjoy sports that push me to the limit – now that’s what I call comfort zone! But I'm also about curling up in an armchair with books about ugly intrigue and sinister kingkillers. Being an avid cinema-goer, I’ve been known to rave about film scores for hours on end. I’ve always wanted to say: «I am Groot.» 


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