Samsung is touting QLED as the next big TV technology. But what is it? How does it work? And is it better than OLED? Read on, and all will be revealed.

We know, we know. OLED is still a pretty young picture technology, yet already people are talking about what some - notably Samsung - think will be its successor, QLED.

What does the technology involve? How is it different from OLED? And when will it launch in the UK? Read on for our comprehensive guide.

MORE: What is OLED? The tech, the benefits, the best OLED TVs

What is QLED?

QLED stands for quantum dot light emitting diodes. It aims to be the next step on from OLED, which in turn, tends to deliver superior performance compared to LCD.

At the moment, only LG and Panasonic sell OLED TVs in the UK, though Sony is likely to launch its own range at CES 2017. OLED tellies are much slimmer than LCD or plasma sets, with much wider viewing angles and infinite contrast ratios.

QLED promises to improve picture quality yet further without sacrificing the deep blacks of OLED sets.

More after the break

How does QLED work?

It works using quantum dots. This technology itself isn't new - Samsung's SUHD TVs use quantum dots, for example - but QLED uses it in a new and interesting way.

Quantum dots are microscopic molecules that, when hit by light, emit their own coloured light. Which colour they emit depends on their size - larger ones give off light in the red end of the spectrum, and smaller ones in the blue end. (They're only nanometers in size, which is a fraction of the width of a human hair. So when we say "larger", it's all relative.) 

Current TVs use photoluminescent quantum dots, whereas QLED TVs will use electroluminescent ones. Basically, instead of requiring the light from an LED in order to light up (as photoluminescent quantum dots do), electroluminescent ones use directly supplied electrons to generate light.

This lets the TV light up and turn off individual pixels, just like an OLED set, making for the same infinite contrast ratio.

Quantum dots supposedly give off incredibly bright, vibrant and diverse colours, making them well suited to showing off HDR content. And, crucially, they're reckoned to be a more cost-effective technology than OLED.

In other words, a QLED set could be able to match or improve on the picture quality offered by OLED, and at a cheaper price. That's the theory, at least.

As the technology currently stands, quantum dots are a mixed bag. In our review of the quantum dot-enabled Samsung UE65KS9000, for example, we noted that the black levels could go deeper, but that there was a slight issue with backlight banding. But overall, the set was superb, delivering one of the most lifelike pictures we've seen from an LCD panel.

It's worth remembering this is only the start for quantum dot technology. Based on our experience so far, the future looks bright. Literally.

MORE: Best OLED TV deals

How does it compare to OLED?

Until we see QLED TVs on the market, and get them in for review, it's impossible to say for sure.

But the claim is the technology should make for a brighter picture than OLED, and deliver a wider colour gamut. Combine that with the existing, impressive contrast ratio, and you should have an impressive viewing experience.

In fact, it's estimated that QLED screens could have 30-40 per cent more luminance efficiency, which would make for brighter pictures and hopefully more vivid colours.

Then there's the price. OLED TVs are still very expensive. You're currently looking at a smidgen under £2,000 for a 55-inch OLED set, and that's one of the more reasonably-priced ones. We're hoping that because QLED sets should cost less to produce, the manufacturers will pass the savings onto customers, and charge less for QLED TVs. Bring on the price war...

QLED TVs also only use about half as much power as OLED ones, making them cheaper to run. You might not think that makes a big difference, but running a telly can be an expensive business.

Recently, British Gas claimed that 4K TVs are costing British homes an extra £1.8m in electricity costs, because they use more power than non-4K sets. This figure is expected to rise to £82m by 2019. So a more efficient TV would be most welcome.

MORE: 4K, HDR, OLED: The 7 best TVs of the year

When will QLED come to the UK?

Samsung and LG are reported to be working on QLED sets. In fact, the former is pouring its considerable resources into the technology instead of OLED. It's so confident in QLED, it plans to leapfrog OLED altogether. 

According to the Korea Times, LG is also ramping up its QLED research. It's started working with the leading lights (pardon the pun) of the QLED world, including Nanoco, Nanosys and QD Vision in order to learn more about the technology.

It's launched a group-wide project to boost cooperation among its affiliates LG Electronics, LG Display and LG Innotek for research on QLED TVs. And it recently developed quantum dot sheets, which can be used for LCD-based quantum dot TVs. So it could use this product category as a stopgap before producing proper QLED tellies.

So when will we get to experience QLED? Some rumours suggest we will see QLED TVs at CES 2017, though these may well be early prototypes. Business Korea expects Samsung's QLED sets to arrive in between two and five years. 

However, others say QLED is still a way off becoming a reality because the manufacturing technologies required haven't yet been prepared. The process is also not yet free of cadmium materials, which are extremely toxic. Samsung suffered enough reputational damage with its exploding Galaxy Note 7, so it really won't want to make any mistakes with a new TV technology.

LG also doesn't expect QLED to arrive anytime soon. The firm is looking at QLED in a "long-term perspective," a spokesperson said, and thinks of it as a "distant concept and not to be realised and commercialised for TVs as of now." Considering it has a full OLED line-up on sale, it's perhaps no surprise.

At the moment, QLED is used mainly for entertainment and architectural lighting. But if giants like Samsung and LG start releasing QLED sets, and they're as good as they sound, expect plenty of other TV manufacturers to follow suit.

MORE: LG OLED55B6V review

MORE: Samsung 2017 TV line-up