QLED vs OLED, not the same tech.

Update: OLED is not without it’s issues. One issue is reverse vignette, this is where the screen appears darker on the inside than the outside. Vignette is an effect that you see in some photos and even in movies, inside is brighter than the outside. Sometimes done purposefully, other times it’s due to the use of a wide angle lens, it bends the light in such a manner that it creates the effect. You can remove reverse vignette on an OLED panel by adjusting the OLED light, contrast, and brightness of the screen. This is not noticeable in content however, and you really have to look for it in order to see it.

Vignette effect.

/Update.

I just saw what Samsung is charging for their new QLED TV sets, and are they insane? They are marketing their new television line as some form of LED technology, then pricing it similar to what LG is charging for their OLED sets. Well let me tell you, one is better than the other. I’m writing this article in the hopes that you won’t get fooled in to buying one of those over priced LCD screens from Samsung.

There are two types of OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) technologies. W-OLED and RGB-OLED. Samsung bet all it’s money and research on RGB OLED, and lost. They have since dropped out of the OLED panel race. Due to RGB-OLED high price and degradation of the blue OLED pixel this technology proved to be too expensive to manufacture for large format displays. LG opted for the W-OLED or White Oled technology, which is a white LED with RGB filters. LG won, this is the perfect OLED technology for large format displays and soon other manufacturers will follow LG in their footsteps.

After dropping OLED panels as a display technology Samsung released new branding for their LCD panels, they called this QLED or Quantum Dot Light Emitting Diode. The description of this technology is somewhat based on a lie or false promise. I believe this branding is meant to fool the consumer into believing they are buying something that the technology is not. There are no Light emitting diodes or LEDs inside the QLED panels. QLED is a passive LCD screen with a quantum dot colour filter and LED edge lighting. The only difference between QLED and an LCD/LED TVs (LED is an LCD panel with LED edge lighting) are the quantum dot filters, everything else is business as usual.

QLED sounds like OLED, but OLED it is not. While the W-OLED and QLED technologies on paper may look and sound the same, the name is where this similarity ends. I believe that Samsung QLED technology is inferior to LGs OLED and Samsung will lose a lot of market share due to it’s price and the underlying technology of using LCD panels.

OLED is an emitting technology, each pixel is capable of producing it’s own light. Benefits to this are that OLED panels have infinite contrast ratios as each pixel can be individually turned off and on. Blacks are true black, similar to what plasma and crt televisions were capable of offering in the past. OLED is a natural replacement for Plasma Television owners and Home Theater enthusiasts. OLED screens can be viewed in a bright room, even when you have sunlight hitting the screen.

QLED on the other hand is a LCD panel with a passive colour filter(quantum dot layer) and an edge LED array which is used as a back light for the screen. If sunlight hits your screen it renders the image unwatchable. QLED sets might be held to a higher production standard than normal LCD panels however they still come with issues such as banding, light bleed, uniformity concerns, and motion blur. Even with local dimming that QLED panels possess, they have a lot of light bleed. In bright rooms, unlike OLED, QLED screens wash out and become unwatchable. In dark rooms the light bleed from the back light detracts from the viewing experience.

OLED sets have virtually no motion blur, no light bleed, no banding, near perfect uniformity, and are perfect for viewing at an angle with virtually no colour shift. I say virtually because sometimes the light refraction coating on top of the screen can make whites appear with a slight pink/purple tint. This happens primarily when viewing the screen at an angle. The tint shift effect of the refraction coating is not very significant, and even with this shortcoming of the LG OLED screens they still look much better than any high end LCD panel I have laid eyes on. Have a look at the picture it demonstrates the coating tint shit effect. Note the left side of the screen is slightly warmer than the right side.

Yes quantum dots much like OLED do produce more saturated colours. But at the price Samsung wants to charge for a set you are better off picking up an OLED set from 2016. The 2016 LG B6 series can be picked up for around $ 2500 USD, and I guarantee you the picture quality is better than anything Samsung can offer for twice the price in their QLED lineup. Sony and others are also getting into the OLED Television game and some more sets are on the way to market. OLED prices are being driven down and they are becoming more affordable. QLED might soon be a technology of the past. If Samsung is not able to decrease the price and improve the quality of QLED displays OLED will be the clear winner. Even with some of the OLED shortcomings, such as brightness fading, this technology has a lot more benefits than QLED. I use mine as a monitor too, while there is some image retention I have not noticed it and retention on W-OLED is not permanent. OLED sets are closer to the picture quality of CRT and Plasma televisions than any LCD on the market right now. Also SDR (vs HDR on Samsung) content looks much better on an OLED panel.

The bottom line is Samsung could not afford to stay in the OLED game with their RGB-OLED tech. Now Samsung is trying to sell you an inferior technology marketed as something that it can not compete with. W-OLED screens are cheaper to produce and produce a better visual experience.

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_dot_display

https://www.oled-info.com/oled-tv

http://www.businesskorea.co.kr/english/news/industry/2891-w-oled-vs-rgb-oled-samsung-lg-show-different-techs-large-displays-ces-2014

Sony DR-BTN200 and Bluetooth audio.

Recently I had a chance to spend some time with a Bluetooth audio headset from Sony. The model number of these are DR-BTN200. I’ve been meaning to write a review on these for over a couple months now. Now that I have had some exposure with these on the go, I’m ready to discuss them.

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First I’d like to say I was and still am not a fan of Bluetooth technology for Audio. I was always under the impression that it is slow and susceptible to interference. And after being exposed to these headphones, and other Bluetooth devices in the past my impressions were 100% spot on and I stick to my original assessment of the technology.

My first exposure to Bluetooth tech was in the form of those terribly tacky phone headsets some people love to wear, you know who you are. The guy in a suit on the train yapping during the afternoon commute… but I degress. Bluetooth 1.0, in it’s day was slow and very interference prone. Troublesome to pair and even a bigger pain to maintain said pairing.

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Then came the PS3 with their Bluetooth controller technology. I’m a gamer, I have been for a long time. When I first picked up the PS3 controller and tried to play NHL hockey I noticed a slight, very minute lag or delay between input and reaction time. This was unacceptable to me, and I never played another video game on the PS3 again. It sat there collecting dust.

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Then I got a hand me down Bluetooth capable LG sound bar, with a wireless Sub (ewwww) and Blutooth (BT) pairing capability. The LG soundbar is the NB3530A model. I wasn’t a huge fan of the wireless Subwoofer, but the price was right and my buddy gave this to me for a steal. I set this up with my secondary TV and paired my phone using BT. After giving it a listen to some of my music, to my amazement it sounded good. In fact it sounded well enough to me, that when my 5th pair of corded headphones tore at the jack, this was a fifth pair with in one year, I started looking at BT alternatives.

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Insert the Sony DR-BTN200. This was an impulse buy one afternoon when I was in Walmart looking at their Video Games section. I was hesitant, but what sold me was that on the box they had the Xperia Z1, which I am currently using, so I thought that they might pair nicely together. “DAMN YOU blatant advertising, you win this round!”

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After I got them home I took them for a spin. They are on ear headphones, vs in ear and over ear, and quite comfortable. They are light weight and very comfortable even after hours of usage. Note that you have to position them just right, and place them correctly on your ears otherwise they will hurt your ears. What that position is, well it’s really based on how big and the shape of your ears. Everyone is just a little different and you’ll need to play around with the positioning and the headband length to get it just right.

Sound quality is really good, bass reproduction as well. In the sound department Sony did a really good job balancing everything just right. The bass is sufficient, you have to remember that these are wireless headphones and adding more bass would cut the battery life significantly. So if you don’t like that perhaps those overpriced and under performing Beats by Dr. Dre are your thing. In the end the sound in these is really nice, and the mids are very distinguishable. I mention the mids because most headphones, as the mentioned brand in a previous sentence, have trouble achieving this feat.

The construction is mostly plastic, with leather ear pads. The heaphones themselves are light and fairly sturdy. They have a micro USB port for charging and in the package Sony includes a very short Micro USB cable. It takes up to 4 hours to fully charge the headset and that will give you about 40 hours of listening time, and 800 hours of stand by time. Battery life is extremely good on these, I can attest to that.

Feature packed, yup. NFC instant pairing, tap you NFC enabled device to your headphones and it will immediately pair the device and headphones. You don’t need to put in a code to pair, just tap, even if you’ve never paired the two devices before. NFC can be turned off with a flick of a switch, but since NFC is a passive technology I don’t see why you would want to unless you don’t have an NFC enabled phone, I’m thinking of iPhone users here. Also to note that these use Bluetooth version 3.0, so that is the minimum requirement for device pairing.

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Obviously these have a built in microphone, with a call button. You are able to pick up and make calls easily on the go with just a press of a button.

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Play/Pause, FFW and RWD. It’s a nifty slider button that can be pushed in. Pushing the slider in plays or pauses the track. Sliding the protruding knob up fast forwards the track and sliding down rewinds it. Right above this is a flush power button, by holding it for a few seconds the headphones chime and turn off. Above the power button is the volume rocker. All of these are easily accessible even with winter gloves on.

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At the time of this writing these can be found on Amazon for $80 CAD. This is by no means a premium headset, but for the price and sound quality good value.

So far so good, we have good construction, great sound, affordable and feature packed. Sounds like a winner to me, right? Well not so fast.

There is a slight problem with these, and this is more of a basic fundamental flaw with Bluetooth. In a controlled environment where you’re mostly static and you move around very little, these are great, and the connection/pairing between source and destination works really well. Once you start travelling outside, be it the morning commute or a walk to the corner store, this is another story. Since BT is very easily susceptible to interference as it operates on the 2.4 Ghz frequency, power lines and interference in general becomes an issue. On my daily commute when I travel under power lines, I noticed that the headset cuts out and the audio stream gets interrupted. This happens when my phone is in my front jean pocket so there are very few layers and distance between the two devices. Another issue I noticed is that when I have the phone in my left pocket and turn my head completely to the right the audio also cuts out, sans power line. These are rated for 10m so distance is not an issue.

Do the cons outweigh the pros? I don’t know… I’m really torn and conflicted between the good sound and the interference these experience. Perhaps other manufacturers tackle the issue of interference a little differently than Sony. For now I have these, in the new year I’ll be testing other options, but in the end I think I might go back to wired if the Bluetooth doesn’t hold up to my standard.

Xbox One: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

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Image belongs to Justin Reed. (http://goo.gl/mV9M2U)

The Good:

The ability to perform voice commands is by far the best feature on the Xbox one. When you walk into my room and say “Xbox on!” it turns itself on, and can turn the TV and Receiver on as well. Then the Kinect recognizes your face and signs you into your account. When using the “Xbox select..” command, you can navigate the xbox menus without the use of the controller or hand gestures. When playing a game you have the ability to snap applications such as party chat with a simple voice command. With the same feature you are able to add people to the party chat, remove them, and mute the chat, etc. As per the voice commands, if you swear at the ref in FIFA 14, you will be reprimanded by your club. Also keep your potty mouth to yourself when on the field, or the red cards will come flying at you. NBA 2K14 has similar features, BF4 allows you to call in support with voice commands. As for the controller it is a slight improvement over the 360 controller. The analog sticks are comfortable and the redesign is most welcome. Bumpers and triggers are solid, and over all the build quality of the controller is superb. The Operating System interface is really easy to navigate, the layout is basic and makes a lot of sense. It is very hard to get lost in the menus. When signing in to the console by way of Kinect facial recognition it will recognize you in a completely dark room lit up only by the ambient light of the TV screen. The ventilation on the xbox this generation is a huge improvement over last, it runs really cool even when placed in an AV cabinet with front doors. Overall The hardware doesn’t really heat up much. I guess Microsoft learned something from the previous generation. The application snap feature is handy, having two applications side by side really works on this console, and it doesn’t distract or pull your attention from the gaming or watching a movie. This is especially useful when trying to start a Party Chat while in game. Xbox SmartGlass is a companion app for both the Xbox 360 and Xbox One. It is completely free and works on Windows, iOS, and Android devices. You can use your smartphone or tablet to type in the text fields, when sending text based messages to your friends or entering your credit card information to make purchases. Most of us have smartphones and tablets so this naturally makes sense. This app is also a companion to some games such as Dead Rising 3, it enables extra features and in game content. It’s an extension to the users video game experience and adds another level of interaction with the software, in some cases it is easier to type with the smartphone than using the on screen keyboard. Something no one is talking about, perhaps because they don’t understand it, is the “server farm” Microsoft has stashed away for it’s developers. I’m not talking about the Xbox Live military grade servers, I’m talking about the server that can offload some of the XBOs processing to the cloud. All of the rendering and computing does not need to be done locally anymore, and any non critical computing can be done on the servers and sent back to the system. In my opinion this has a lot of potential, and the systems processing power is no longer limited to the local hardware specs.

The Bad:

The Xbox One is not DLNA certified, unlike it’s predecessor. This took me by surprise and is kind of anti next-gen for a device that wants to be the media centre hub of the living room and that calls itself next-gen. DLNA streaming is important to me, especially for my music library. One of the crowning features of the 360 was the ability to listen to your music library while playing games. Also, at the moment the games are not there, Dead Rising 3 looks like a 360 game. Forza 5 is full of micro transactions, $59.99 for a game and micro transactions on top of that seems a little excessive. It will take the developers a longer time to get familiar with the XBO dev kits than the PS4 dev kits. The XBO has specialized hardware, like the Kinect, the ESRAM, and the render server farm, whereas the PS4 is esentially an underpowered PC. Xbox 360 users and Xbox One users can not communicate properly over Xbox Live. If you’re on the Xbox One you can not receive voice messages as the XBO does not have this feature. Party Chat is not possible with 360 and XBO users either. The camera is unable to identify my face sometimes and as such it does not sign me in automatically into the system. I particularly noticed this when reclining in a bean bag chair on the floor. Perhaps the Kinect has a hard time recognizing the skeletal structure when in a reclined position. The lack of proper CEC integration is also surprising. The Xbox One uses some form of CEC an IR blaster to control the television and receiver, however this is not CEC as one can not use the receivers or televisions remote to navigate the xbox menus.

The Ugly:

The gesture based navigation needs a lot of work. It is one of the worst features to use on the XBO. I’d say it works properly 50% of the time. The audio is another problem, it cuts out in certain menus and even though the XBO set to PCM 5.1, sometimes the XBO decides to output DTS. Other times the XBO boost the volume by itself and then decides later that it is too loud and turns the volume down. There is no Bitstream option for the audio output either, and only Stereo, 5.1 PCM, 7.1 PCM, and DTS sound output options are available.This does not work, I would like the option to have the receiver do the audio decoding, specifically DTS HD MA or Dolby TrueHD. My home cinema would appreciate that. No 3D Blu-ray support yet either, for a system that is trying to take over the living room this is unacceptable. Despite the critics ramblings about 3D, it is here to stay, and consumers are slowly adopting said technology. There are other small glitches and hiccups when switching between menus and screens too. Sometimes the xbox goes all Ghost in the Machine on me, and starts launching applications and navigating software on it’s own… Rise of the machines?

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In conclusion..

…there is more good, than bad or ugly, however this next-gen console launch was very underwhelming. The underwhelming part is mostly due to the fact that both Microsoft and Sony released beta products into the wild. But if I were to decide between the new Xbox or the new PlayStation, I’d pick the Xbox. Voice commands, gesture based browsing, a stunning 1080p camera, SmartGlass, server farm, skype and other app within app integration, superior controller, and system that shows promise providing the software comes out of Beta soon. There are a lot of bugs in the software, and a lot of features that need tweaking and revision, this is true for both Sony and Microsoft alike. But if the 360 was an indication of how MS functions, is that they listen to their community, and that their gaming system and it’s software will evolve over time.