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LG Nanocell vs OLED TV (2023): which is better?

LG Nanocell vs OLED TV (2023): which is better?

LG G2 Gallery OLED sitting on an entertainment unit in a living room

If you’re comparison-shopping for a new LG TV in 2023, don’t do anything before you read the difference between LG’s new Nanocell TVs and its OLED TVs. This is Nanocell vs OLED: head-to-head.

Luke Hopewell is a gadget veteran of over 10 years. He’s reviewed over 100 TVs in his time, and been to the magic factory where they’re all made. He’s lost more remotes than he’s found, and if you ask him nicely, he’ll tell you how tech companies get tech writers to review TVs…

Back in 2020, I reviewed the first range of LG Nanocell TVs. Many reviews later in 2023, the game has changed massively. 

Can you buy a Nanocell TV in 2023?

Here’s the biggest change: LG doesn’t sell Nanocell TVs anymore. It discontinued them in 2022 in favour of brighter QNED TVs powered by MiniLED technology.

LG told me it won’t be bringing Nanocell back any time soon, either. MiniLED TVs have better control over their lighting and dimming. That makes for a brighter experience overall, and deeper blacks.

LG told me recently that QNED is the evolution of Nanocell. The next level up.

Check out the full differences between Nanocell and QNED in my full explainer.

What is OLED?

Even though QNED is a step up from Nanocell in terms of colour, brightness and blacks, it still can’t hold a candle to OLEDs. Especially an OLED from LG, who has been leading the game for over 10 years.

OLED stands for Organic Light-Emitting Diode. While it might have “LED” in the name, it’s very different to its backlit competitors.

Rather than having to blast light through a panel in order to produce vivid colours, OLED pixels are all individually-lit and controlled. 

That means you get truer colour reproduction, but more importantly, you get the blackest blacks you can.

Because OLED pixels are all self-lit rather than relying on a backlight system, when an OLED pixel displays black, it’s actually just turned off on that section.

That gives you the truest black around. Old-school plasma TV lovers will absolutely get a kick out of how true-to-life OLED is.

The reason OLEDs are more expensive is because it’s not only a more premium product, but also because it’s much, much harder to manufacture. 

It’s so hard that other large manufacturers have bailed on making OLEDs because of the amount of wastage that goes into getting it right. LG stayed the course, and in my opinion, makes the best OLED TVs in the game.

Whereas OLED has what LG calls “self-lit pixels”, the Nanocell is still lit by a backlight. It’s a clever backlight, but it still has some of the same drawbacks.

The blacks are great on Nanocell, but they aren’t the same perfect black offered by OLED.

The colours look incredible on Nanocell (and even better on QNED), but they’re a little oversaturated to compensate, even in smarter modes like Game and Cinema where they’ve been specially tuned to look true-to-life.

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Honestly, it’s kind of unfair to compare OLED and Nanocell. While Nanocell is incredible, it still can’t hold a candle as close as it would like to OLED TVs from LG.

If you were to compare Nanocell to anything, it’s probably more reasonable to hold it against the standard of a Samsung QLED instead of an LG OLED.

OLED as a technology is always going to have better colours and smarter blacks, but Nanocell will give you near-enough as good performance for significantly less cash.

Which one should you buy?

It’s an easy one to answer: you should buy an OLED TV. Mostly because you couldn’t buy a Nanocell TV now if you tried. That said, LG OLEDs are still really expensive and might not be in everyone’s budget.

Having compared the two at a recent launch event held by LG, you only really notice the difference between QNED and OLED when you’re looking at them side-by-side at the same time.

OLED produces a superior image, but QNED is no slouch. Plus, it’s incredibly bright, meaning it will work better in well-lit rooms than an OLED model. 

And with the money you save, you can put it towards an awesome soundbar instead.

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