A computer is nothing without its monitor and for years now, the reigning king of monitor technology has been IPS (in-plane switching) or VA (vertical alignment), or other LCD panels. But now, the supremacy of said screen technologies is being challenged by OLED screens.
OLED, which stands for organic light-emitting diode is a screen or panel type that’s a lot different from LCD screens. Instead of relying on a backlight to produce an image, OLED screens have individual pixels that light up.
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The implications are far and wide. OLED screens produce truer and deeper blacks, therefore creating a contrast or color accuracy that LCD screens can’t match.
Apart from that, their response times are instantaneous since they can turn individual pixels on and off. This results in sharper images despite motion. For competitive gaming or even immersive movie or show viewing, this can be advantageous.
Simply put, it’s the next big thing in monitor technology and a lot of people have already sworn by the improvements over LCD monitors even with the few handfuls of OLED screens they have tested so far.
But OLED Isn’t Exactly New
The thing about OLED tech is that it’s not really amazing or fresh outside of computer or laptop monitors.
OLED screens have been around since 1997 when they were implemented as displays for car stereos. Gradually, they kept getting utilized by other devices such as cameras and televisions.
Heck, even Samsung has used OLED screens for their flagship phones for a long time now, particularly in their Galaxy S phone lineup.
It’s just that PC monitors and screens have only been catching up relatively recently.
For now, OLED is mostly shipped in the computer market in bulk in the laptop category where some of the more high-end and experimental models have the option for an OLED screen. Some notable examples– to name few, are:
- Razer Blade products
- Asus ROG and ZenBook products
- HP Spectre
- MSI Creator
Meanwhile, there are also some OLED monitors for desktop PCs but given how expensive they are to produce, these models are the only reliable contenders for now.
So Why Are OLED Screens Expensive?
This brings us to one of OLED’s other defining features, the premium cost.
The short and simple answer is that OLED screens or panels for monitors (or even TVs) are new technology. The initial investments of brands and manufacturers have yet to make the profit they want from the tech before they can improve the capital or the means for mass production.
And besides, the demand for OLED tech is not exactly sky-high. People have yet to move on to greener pastures and are still somewhat content with their LCD monitors. After all, it’s hard to be convinced to shell out significantly more money for a tech that you haven’t seen personally.
Moreover, the desktop monitor market is a lot smaller compared to the TV or phone market. Laptops, however, have been normalizing the OLED tech for higher-end models since the market for laptops is bigger than that for desktop monitors.
Of course, the more obvious explanation is that OLED screens are simply better than LCD screens. The better image quality, more accurate colors and contrast, higher refresh rates, instantaneous response times, and better viewing angles drive the price higher than the already expensive IPS monitors.
Entertainment also isn’t the only aspect that benefits a lot from OLED but also digital media creation. It’s especially important for graphic designers, video/photo editors, and digital artists to see true colors the way the media they’re viewing originally intended.
So depending on what you use it for, that OLED monitor might just pay for itself.
OLED Does Have Some Major Drawbacks
Now, another reason that might contribute to OLED’s lack of mainstream popularity in the monitor market is the burn-in effect.
Burn-in essentially “burns in” or permanently retains a ghost of a static image onto the OLED screen’s background. It’s an inherent issue with OLED screens due to the chemical compositions of their organic diodes. Since individual pixels generate their own light, they can weaken over time if they have to brighten up certain spots on the screen for prolonged periods, especially at high brightness levels.
That’s why it’s important for OLED screens to avoid static images. For televisions and phones, this is not a big problem. TVs can simply employ screen savers and phones can turn off their own screens with inactivity.
But let’s say, for example, you’re playing a video for hours; this video game has HUD or UI elements that remain static on the screen. It’s usually a map, a health indicator, or other crucial information for players.
That’s when the risk of burn-in increases too much. You might eventually notice that the “ghost” or outline of the HUD isn’t disappearing even after you’ve shut the game down. If you’re lucky, it’s just retention and it might go away after a while, but if it’s a burn-in, then there’s a chance that it might be permanent.
The same issue goes for productivity tools like Photoshop or Premiere Pro, or other creativity applications. Certain UI elements might burn in after prolonged use.
That’s why a lot of developers are now implementing a non-static HUD or UI, sometimes they just disappear when not in use, in order to alleviate the most glaring shortcoming of OLED screens.
A disclaimer is in order though; burn-in doesn’t usually happen in a short span. It might even take years before you start noticing it. Certain manufacturers offer years worth of burn-in warranty for OLED screens, seeing as they’re expensive.
Some manufacturers of high-end OLED monitors also might have solutions for such a problem, but a lot of them are still early-adopter technology, meaning consumers also double as quality testers.
OLED Might Still Be the Future
So far, the burn-in and the steep manufacturing cost are the two hurdles that OLED has to cross in order to become more popular and eventually overtake the LCD monitor or screen market.
It already excels in a monitor’s most important purpose, which is to give the most accurate visual information to its beholders. All that’s left is to iron out some major kinks.
The technology already took off in smartphones thanks to Samsung’s competitiveness with Apple. In the TV market, OLED is still expensive, but the burn-in problem is not too prevalent.
And while the burn-in issue is quite the risk for an expensive product, some dare say that it’s a fair compromise for perfect blacks and near-precise color and contrast accuracy. Of course, other improvements over LCD screens are big bonuses as well.
It’s up to you whether regular preventive measures and precautions are a good after-sales price to pay for the best digital image quality you can afford on a monitor.