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The Future of Display Technology: LCD vs. OLED

By 20. July 2016General

LCD Technology will have to get ready for a new competitor: OLED. This new technology is slowly making its way to be a solid player in the display market space. Today, most screens that are readily available in stores are still based on LCD technology, but the Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) displays are promising to shake up the market. But which technology should you invest in? What are the differences? And which display technology is better for which purpose? We have summarized the topic for you.

Before we get into it, we want to clear up a wide spread misconception about LED displays: There are no LED-TVs. LED is simply the built-in backlighting in LCD screens, made up of white LED lights. These lights can either be built in along the frame of the screen (Edge-LED) or be placed individually behind the entire display (Direct-LED). Having the backlighting only around the frame, a screen with Edge-LED is much thinner than one with Direct-LED. On the other hand, clusters of light can be locally dimmed in a Direct-LED screen, while occasionally the images on an Edge-LED can seem inconsistently lit.

Direct-LED

Edge-LED

Technology explained: OLED

Now, where is the difference between LCDs and OLEDs? To understand this, you first have to understand where the backlighting in a screen comes from. As we explained, in LCD-LED displays, the liquid crystals are being backlit with LED lights. The LCDs, like blinds, cover the light, or let it through, depending on the image being shown.

The main problem: The light can never be completely blacked out, which makes black tones look grayish and causing the image displayed to lose contrast and vibrancy. Local-dimming now allows each LED to be targeted individually, which helps, but still does not create a true black.

This is where OLED technology comes in. Wikipedia describes it like this:

An organic light-emitting diode (OLED) is a light-emitting diode (LED) in which the emissive electroluminescent layer is a film of organic compound that emits light in response to an electric current.

 

The special feature of OLED: The organic light-emitting diodes create their own light, working without a backlight. Every pixel has three different OLEDs in the colors red, green and blue (RGB), which then create every other color on the screen.

Advantages

The light-emitting diodes allow for a high contrast, by displaying deeper black levels than any LCD-LED display has been able to. Even though local-dimming is possible in LCD-LED displays, allowing individual LED clusters in direct-LED screens to dim, the so-called “blooming” effect is inevitable. Anyone who can remember the last Star Wars movies, will know what we mean. Especially where small, bright areas meet a black background will you notice that the picture quality suffers, because the black areas look grey and you lose contrast. This does not happen with OLED displays, where you will have high contrast and vivid images.

Another important advantage: Extremely thin and flexible design, which will definitely influence the future of all displays. Pioneer in OLED technology, LG, has already presented its 55-inch dual view screen with a depth of only 4.9 mm. A very exciting and promising leap into the future! OLEDs future top place in the market will be justified, not only for the home theater, but also for the digital signage industry. Shaping the entertainment sector with colorful and flexible displays.

The energy saving potential of OLED is just another reason to invest in this technology. Even though LCD-LED screens are pretty energy-efficient already, and the difference between OLED and LCD-LED is not that massive anymore, we believe that the continuous development in the OLED area will continue to increase energy savings.

Disadvantages

The biggest disadvantage of OLEDs is definitely their currently short lifespan, meaning the time in hours, after which the display will dim to only half its usual brightness. But how will that be noticed by the naked eye? For one, the blue OLEDs pixels lose their brightness quicker than the red or green ones. This throws off the color balance and images will look less realistic. With a lifespan of only around 20,000 hours, OLEDs are definitely coming up short compared to LCD screens, with around 100,000 hours.

One grave disadvantage for business solutions: OLEDs are currently not made for 24/7 usage. If a screen in your window display is meant to be used around the clock, you still have to rely on LCD technology.

When it comes to investing in displays, of course price plays a major part. Apart from smartphone and tablet display sizes, you are looking at extremely high costs when it comes to OLED technology. For total movie lovers, the price may not be as important, but most of the public will continue to choose LCDs. OLEDs also often lose out in the digital signage industry (business solutions) based on their high price – short lifespan combination. But the development doesn’t stop, and prices will significantly decrease over the next few years.

A look ahead

OLEDs don’t have to hide anymore. On the contrary: At ISE 2016 in Amsterdam the most talked about topic were OLEDs. Curved TVs, video walls or dual view displays with vivid, colorful images, the visitors were crowding around LGs booth and made OLEDs the hot topic. But still, for right now, lower prices and a longer lifespan still favor LCD-LED displays, for home entertainment and for business solutions. You can purchase 65-inch, 4K Ultra HD LCD screens for under €2800, while OLEDs in the same size cost around €5500.

Even though 2016 is not the breakthrough year for OLED screens, more and more early adopters and tech fanatics are in love with the high contrast images OLEDs can provide. But also the LCD-LED based “Quantum Dot” technology promises to come close to the visual experience of an OLED screen, making the future of display technology that much more exciting.

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