A lot of excitement has been building recently about the release and popularization of OLED monitors. OLED monitors are computer displays that utilize pixels that are derived from OLEDs or Organic Light Emitting Diodes. OLEDs are different to LCDs because there are no liquid crystals used in the monitor, nor does it require back lighting to work.
How the monitors work in simple terms is that as current flows between the cathodes and anodes of the unit, the screen emits a layer of organic molecules that is known as electroluminescence. The illumination of the screen is then met with positive and negative charges inside the monitor that leads to a viewable picture, which is then termed electrophosphoresence.
There are different types of OLED monitors that in development for both gaming and casual use, with two most popular being passive-matrix and active-matrix OLEDs.
Passive-matrix OLEDs or (PMOLED) screens contain cells that have transparent and opaque cathodes that laid out next to each other in strips. Once you power the screen, the voltage flows through the screen’s components and powers the electrode intersection of the unit. This flow of electricity helps to determine the colors and brightness that is emitted from the screen itself.
Unlike their passive-matrix variants, active-matrix OLEDs or (AMOLED) have received a significant amount of attention from corporations such as Samsung, LG Japan and Sony for use in high-definition televisions and computer monitors.
The main difference between active and passive-matrix OLEDs is that active screens are integrated into a TFT or thin film transistor matrix. The additional TFT matrix controls what pixels are used during use, as well as functioning as a supporting substrate by determining current flow. Active OLEDs are the closest thing to what we have today in the form of TFT LCD monitors.
Other forms of OLEDs
There are also other forms of OLEDs on the market and in development that have specialist applications. OLEDs that are transparent work to produce a screen that is 80% transparent when electricity is not flowing through the unit. High-end displays could make use transparent OLEDs (TOELDs), as well as in military aircraft and solider heads-up display mounts.
Advantages of OLED Monitors
OLED displays represent the next step in evolution of display units, as it removes its dependence on the backlight entirely. The transparent film of OLED monitors can allow you to see an image with previously unattainable contrast, increased brightness and exceptionally vivid, lifelike colors.
Refresh rates and response times were also significantly improved over LCD monitors. It’s possible for an OLED monitor to have a response rate of 0.01 milliseconds, and a refresh rate that exceeds 1KHz. The bottom line is that OLED monitors will be able to show images that are far more realistic than what could be shown on LCDs, and this is only the beginning.
OLEDs are also a lot thinner and lighter due to the absence of a back light, which means you will be able to save much more power in the process. Some companies estimate that OLED monitors will be over ten times more efficient as the top-tier backlit monitors that we see today.
As stated previously, a different kind of advantage of the OLED monitor comes from the fact that it can be flexible and transparent, although this comes with its own set of problems in terms of real world application and manufacturing of the screens.
Natural components are used in OLED monitors that degrade over time, which can be expected out of any organic matter. The core issue is that the blue pixels in OLED monitors burn out faster than the red or green ones, which can lead to potential color balance issues. This can be particularly troublesome when the monitor is left on for an extended period of time, such is the case with computer monitors.
Another issue with using OLEDs as screen monitors is the ‘after-image effect’, where static content that is displayed for an extended period of time will leave a residual silhouette of the image. While the after-image effect might not be a problem for television content or for cellphone displays, computer users may find this to be particularly annoying and expensive to fix.
Developments in OLED Monitors
Leaps and bounds have been made in the development of OLED monitors, with the aim of increasing the lifespan of OLED pixels in the full color spectrum. It is now possible to coat organic materials onto the surface of the screen, which could extend the life time of blue pixels from 14,000 hours to 60,000.
The spraying process would mean that all of the colors will degrade at similar rates, thus increasing the monitor’s overall lifespan. This method of spraying the monitor with organic materials is known in the industry as Solution Coating Technology (SCT), and is pioneered by a company called DuPoint.
What OLED Monitors Are Available?
Although OLED gaming monitors are not presently viable in their current state, some high end laptops are making use of this new technology to considerable success. The Alienware 13 laptop features a Pascal-based, 1060 GPU along with a 13.3-inch 2560x1440x WQHD OLED display. The good news is that this laptop doesn’t break the bank, at only $1,200 the Alienware 13 is roughly the same price of an entry-level OLED TV.
Then there’s also Dell’s 30-inch 4k UltraSharp UP3017Q OLED monitor. This is one of the best options on the market at the moment, which includes wide color support, 120 Hz refresh rate and a 01ms response time, along with inbuilt features to prevent screen burn-in. The face detection mechanism reduces the likelihood of burn-in when you are not looking at it.
The only significant downside to the Ultra Sharp UP3017Q is that it retails for $5,000. It is expected to be released sometime in January 2017, although Dell has pushed back the release date of this monitor several times already, much to the chagrin of high-end gamers everywhere.
How to get the most out of an OLED Monitor
If you are on the fence about buying an OLED monitor for work-related use or for gaming, then you are probably wondering if your current setup is going to be good enough to support a monitor of this calibre in the first place.
As seen in the existing line of 4K monitors, you absolutely need a graphics card that can support it in order to get good enough frame rates for your purchase to be worthwhile. Anything less than the recommended specs at 4K and for OLED monitors isn’t going to cut it. The result is that your entire set up will probably cost well over the $10,000 mark, not including extras like hard drives and a high definition sound card.
The good news is that high end components are becoming cheaper to source and put together to form the perfect gaming computers. Shopping and comparison sites can easily sort and filter the cheapest vendors at the click of the button, and as OLEDs become more mainstream, the price is expected to drop to more manageable levels.
When are OLED monitors expected to be mass produced?
There is no set time frame for when OLED monitors will be seen in everyday applications. The monitor’s prohibitive price point makes it hard for companies and individuals to justify its expense, combined with the aforementioned production and maintenance issues of burn-in.
Most modern computers today simply would not be able to harness the full capabilities of an OLED monitor in the first place. Unless you buy only the premium of the high-end graphics cards can you really take advantage of the monitor’s astonishingly low refresh rates and resolutions. It is hard enough already to take advantage of a 4K monitor running at optimal resolutions, let alone a technology that has barely come out the research and development stage.
It should be noted however that the introduction of the OLED monitor can be compared to when the first LCDs were introduced only ten years ago. Back then, the price of an LCD monitor was just as prohibitive, with only the wealthiest of enthusiasts being able to purchase them. As technology becomes cheaper to produce, the price of the products fall. It’s only a matter of time before the same thing happens with the OLED monitor, but only if the kinks in the production process get sorted first.
People have theorized that it may take up to five years before OLED monitors hit the mainstream shopping market, unless a better alternative becomes available that is devoid from the prohibitive cost and technical problems. The competition between the 4K monitor and the OLED could also be similar to what we have seen in the zip drive versus optical discs, or the minidisc versus mp3 player market, where only one product could emerge as the victor.
The Bottom Line – Why you should be excited about the OLED monitor
The OLED monitor not only offers may key performance advantages over its LCD and 4k counterparts, there is also evidence to suggest that they could be cheaper and less expensive to run over the long term.
Power consumption is becoming a big deal when it comes to the purchase and manufacture of computer components in general, especially with the mainstream’s fears about global warming and greenhouse gases. The OLED monitor is significantly cheaper to run due to the absence of a backlight, saving on power. The unique construction of the monitor also indicates that it can be run for a longer period of time without fears of burning out the key components and transistors that power the screen itself, saving the buyer on maintenance and replacement costs.
The most significant advantage of the OLED however is its performance. You can seen videos on Youtube and other streaming sites to witness the performance and quality difference between a standard monitor compared to one powered by OLED, which we’re sure you’ll find is astonishing. For the first time, gamers will be able to see realistic colors at incredible resolutions.
OLEDs may not be a viable alternative to the traditional monitor just yet, but we are moving towards that goal with every new development that gets undertaken by the giants of Sony, LG and Panasonic. These companies are working in unison to make OLEDs a practical choice and cheaper for everyone who will settle for nothing but the very best in viewing quality.
The few examples on the market highlight the capabilities of the OLED monitor, and if you have the cash to burn on one you can probably afford the extra components that they require to get the most out of them. The lower power consumption could probably pay itself off over a long period of time anyway.
As companies begin to take OLED technology with a more serious focus, it is not impossible that we will start to see them more and more in classrooms and office environments as the market adopts the technology as its own.
In summary, OLED monitors are on their way up in the consumer electronics market. Only time will tell if 4K or OLED monitors will make its mark in the world of computing and televisions for good, but so far OLEDs have come out on top in terms of performance and overall longevity.
The cost of OLEDs are expected to drop significantly over the next few years as the technology matures and becomes cheaper for companies to manage and produce. In fact, the cost of an OLED television is set to be half of what they cost now at $20,000 for a 42 inch model (which is the same price that plasma televisions cost around 15 years ago).
Gamers just need to hold on and wait a few years before they become viable alternatives. The other gear needed to run them at full spec by then will have caught up as well, particularly the graphics card and central processors that are needed to handle the heavy load that is placed on the computer.