OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) is a display technology that is brighter, more efficient, thinner and feature better refresh rates and contrast than an LCD display. OLEDs deliver the best picture quality ever and OLED displays have been used in smartphones, wearables and TVs.
Why are OLED displays better than LCDs?
- In OLED displays, each pixel emits light independently (in LCDs, there is a white backlight).
- The contrast ratio of OLEDs is much better than in LCD
- OLEDs offer a much faster refresh rate and better viewing angles (great for games!)
- OLEDs are thinner and lighter than LCDs, and can be made flexible, foldable, rollable and transparent.
- OLEDs are more efficient, as only lit pixels draw energy. A smart user interface can result in very power efficient OLED displays!
2019 - OLED laptops finally arrive
OLEDs are already very successful in smartphone displays (over 500 million panels produced annually, adopted in smartphones from Apple, Samsung, Sony and others), OLED TVs and wearables. While in early 2016 several laptop makers announced the first OLED laptops (such as the Lenovo X1 Yoga with its 14" 2550x1440 AMOLED and the HP Spectre X360 with its 13.3" 2560x1600 AMOLED display), these laptops were produced in small quantities and quickly discontinued.
In early 2019, Samsung finally announced it start mass producing OLED displays for laptops. The first displays will be 15.6" UHD (3840x2160) AMOLED panels that feature high contrast ratio, extreme color accuracy, full HDR compatibility, a very wide color gamut and remarkable outdoor visibility (for more details on Samsung's 2019 15.6" AMOLEDs, click here). SDC is targeting premium laptops, as these ultra high resolution panels are optimized for gaming, graphic design and video streaming.
Following Samsung's announcement, three companies quickly announced 15" OLED laptops - HP with its Spectre x360, Lenovo with the Yoga C730 and Dell with the XPS 15, Dell G7 15 and the Alienware m15. It is likely that at least some of these laptops will start shipping in March 2019 when SDC will actually start supplying the panels.
What the future holds
If this first wave of OLED laptop displays will be successful, it is likely that Samsung will release more laptop displays - including smaller 13.3" OLEDs and 14" OLEDs. In addition we are looking forward to seeing laptops with flexible OLEDs and also ones with transparent displays (not sure why is that a good idea, but it sure looks great):
Image retention (burn-in)?
One of the major drawbacks of an OLED display is that because each pixel is driven independently and because the lifetime of an OLED emitter is limited, image retention (known as burn-in) is a real problem. A much-used pixel is less bright than a pixel that hasn't been driven a lot (for a more technical explanation, click here).
In computer user interface this is a problem - as some UI elements are quite fixed (toolbars, icons, etc). There are some technologies to handle this problem - for example by measurement and compensation. As OLED lifetime improves, image retention is also less visible - and it appears that as of 2019, the situation is improved enough that Samsung believes OLED can be adopted successful in laptop displays.
The latest OLED Laptop news:
Last week we reported that Asus demonstrated an OLED gaming laptop - even though it still has some concerns with OLED displays and is not ready to release such a device commercially.
It turns out that Asus has another OLED laptop in the works - the ZenBook Pro Duo which actually features two screens - an SDC 15.6" 4K AMOLED main display and another, smaller 14" LCD that is placed above the keyboard. This is just a prototype, but according to reports this seems like a finished product, and it could reach the markets soon.
Asus recently launched a new gaming laptop, the Zephyrus S GX502, which uses a 15.6" 4K 120Hz LCD IPS display. At Computex 2019 in Taiwan, Asus demonstrated one of these laptops with an 15.6" SDC AMOLED display.
Asus says it has no immediate plans to release an OLED gaming laptop as it still has concerns over the shorter lifespan of OLED displays, image retention (burn-in) and long-term color accuracy. As soon as these concerns are resolved, Asus says it will push forward with incorporating OLED panels in gaming laptops.
In February 2019 Samsung Display started to mass produce its new 15.6" 3840x2160 OLED display panels, and some of the first 2019 OLED laptops are already shipping.
Korea-site The Elec says that according to its sources, Apple is "considering adoption" of OLED displays in its Pro laptop and tablets lines. The iPad Pro will adopt an 11" OLED while the MacBook Pro will adopt a 15.6" one.
Earlier this month Lenovo demonstrated a prototype 13.3" foldable OLED ThinkPad laptop. We speculated that LGD is the display supplier, and yesterday LGD's CTO confirmed this.
Lenovo said that it developed this device for over three years, and hopes to launched a commercial one in 2020. InOctober 2018 it was first reported that LG Display is working together with Lenovo on a 13.3" foldable OLED laptop device, but that was not confirmed until now.
Update: LGD confirms it is supplying the 13.3" foldable OLEDs to Lenovo's prototypes.
Lenovo demonstrated a prototype foldable ThinkPad laptop, that features a 13.3" foldable OLED display. Lenovo says that it developed this device for over three years, and hopes to launched a commercial one in 2020.
The reporters at The Verge really liked the device, but noted that the hardware is clearly not finished - the folding mechanism for example did not feel sturdy (and we all know this is critical in a foldable device) and the display itself suffers from "remarkably poor viewing angles".
GizChina reports that senior executives at Intel said that the company is looking at laptops with foldable OLED displays, working together with LG Display, Samsung Display, BOE and Sharp. There are many challenges to overcome, and Intel estimates that such foldable laptops will not arrive before 2021.
In October 2018 Samsung Electronics said that it is developing laptops with foldable displays, while other reports suggested that that LG Display is collaborating with Lenovo to develop a 13" foldable tablet.
In February 2019 Samsung Display started to mass produce its new 15.6" 3840x2160 OLED display panels, and finally we have the first laptop to ship with such a panel - Dell is now offering its 2019 Alienware m15 laptop. The 15.6" OLED display is a $350 extra compared to the regular 15.6" FHD LCD (according to Digitimes, the price gap between these two displays should have been closer to $60).
SDC is targeting premium laptops, as these ultra high resolution panels are optimized for gaming, graphic design and video streaming. At CES we saw three companies that announced 15" OLED laptops - HP with its Spectre x360, Lenovo with the Yoga C730 and Dell with the XPS 15, Dell G7 15 and the Alienware m15 which is indeed now shipping.
DSCC says that OLED market revenues will grow from $26.5 billion in 2018 to $28.7 billion in 2019 and over $52 billion by 2023. The largest application will remain smartphone displays, but several other applications will generate over $1 billion in 2023 - TVs, tablets, notebooks and monitors. By area of production, TV displays will surpass smartphone displays in 2021.
Samsung is still (and will remain so) the dominant AMOLED display producer, even though its market share will drop from 97% in Q1 2018 to 81% in Q4 2019. In Q1 2019 Visionox surpassed LGD to become the 2nd largest AMOLED producer (but most of Visionox's panels are low-end 5.5-inch panels). DSCC expects LGD to regain its number 2 position in the second half of 2019. BOE is the third player and will remain so following its supply agreement with Huawei.
HP introduced its 2019 Spectre x360 15 high-end laptop in CES 2019 - including a top-of-the-line variant that sports a 15.6" 4K AMOLED display. HP originally aimed to start shipping it in March 2019, but this did not happen and according to Anandtech, the company says it now hopes to start shipping it on April 19.
Interestingly Anandtech also says that HP will release an updated HP Envy laptop which will also sport the same AMOLED display. We do not have more details on the new Envy laptop yet.