OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) is a new 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 starting in 2016 laptop makers have started to adopt OLEDs in their newest devices.

Why are OLEDs better than LCDs?

  • OLEDs are much thinner and lighter than LCDs.
  • OLEDs consume less power - as only lit pixels draw energy - so an almost black screen will require very little power. Applications can take advantage of this (for example a white font on black background).
  • OLEDs offer better picture quality with much faster refresh rates, infinite contrast and better viewing angles - especially useful for gamers.
  • OLEDs can be made flexible or even transparent.

2016 - OLED laptops finally arrive

After years of waiting and seeing OLEDs adopted in a wide range of devices such as mobile phones, tablets, TVs and wearables, in early 2016 several laptop makers finally announced their first products with OLED displays.

Samsung Galaxy TabPro S photo

Lenovo's X1 Yoga is a laptop-tablet hybrid that is equipped with a 14" 2550x1440 display - LCD in the lower models and OLED in the higher-end ones. The basic X1 Yoga starts at $1,449 (with an LCD) - the OLED model will be released in April 2016 - price hasn't been announced yet.

OLED Alienware 13 photo

HP has announced a similar product - a model of the popular Spectre X360 hybrid laptop/tablet that comes with a 13.3" 2560x1600 AMOLED display. The OLED model will be released "in the spring of 2016". Dell's Alienware announced a a gaming laptop, the Alienware OLED 13 R2 - and it uses a 13" 2560x1440 AMOLED display. Alienware says that the OLED model will cost exactly the same as the LCD model. The Alienware OLED 13 laptop will ship in April 2015 starting at $1,499.

What the future holds

In the future we hope to see more laptop makers release models with OLED displays, and it's likely that price premium over LCDs will drop. 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.

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.

Further reading

Latest OLED Laptop news

DSCC: OLED equipment spending to continue and decline, strong demand to return only in 2020

DSCC updated its forecast for display equipment spending, saying that in 2018 OLED spending is expected to fall 28% compared to 2017 to $10.8 billion (while LCD spending will grow 22% to $11.4 billion). China-based display makers will account for 90% of all display related equipment spending in 2018.

Display equipment spending by technology (2016-2021, DSCC)

2019 will see another down year for OLED spending that will drop 31% to $7.4 billion (LCD spending is also expected to fall by 32%). Chinese display makers will again lead in spending (77% of the market).

Will Samsung target new applications now that its smartphone OLED lines are under-utilized?

In the past few weeks we heard many reports that following lower than expected OLED orders from Apple (due to disappointing iPhone X sales) Samsung Display has suddenly found itself with under utilized OLED production lines.

Samsung already said that it aims to find new customers for its OLEDs, mostly in smartphone makers in China. Some analyst say however that this won't be so easy as the higher costs of SDC's AMOLED displays deter some of its potential customers, who prefer to opt for lower-cost high-end 18:9 LCDs.

Graphene for Displays and Lighting Market Report

IHS sees AMOLED shipments surging in 2017, fast growth throughout 2020

IHS says that AMOLED panel shipment will increase 63% in 2017, driven by strong demand from smartphone makers. Looking forward the AMOLED market will experience fast growth, as demand will rise for smartphones, TVs, VR HMDs and mobile PCs.

AMOLED shipment revenue forecast (2015-2021, IHS)

In 2017 the AMOLED market will reach $25.2 billion in revenues, up from about $15 billion in 2016. The OLED TV market will grow to 1.5 million units (up from from 890,000 units in 2016). Mobile display resolution continue to increase, and in 2017 68% of shipments will be of FHD, QHD and WQHD resolutions.

Samsung aims to adopt OLEDs in all its future tablets

According to a report in Korea, Samsung Electronics has decided to start adopting OLED displays in all of its tablet devices and to increasingly use OLEDs in laptops.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 photo

Samsung Display is currently producing OLEDs for tablets and laptops in a limited quantity, as most of its OLED capacity is dedicated to mobile phone displays. According to ETNews SDC will continue to gradually convert its LCD lines to OLED and the ultimate goal of SDC is to only produce OLED displays for mobile devices.

Apple officially launches the new MacBook Pro with the OLED Touch Bar

As was pretty much confirmed by several reports and leaks, Apple introduced its new MacBook Pro 2016 models - which include an OLED Touch Bar instead of the traditional function keys.

Apple MacBook Pro 2016 photo

The OLED strip is supported by most of Apple's applications and can be used to show bookmarks while you browse the internet, emojis in messaging applications, and more. Apple released an API to developers can support the Touch Bar in third-party applications. The OLED strip also includes a Touch ID sensor that is activated for example when you wish to pay online (on supported web stores).

Leaked Apple pay image confirms the Macbook Pro's OLED magic toolbar

Tomorrow (October 27th) Apple is set to announce its new MacBook Pro lineup, and reports suggested that one of the new features in these new laptops will be an OLED touch bar, a secondary display placed above the keyboard (instead of the function keys).

Apple pay leaked magic toolbar photo

A leaked image (shown above) from Apple's Pay platform was circulated yesterday, showing and supposedly confirming the new touch bar (which many believe Apple will call Magic Toolbar) - which will also apparently support touch ID.

Will a secondary OLED on Apple's MacBook Pro be a boon to the OLED industry?

This is a premium OLED-Info article

Apple is set to announce its new MacBook Pro lineup towards the end of October. In June we reported of rumors that one of the new features in these new laptops will be an OLED touch bar, a secondary display placed above the keyboard (instead of the function keys). You can see a proposed render (this is not an official photo of course):

Apple MacBook Pro 2016 secondary OLED renderMacBook Pro render (Source: Martin Hajek)

Since June, more reports surfaced that confirm the secondary-OLED. It seems that most analyst now agree that the MacBook Pro will indeed come with this interesting OLED strip. A leaked Chassis image from June, which you can see above, supports these rumors. I'm sure Apple will find very nice use cases for such a display on a laptop. It is interesting to try and figure out the effect of Apple's secondary MacBook Pro OLED on the OLED market itself.

Engadget: The OLED in Lenovo's X1 Yoga is so good, we want OLED displays in all our devices

Lenovo announced its OLED X1 Yoga laptop-tablet hybrid back in January 2016, and the high-end OLED laptop is finally shipping. Engadget posted a review, and it appears that the display is simply stunning.

Lenovo X1 Yoga photo

The reviewer says that the OLED display simply "blew his mind", and concludes his review saying that "the Thinkpad X1 Yoga is a reminder that OLED isn't just bright and bold, it's a transformative display technology. Now if only it weren't so expensive".