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. Click here for our complete list of laptops with OLED displays.
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:
DSCC says that OLED area shipments will grow in 2020 to around 10.5 million square meters, up from 8 million square meters in 2019 - a growth of around 31%. In terms of revenues, the OLED market will grow 35% in 2020 to reach $37.6 billion. DSCC says that in 2020, 731 million OLEDs will be produced (up 27% from 2019).
Smartphone revenues will reach $30.7 billion in 2019 (up 35% from 2019) while TV revenues will grow 28% to $3.2 billion. Smartwatch revenues will increase 11% in 2020 to $2 billlion. The revenues for all other OLED applications are expected to increase by 69% in 2020 to $1.6 billion, mainly driven by laptop OLED displays.
DSCC says that OLED panel revenues in Q4 2019 reached $8.1 billion, down 2% from Q3 2019 and pretty much the same as in Q4 2018. In terms of units, DSCC says that in Q4 2019 124 million smartphone panels were shipped, 31 million wearable panels and 998,000 TV panels.
Smartphone revenues in Q4 2019 were down 2% from Q4 2018 (due to lower average sales price for both rigid and flexible panels, the number of panels actually increased 4%), and revenues for TVs were up 30% (to $752 million). Smartwatches remain the 3rd largest market for OLED panels, and experienced strong growth in 2019, but it seems as if the growth may have plateaued (in Q4 the revenues were down 7% from last year).
Lenovo unveiled the world's first foldable laptop - the ThinkPad X1 Fold. This is a Windows 10 Pro laptop that uses a 13.3" 2048x1536 foldable OLED display. The X1 Fold features an Intel chipset (unspecified yet) and a wireless keyboard. The battery life should be about 11 hours.
Lenovo says the ThinkPad X1 Fold will ship in mid-2020 starting at $2,499. Lenovo reveals that LG Display is the producer of the foldable display.
Intel unveiled a new concept device called the Horseshow Bend, which uses a 17.3" foldable OLED display that folds into a 12" display. The device is based on Intel's upcoming "Tiger Lake" mobile processors.
Intel says that the Horseshoe Bend can be used in a number of postures for varying user experiences: laptop, all-in-one, lay-flat, canvas or book. It has also been developed with a detachable keyboard that fit seamlessly into the device when folded for easy transport.
BOE announced on its official Weibo channel that it supplies the foldable OLEDs to the Huawei Mate X and the Motorola Razr. We already know that BOE produces the 8" 2200x2480 foldable OLED used in the Mate X, but we did not know that BOE supplies the 6.2" 2142x876 foldable display used in the new Razr.
This is a bit of a surprise - as Motorola, on its official specs, says that the Razr uses a pOLED display which is an LGD brand.
In February 2019 Samsung started to produce 15.6" 4K AMOLEDs for laptops - and recently the company also started to produce 13.3" 4K AMOLEDs, already adopted by HP for a new laptop.
Last week SDC hosted an OLED for IT companies, and over 300 employees from laptop producers in Taiwan (including HP, Dell, Lenovo, and Asus) attended the event. During the event, Samsung says that it will add a new OLED panel to its lineup, a 13.3" FHD model - which will be cheaper than the 4K model which will help expand OLED adoption in more laptop models in 2020.
HP announced a new edition to its 13.3" Spectre x360 13 laptop - which comes with an optional 13.3" 4K AMOLED display. HP will start shipping the Spectre x360 13 OLED in October 2019.
This is the first time we hear of this new 13.3" 4K AMOLED display. In 2016 and 2017 Samsung produced 13" laptop OLED displays - but with a lower 2560x1440 resolution. This was used in an 2016 HP Spectre x360 13 laptop and also in some Alienware gaming laptops. In February 2019 Samsung started to produce 15.6" 4K AMOLEDs for laptops - and it's great to hear that it is now adding a smaller laptop display as well.
The Verge recently reviewed another OLED laptop, the HP 2019 Spectre x360 15, which uses the same SDC 15.6" display. The Verge says that the OLED is tremendous, and the reviewer sees "no reason why someone would pick an LCD over this OLED, given the option".