Ever wondered what makes OLED monitors so special or so…expensive, for that matter?
This is the question I’ll be tackling and breaking down today, so by the end of this article, you should have a clear-cut idea of what OLED monitors are and whether or not they’re right for you and your use case.
With that statement of intent out of the way, let’s dive right in!
What Are OLED Monitors?
OLED Monitors are monitors made with OLED display panels.
OLED stands for “Organic Light-Emitting Diode”. Like LCD-based panels (TN, IPS, VA— the standards), OLED is a fixed-pixel display but is not made with LCD (Liquid Crystal Display).
Fixed-pixel means all pixels on an OLED are physical objects.
OLED and LCD-based panels, as fixed-pixel displays, look best when they’re displaying at their full, native resolutions.
All fixed-pixel displays suffer from scaling issues when dealing with sub-native resolution content, especially when it can’t be evenly scaled up to native resolution.
This is in contrast to classic CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) technology, which was used in classic tube TVs and bulky PC monitors in the 90s and prior.
These old display technologies worked in a manner more akin to projection, which made them better at displaying sub-native images without an extreme loss in quality.
OLED may share a fixed pixel array in common with LCD panels, but the similarities end there. Let’s start diving into what makes OLEDs truly different from these other displays.
What Makes OLED Monitors Different From Other Monitors?
The biggest unique element of OLED panels is the ability to power off individual pixels, giving it, by far, the best version of per-pixel dimming.
This gives OLED displays a unique advantage for displaying deeper, darker levels of contrast on a monitor.
The closest cousin to this in LCD-type panels is VA (Vertical Alignment) panels, but VA panels can’t power off individual pixels and are generally a much worse panel all-around in terms of image quality when compared to OLED.
The Benefits of OLED Monitors
So, what are the unique benefits of OLED monitors?
The Best Contrast, Local Dimming, and HDR
OLED panels offer the best contrast and HDR through their implementation of local dimming.
A unique strength of OLED (and, to a lesser extent, VA) panels is the addition of per-pixel dimming, allowing different screen regions to shine at different brightness levels.
This considerably improves contrast in general, as well as HDR implementations, which heavily rely on changing screen brightness per-region or sometimes per pixel.
Great Color Reproduction
Another strength of OLED displays is in their color reproduction.
While not every OLED is necessarily going to be tuned for color accuracy, the ones that are still benefit greatly from being on OLED due to the inherent boon of per-pixel dimming and per-pixel power for contrast.
Many OLED monitors and TVs are tuned for high color gamut and color accuracy to make the most of the higher-end display technology and look considerably more vivid as a result.
High Refresh Rate, Low Response Time, and Input Lag
When it comes to specifications like pixel response time and input lag, some traits are inherent to the display panel type.
CRTs and 1 ms TN panels offer the best pixel response time, which is near instant. OLED panels are capable of matching and exceeding this 1 ms response time, which also makes them suited for low-latency gaming when tuned for low input lag as well.
Pixel response time, contrary to popular belief, does not correlate directly to input lag. Rather, it’s tied to forced motion blur and not the artistic kind added in film and games.
Rather, flat screen panels will have higher forced motion blur with higher pixel response times, sometimes even resulting in ghosting.
Ghosting makes displays unsuited for latency-sensitive applications, as well as high-speed or high-refresh rate content in general.
Ghosting is not a concern on 1 ms OLED monitors, and input lag is usually fairly good as well.
Regarding refresh rate, OLED is great but not the best on the market.
Refresh rates don’t reach the same peaks as the fastest TN or IPS panels for most OLED displays, but 240 Hz 1440p OLED panels are in the works at LG, and many 4K OLED TVs and Monitors already support 120 Hz.
The Drawbacks of OLED Monitors
What are the major drawbacks of OLED monitors compared to other types of monitors?
Increased Risk of Screen Burn-In
While OLED is great, its biggest fundamental flaw is the higher risk of screen burn-in.
Screen burn-in can happen on other panel types too, but OLED is more prone to screen burn-in than other panels are.
However, there are ways to avoid this downside, including turning the screen off when not in use and not exposing it to static screen elements for multiple hours at a time.
While you should still take steps to avoid this as an owner of an OLED display, you don’t necessarily need to stress about it.
Higher Pricing Than Other Panels
While I’ve spent most of this article singing the praises of OLED, one critical flaw I need to point out is that OLEDs are generally priced much, much higher than comparable monitors, even next to IPS, the other high-end panel type.
Even the cheapest OLED monitors and TVs start at $500 at the cheapest and often breach into the thousands on the high-end.
Limited Options In General
Finally, let’s talk about the last main weakness of OLEDs: limited options!
Not many manufacturers are actually making OLEDs, and when they do, they’re usually making TVs or a limited variety of OLED monitors. This means there’s less competition and overall variety in the OLED monitor space, though this should improve with time.
What You Should and Shouldn’t Do On An OLED Monitor
What should and shouldn’t you do on an OLED monitor?
Should Do: Image Work, Video Editing, and HDR Content Production
OLED Monitors tuned for high color gamut and high color accuracy are great for all forms of content production, especially HDR content production with HDR support enabled.
Since OLEDs provide the best HDR viewing experience, they can also provide the best HDR editing experience.
Should Do: Gaming
OLED Monitors can also be tuned for a good gaming experience, especially when running at 120 Hz or higher.
All the image quality benefits of OLED shine in games without introducing input lag or pixel motion blur from slow response time.
Should Do: Media Consumption
OLEDs are superb for media consumption, especially film and other high-quality video content (especially with HDR support).
With the deepest range of blacks and contrast made possible by OLED, the addition of other high-end display technologies like HDR can provide a truly Home Theatre-worthy viewing experience for an OLED display.
Shouldn’t Do: Extended Desktop Work Sessions
OLEDs shouldn’t be exposed to static elements, like taskbars that don’t move or auto-hide or windows that are left open, for hours at a time. This increases the risk of screen burn-in, and long shifts of desktop work with mostly-static content may not be ideal for an OLED display.
Shouldn’t Do: Static Wallpaper or Screensaver
Due to static content increasing the risk of screen burn-in, using an OLED to display a static wallpaper or screensaver when not in use is strongly recommended against.
Shouldn’t Do: Leave Powered On When Not In Use
Due to the higher risks of screen burn-in in general, making a point to turn off an OLED when not in use is a great way to make sure you extend its lifespan without incurring noticeable burn-in.
Current Availability of OLED Monitors and Who Makes Them
Most available OLED monitors start at 27 Inches but can often reach 30, 40, or 50-inch screen sizes.
Ultrawide OLED monitors are also somewhat common.
Here is how the OLED monitor market generally breaks down per brand (based on released and announced monitors) in late 2022:
- LG OLED Monitors: Making Consumer, Gaming, Ultrawide, and Professional OLEDs
- ASUS OLED Monitors: Making Professional, Gaming, and Consumer OLEDs
- Eizo OLED Monitors: Making Professional OLEDs
- Dell and Alienware OLED Monitors: Making Professional OLEDs (Dell), Making Gaming and Ultrawide OLEDs (Alienware)
- ViewSonic OLED Monitors: Making Professional OLEDs
- Acer OLED Monitors: Making Gaming OLEDs
- Samsung OLED Monitors: Making Ultrawide, Gaming OLEDs
- BenQ OLED Monitors: Making Gaming OLEDs
Are OLED TVs As Good As OLED Monitors?
Generally yes, though OLED TVs may not always be suited to desktop use due to their larger size and differing designs.
You may need to do some software tweaking to get an OLED TV working properly for desktop use.
As long as the display isn’t too large for your comfort, an OLED TV should usually serve decently as a monitor.
Should I Get an OLED Laptop?
If the benefits of OLED appeal to you and especially if you’re looking to do visual work on a laptop, getting an OLED laptop is a sensible choice.
Otherwise, it might be a little overpriced for the feature if you’re only going to be gaming or doing office work.
Is HDR Better on OLED?
This is because of OLED’s superior per-pixel dimming, which powers off pixels fully, as discussed earlier in the article.
Over to You
And that’s all!
I hope that this article taught you everything you needed to know about OLED monitors.
Are you interested in an OLED monitor for your workloads, are the higher prices compared to high-end IPS monitors a deterrent? Are you considering only getting OLED in a TV form factor to make the most of the technology? Comment below and let me know your answers!
Alternatively, do you have other questions about OLED or monitors in general? Feel free to post those in the comments or head to the CGDirector Forums, where other team or community members will be happy to assist you.
Until then or until next time, have safe travels! And don’t forget: OLED has by far the best per-pixel dimming, and by extension, the best contrast and HDR.