2016 has the potential to be a big year for display technology. We have seen various technologies emerge in recent years, from Smart TVs to 4K Ultra HD, but the battle remains between two very different display technologies - LCD and OLED. They’re being used for monitors, televisions, mobile phones, cameras and pretty much anything else with a screen.
In today’s blog, we’re going to look at the strengths and weaknesses of these two technologies vying to make displays brighter, sharper and better overall.
OLED vs LCD LED
The first question to answer is - what’s the main difference between these two types of technology? In a nutshell, LED LCD displays use a backlight to illuminate pixels while OLED’s pixels actually produce their own light. We have very limited control over the level of brightness with LED LCD screens, while we can control OLED displays pixel-by-pixel.
It’s all about picture quality. No other display technology can match the colour reproduction of OLED panels. Every individual pixel in an OLED panel generates colours by using phosphors to emit the light of a desired colour. Colours in LCD panels are limited, having to use liquid-crystal filters to bend light and create different colours.
LCD displays also suffer from backlight bleed. OLED’s emissive panels don’t have backlights and so, they avoid these bright and dark spots. LCD displays also have much slower pixel response time compared to OLEDs, which are ten times as fast as conventional LED displays.
So you may be asking yourself - if OLED is so good, why are LCD screens more common?
Well, OLED’s are expensive and extremely difficult to produce. Only a small number of companies, like Samsung, LG and Panasonic, have released full-size OLED TVs. However, in 2016, we should see this number increase.
It also must be said that LCD displays are making improvements to bridge this gap. New technologies such as quantum dots have improved the color in high-end LCD TVs. While the biggest improvement of 2016 will likely be High Dynamic Range (HDR), which allows for better colour reproduction, deeper blacks and brighter whites.
Sony takes on OLED
But OLEDs are certainly not perfect. Aside from cost, their major weakness is brightness. Sony are looking to combine the best of both worlds, and release a television with the pixel control of an OLED TV and the brightness of an LCD LED.
Their new Z series includes more LEDs, brighter LEDs, more-focused LEDs, and LEDs that can be controlled individually. While they still can’t offer the same level of control as an OLED TV, they have gotten closer than any LCD TV ever.
By increasing the number of LEDs in the backlight, the idea is that each one supplies the light for fewer pixels. In doing so, we will have more control over contrast by turning off and on these LEDs. They demoed this new system, called “Backlight Master Drive,” at CES. Wired reports that the prototype TV churned out 4,000 units of luminance while keeping dark areas of the screen impressively black.
As we have mentioned earlier, one of OLEDs main drawbacks has been its cost. Sony’s new model will make them look like a bargain, with a 65-inch XBR Z9D setting you back $7,000.
The main challenge for OLEDs in the coming years is to address its cost and difficulty in production, so it becomes cheaper to make and more affordable for the consumer. Meanwhile, LCDs must continue to improve the picture quality and other limitations in order to compete with some of OLED’s superior qualities.
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