OLED (organic light-emitting diode) screens are coming. You’ll see them on TVs, com- puter monitors, laptop screens, tablets, and even phones, and the prices are headed down fast. Can or should they supplant LED screens, which have led the computer charge since the turn of the century? That’s’ a tough question with no easy answer.
First, understand that an LED screen is actually an LCD screen — an older technology —
augmented by backlighting or edge lighting, typically from LEDs or fluorescent lamps.
A huge variety of LED screens are available, but most of the screens you see nowadays incorporate IPS (in-plane switching) technology, which boosts color fidelity and viewing angles.
OLED is a horse of a different color. IPS LED pixels (considered far superior to the older TN LED pixels) turn different colors, but they rely on the backlight or sidelight to push the color to your eyes. OLED (pronounced “oh-led”) pixels make their own light. If you take an LED screen into a dark room and bring up a black screen, you can see variations in the screen brightness because the backlight intensity changes, if only a little bit. OLED blacks, by (er) contrast, are uniform and thus deeper.
All sorts of new techniques are being thrown at LED, and LED screens are getting better and better. HDR (high dynamic range) improvements, for example, make LED pictures stand out in ways they never could before. Quantum dots improve lighting and color. Many people feel that, at this point, OLEDs have blacker blacks, but the best LEDs pro- duce better brights.
The huge difference is in price: OLED screens are still two to eight or more times more expensive than LED. The price of OLED is dropping rapidly, though. In addition, OLEDs don’t last as long as LEDs — say, a decade with normal use. There’s also some concern that OLEDs draw more power — and will burn through a laptop battery — faster than LCDs, but some contest that statement. Much depends on the particular LED and OLED you compare.