OLED PC monitors are some of the most highly-sought products for gamers and enthusiasts for their promised excellence in vibrancy, contrast, and efficiency. But as it turns out, searches for these products show up empty especially after Dell broke the hearts of MonitorNerds when they canceled the UP3017Q, a 30-inch 120Hz OLED panel with perfect coverage of gamuts and a 0.1ms response time.
It’s frankly disappointing for PC enthusiasts that we still don’t have an OLED PC monitor despite seeing them on everyday gadgets such as tablets, mobile phones, and even TVs which is the closest product type to a desktop display. But what is keeping these products out of our hands?
The Dell UP3017Q was the pioneering hopeful which could have opened the portal into OLED PC monitor gaming. Since it was canceled and so far, there are no announcements regarding a release with this type of panel from any manufacturer, the anticipation now turns into an annoyance for the willing buyers. So the hanging question is, when can we expect OLED PC monitors to become available?
Cost – The Biggest Hindrance
Any gadget slapped with the OLED tag is a lot more expensive than their conventional LCD counterparts. While having advantages in performance, the most significant cause for the price difference between these two is manufacturing yield rates. When OLED tech became available, production rates were uninviting because manufacturers were only able to produce one out of ten panels.
Over the years, the industry found breakthroughs and upgraded that yield rate from a dismal 10% to around 50% which is already a huge improvement. But that number is still nowhere near mature manufacturing yields for LCD panels, which go more than 90% nowadays.
The cost of every failed panel carries over to its surviving batchmates, therefore making each one twice as expensive if you have a 50% success rate. This is the biggest reason why the mobile phone arena enjoys OLED screens since it’s cheaper to deal with a 5 or 6-inch defective unit than a 24-inch or even a 32-inch module which will go to waste.
On the other hand, television sets are even bigger than the would be OLED PC monitors, but even these home devices often come out with OLED panels. Even if the yield rates stay at 50%, the TV market is still lucrative since it takes a huge chunk of the digital display market. Manufacturers can quickly regain their losses through the massive sales when compared to desktop monitors which only equate to a fraction of sales figures.
Of course, these big businesses will prioritize the side which will provide the most income and security in returns of investment. TV buyers are usually more than willing to pay big bucks for the latest devices to sit in their living rooms or bedrooms, so PC enthusiasts have to stand at the farthest point in the line.
Burn-in/Color Shifting – OLED PC Monitor’s Biggest Flaw
Image retention or burn-in is a defect wherein a ghost of a high-contrast image persists along with color-shifts on screen. This issue is caused by static images if displayed for too long. Samples of these files are documents and pictures during editing where they stay on-screen for some time.
Since RGB elements on OLED panels tend to deteriorate at different rates, color shifting will soon follow. This flaw becomes apparent when your screen starts to yellow or when some areas of the screen become washed or bland.
OLED PC Monitors will suffer the most from these issues since we tend to use them as described above. Imagine if you are editing a photograph for hours on end on an OLED display, or if you are furiously working on processing documents for your business. Games shouldn’t be an issue since most of the time, images are always flowing and varying every second.
The main reason why OLED proliferates on mobile devices and TVs is that they rarely go through similar situations described above. Phones have an energy saving feature where the screen usually turns off if not in use for a minute or even a few seconds, while TVs are used for moving pictures such as movies or shows.
Solutions to the OLED Dilemma
At some point, Samsung and DuPont fabricated a method which prolongs the lifespan of an OLED panel’s blue pixels from 14,000 to as much as 60,000 hours. This result is achieved by “spraying” the organic materials to the substrate while altering the molecules slightly to enable each RGB pixel to degrade at similar rates. This process reduced manufacturing costs and wasted materials to bring the pricing down substantially.
Manufacturers such as Sony and Panasonic are trying to solve the OLED PC monitors conundrum by using a Super Top Emission design which involves an RGB pixel design and color filters. These groups claim that their tech enhances color accuracy and overall efficiency, but they still have some unresolved issues.
LG, on the other hand, is trying a different method and is going as far as expanding investments to increase production capacity. Their preferred method, the WRGB-OLED tech, is the most hopeful solution so far. WRGB utilizes color filters over three organic subpixel layers with a fourth layer exclusively for pure white light. This design improves illumination efficiency to prolong the lifespan of a panel.
The other solution we came across is QLED (Quantum Dot Light Emitting Diode) technology, a non-organic alternative which is entirely different to the Quantum Dot backlighting we see on Samsung’s latest products. Insiders say that Samsung is going to drop OLED development entirely to pursue QLED and go commercial by 2019. If you are curious about this technology, you can read more about it here while it undergoes extensive development.
The predicament of still not having OLED PC monitors is a dire situation indeed. We still cannot get a handle on when the companies tasked with developing this tech will finally succeed since until this time the tech has suffered setback after setback.
The cancellation of the Dell UP3017Q OLED PC monitor says a lot about how the technology is coming along so far. According to sources, Dell canceled the product entirely because they cannot work around the degradation issue despite gimmicks such as pixel shifting. For something that would have cost five grand, it should have been a perfect product. But sadly, it was not the case.
If PC monitors had a share of the display market which is at least half of what the TV segment takes up, maybe manufacturers would take the risk and push out products to cater to those who are willing to pay the premium. But unlike televisions, both enthusiasts and regular computer users tend to use their screens for around three to five years before replacement, unlike TVs and mobile phones which are upgraded every year or two.
Some people in the community have given up on OLED PC monitors totally, and instead, relying on the advancements of IPS panels which have indeed closed the gap further in the past few years. So to answer the question this article tries to answer as accurate as possible, we may eventually see OLED monitors or the non-organic alternative QLED in two to five years time if the companies and researchers make breakthroughs soon, or the tech gods may consider it an obsolete or dead-end concept if otherwise.