With the advancement of technology, one of the pieces of tech that continues to transform is that of displays. The impressive Ultra HD 4K resolution is becoming an industry standard in the monitor and television market. At the same time, High dynamic range (HDR) is no longer a big deal since it is already present in most displays, even smartphones are benefiting from these technological gains. That aside, two of the most common display types that continue to compete in the wake of these advancements are organic light-emitting diode (OLED) and liquid crystal display (LCD). Both technologies are available in a wide variety of devices, including televisions, smartphones, tablets, monitors, and virtually anything that rocks a screen.
LCD is currently the most common display type of the two and is available on all kinds of technology. Sometimes, devices with this type of display may have labels referring to them as LED (light-emitting diode). The two descriptions mean the same thing, with the latter relating to the source of lighting rather than the display. OLED technology is more popular on high-end smartphones, such as the latest iPhone XS and Google Pixel 3. You can also find it on high-end television sets such as those manufactured by LG. Comparing LCD and OLED technology usually generates lots of differing opinions, with some individuals stating that the latter is the future. However, these are two different technologies that come with advantages and disadvantages over each other in various aspects. Read on for more information on each, how they work and their differences.
LCD screens are brighter than OLED displays. Brightness is an essential aspect of the display market, whether it is on monitors, leading 4K gaming TV’s, or smartphones, especially in bright environments. For instance, when viewing a display under sunlight or in a lit room, higher nits (units for measuring brightness) are essential. It is also vital for watching HDR video. This aspect is crucial, especially for TVs, but phones are also making a statement in regards to video performance. The higher the number of nits, the better the visual quality, which is the essence of having HDR support on modern devices.
If you use an LCD in a dark room, you will notice that some areas of an image that should be purely dark aren’t entirely black. In this case, you will see the screen’s backlighting showing through such images. This phenomenon affects a display’s contrast, which refers to the difference between the brightest highlights of a screen and its darkest shadows. When you’re looking for the a new monitor, you should see the contrast ratio as part of the specifications. This ratio shows the brightness of whites relative to the darkness of blacks. A good LCD monitor should rock a contrast ratio of 1000:1. For OLEDs, contrast is higher because when part of the screen is black, the pixels in this area don’t emit any light. It can’t get darker than that, meaning that the contrast ratio is infinite. However, the quality of images on the screen depends on how bright the lit-up part of the display is.
OLED panels offer excellent viewing angles due to their high pixel density and thin form factor. If you walk around an OLED display or sit at different angles, you won’t see any changes in contrast. This feature is why this type of display is popular on smartphones – you will hold your phone at different angles rather than have it parallel to your face. For LCDs, viewing angles are not that impressive, though it varies depending on the kind of technology used. LCD panels come in different types of variations. The most notorious LCD panel in regards to bad viewing angles is the twisted nematic (TN). This technology is common in lower-end monitors, laptops, and budget phones. When you view TN LCDs at an angle, you will notice them becoming too shadowy for viewing. Higher-end LCDs use IPS (in-plane switching) panels, which have improved viewing angles and better colors.
LCDs can produce awesome colors, but like in viewing angles, it all boils down to the technology used. Vertical alignment (VA) and IPS panels offer the most natural-looking colors with the right calibration. On the other hand, TN panels often produce washed out and weak colors but still have the fastest response and refresh rates, and depending on your point of view are still the best gaming monitors. OLED displays will produce vibrant colors but may have problems in keeping them natural looking. In the early OLED panels, the problem was worse as they struggled when it came to reigning in colors. The situation is better at present, though OLED displays struggle in regards to color volume. In this case, OLEDs will have difficulties maintaining color saturation levels in extremely bright settings. Critics of OLED technology usually point out this issue as the reason they prefer LCDs.
The Future of LCD and OLED Technologies
Going back to the point that none of these technologies is the future of the other – both are still undergoing improvements and advancements to make them better. OLED displays seek to become brighter and more affordable. LCDs are seeing further developments bringing their performance closer to that of their OLED counterparts. For instance, Samsung introduced a new technology powering up their LCDs known as a quantum dot. This technology works with Nanocrystals and blue LEDs of varying sizes and alters the wavelength of the light to produce different colors. This system significantly reduces the viewing angle and contrast issues on traditional LCD panels.
The Bottom Line
Deciding on the best type of display between OLED and LCD is not easy. Each of these technologies comes with its strengths and weakness in various departments. However, if you are working on a limited budget, you are likely to end up with an LCD panel whether you are going for a monitor, TV, or smartphone. OLED is more of a luxury currently since devices with these panels tend to be on the higher end of the market spectrum. At the moment, OLED is slowly gaining momentum over LCD. The gain is happening because it’s getting into more affordable devices. The bottom line is that, if we remove the cost factor, it all boils down to personal taste. You may want an OLED display because of its deep blacks or an LCD panel for its more natural colors.