The OLED vs LED monitor debate is real. These competing flat-panel display technologies both have unique qualities, and some potential drawbacks. How to choose which one will suit your needs? While OLED seems like the best bet for all, you might first want to get a clear idea of what you’re going to use the monitor for.
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If you research computer monitor technology, or explore the monitors currently available on the market, the OLED vs LED monitor question will pop up sooner than later.
Despite sounding similar, OLED and LED monitors utilize fundamentally different technology to emit light so users can see images on their screen. Both OLED and LED technology have their plus points, as well as their potential drawbacks, so it’s important to get to grips with what each of the two technologies has to offer, along with the situations where one may be more desirable than the other.
This read will provide an in-depth exploration of OLED vs LED monitor technology, outlining how they work, the ways in which OLED and LED monitors differ from one another, and more. We will also provide information on who can benefit the most from each technology and why.
Understanding LED Monitor Technology
At present, LED monitor technology remains the most popular option that has proved itself reliable for many years. As the name indicates, LED monitors utilize light-emitting diodes to provide backlighting. This illuminates a liquid-crystal display, creating an on-screen picture.
One of the more potentially confusing aspects of monitor technology involves understanding the terminology surrounding LED and LCD displays. While these sound like competing technologies, they’re not, but this is a common misunderstanding. LED refers to the backlighting of the display, while LCD refers to the diodes that produce light on their own. All LED monitors also utilize LCD displays and LED backlighting, which is why they are sometimes described as LED/LCD.
LED does have some potential advantages over OLED. For instance, it can be less prone to issues like screen burn or image retention, where a display continues to show artifacts of a previous image. The backlighting means LED screens are capable of being brighter than OLED screens, and LED monitors are also generally more affordable too. Although LED contrast is weaker than with OLED, mini-LED is a relatively new technology, which helps to bridge this gap.
What is OLED?
It’s worth taking the time to understand precisely what OLED monitor technology is and how it works. OLED stands for organic light-emitting diode. The main way in which OLED technology differs from what you would find in a more conventional LED/LCD monitor is that each pixel can autonomously emit light. This is because all pixels are linked to the electroluminescent layer, or the emission of light.
A conventional LED monitor uses light-emitting diodes to emit light when a current runs through it. This then provides the backlight for a liquid-crystal display (LCD) screen and lights up the individual pixels, providing the image that a user sees. By contrast, with OLED technology, the pixels are not backlit. Instead, each individual pixel is able to turn on or off, meaning the display can be controlled down to the individual pixel.
This fundamental difference in technology can also describe OLED as being ’emissive’, while LED/LCD technology is instead described as ‘transmissive’. Therefore, despite the two names sounding similar, OLED and LED technology work in completely different ways.
The Benefits of OLED Technology
With a basic understanding of what OLED monitor technology is, let’s explore some of its most prominent benefits and learn how an OLED monitor might be a better bet than an LED/LCD display for both work and home use.
One of the most noticeable differences when working with an OLED display — instead of an LED display — is the stark appearance of the color black. As an OLED monitor lights individual pixels, rather than relying on a backlight, these pixels can be turned off entirely, and this produces a pure black color and a higher contrast with white.
The backlighting in LED monitors means they cannot block light out entirely. When black is shown on an LED monitor, you’re actually seeing dark gray. This can also cause a ‘halo’ effect in certain situations, like when white text moves across a black background.
Improved Viewing Angles
Despite recent improvements to LED/LCD displays, generally, OLED monitors offer superior viewing angles. This means that the display will not be distorted or negatively impacted by the angle you view it from. This is a huge change because with some LED monitors you have to sit directly in front of them to see a clear and accurate picture.
With OLED monitors, the absence of backlighting and the thinness of the display panels help to ensure that the picture looks clear and accurate from different angles. Improvements to viewing angles can be especially beneficial if you are going to be using a dual monitor setup for work, as you will likely need to position yourself between both screens.
Another significant benefit associated with OLED monitors — often overlooked before the purchase — is their physical properties. The internal components of OLED monitors and televisions are made of plastic, organic layers which are thinner and lighter than their LED/LCD crystalline counterparts.
The lightweight nature of OLED technology means that an OLED monitor is likely to weigh less than an equivalent-sized LED monitor, making it easier to transport, carry, and mount. At the same time, the materials used within OLED monitors are also more flexible, and this may mean the monitors are less likely to suffer lasting damage while in transit. Given this upgraded physical properties, it’s not surprising to see that OLED is becoming increasingly popular on portable monitors. And the greater color performances make these models perfect for all photographs and video maker that need to proof their shots on field
Less Blue Light Emissions
Another benefit associated with OLED’s ability to completely dim pixels is the lower levels of blue light emitted by these monitors. In some cases, the reduction in blue light can result in half as much blue light being emitted when compared to LED/LCD panels. In short, this means OLED monitors are better for your eyes.
It’s important to reduce blue light as much as possible, as it’s high energy visual light with the potential to be harmful. In fact, it’s a major contributing factor to eye strain experienced when looking at a computer monitor for too long. Long-term, it can also contribute to headaches and eye fatigue while negatively impacting sleep quality.
Reduced Power Consumption
As OLED monitors allow pixels to be controlled on an individual level, this means that individual pixels can be turned off completely, leading to reduced power consumption when compared to LED monitors with high brightness settings. This can be especially advantageous in settings like offices and schools, where a number of monitors may be needed.
OLED technology is also more environmentally friendly at production level, and this is primarily because it does not utilize the greenhouse gas, nitrogen trifluoride.
Faster Response Times
Another major plus point of OLED technology is its faster response time thanks to low input lag. In other words, with LED/LCD technology there’s less delay between you performing an action using your mouse or keyboard and that same action presenting itself on the screen.
When considering the need for fast response time, it becomes evident how integral it is especially in reducing input lag and motion blur. In general, LED monitors are more prone to these problems than OLED monitors.
Monitor Panel Types: A Comparison
A comparison between an OLED vs LED monitor would not be complete without learning about other monitor panel types that exist. Here’s what they are, how they work, and what they have to offer.
In-Plane Switching Panels (IPS)
In-plane switching, or IPS panels, are the LED panel type most associated with great color display. The switching nature of the molecules in the liquid-crystal display helps to provide excellent clarity. Those panels also allow for a wider variety of viewing angles without distorting the image.
One potential downside to IPS panels, when compared to OLED and Twisted nemantic (TN) panels, is the slower response times. This is unlikely to be an issue with most ways the monitors are used, but if ultra-fast input response times are needed, the two other options mentioned above are likely to be better choices.
Twisted Nemantic Panels (TN)
Twisted nemantic (TN) panels are the oldest LED/LCD technology and they have some significant disadvantages. For instance, viewing angles are extremely limited, meaning that unless you are directly in front of your monitor, the image may look distorted or incomplete.
TN panels remain popular, however, with certain users because they provide extremely fast response times what makes them an excellent choice for competitive gaming. On top of it, while color presentation is not going to be as good as with many of the alternatives, TN panels still perform very well in terms of pure brightness.
Vertical Alignment Panels (VA)
Vertical alignment (VA) panels were created sometime after TN panels to make up for some of TN technology’s shortcomings. In particular, VA panels offer superior color accuracy than TN panels, with vastly improved viewing angles.
Their contrast ratios are also superior to TN panels, although nowadays they do not meet the high contrast ratio levels produced by OLED monitors. Additionally, while VA panels are better than TN technology in most regards, they are more expensive and have slower response times, which may make TN panels a preferred choice for consumers.
Organic Light-Emitting Diode (OLED)
Organic light-emitting diode (OLED) screens are the only screens in this comparison that do not use backlights. Instead, the pixels on the display panel can be illuminated or switched off on an individual basis, resulting in monitors that deliver excellent picture quality. OLED displays are also energy efficient and thin, allowing for great viewing angles.
The incredible color accuracy — especially in terms of presenting pure blacks — can be extremely valuable for all kinds of users. The main disadvantage of OLED technology, however, from a consumer perspective, is the price, as an OLED monitor is likely to be more expensive than an LED/LCD monitor of a similar size and build.
OLED vs LED Monitor Technology: Which is Right for You?
Equipped with an understanding of how OLED and LED monitor technology works, and the plus points associated with different panels types, let’s explore which type will match user needs in different situations. Here are some suggestions for several common computer monitor uses.
Photographers, Designers, Content Creators
If you are working in a field like photography, graphic design, or content creation where color accuracy really matters, an OLED monitor is likely to be the best option available. As we’ve mentioned before the individual illumination of pixels can deliver greater contrast and color accuracy, so crucial to visual artworks.
Controlling the illumination of pixels on an individual level can help to avoid some of the problems caused by LED/LCD technology, such as the ‘halo’ effect appearing around images or text. The superior viewing angles available with OLED monitor technology also open the possibility of a dual monitor setup. And as OLED monitors now also come in portable format, they can even follow creatives on the field for maximum accuracy while shooting.
Video Game and Esports Players
Although personal preference and budget are factors here, PC gamers and esports players often opt for LED monitors with either TN or IPS panels. Despite TN monitors offering fairly limited viewing angles and average color presentation, the advantages include very low response times, extremely rapid refresh rates, and low input lag, all of which can help gamers, especially at the elite level, where marginal differences can affect performance.
In most cases, IPS panels will provide lower refresh rates than TN, which may not make them ideal for competitive gaming, but these panels are popular for casual gaming use, as they provide superior color presentation to TN panels, resulting in improvements to the visual quality of games. IPS monitors also offer fairly good response times, and the viewing angles are superior to TN, which can be good for local multiplayer gaming.
Casual Home Use and Office-Style Work
For casual and home use, it’s likely that either IPS or VA panels will be the best all-round option, especially when factoring in price and performance. IPS display panels are capable of the kind of color accuracy and viewing angles that deliver a positive user experience. VA panels have slow response times, so may not be ideal for gaming, but they offer good color production and contrast ratios without costing the same as an OLED computer monitor typically will.
Work-based usage can be harder to provide clear advice for, because it will depend on the nature of the work. Generally, IPS can be considered a good all-rounder, although VA panels are also well-suited to simple office work. If the work involves designs, relies on color accuracy, though, or would benefit from lower power consumption, OLED monitors may be the superior choice, but this needs to be balanced against the higher price point.
The OLED vs LED monitor comparison focuses on two competing forms of flat-panel display technology. In many ways, OLED has emerged as the gold standard of display technology, combining energy efficiency, superior viewing angles, and excellent color accuracy, even if the more expensive pricing is a potential downside.
Nevertheless, LED/LCD displays still have their benefits, including superior brightness and a lower price point. In general, the decision over whether to purchase an OLED or LED monitor will depend on factors like your budget, the tasks you are going to be using the monitor for, and the level of color accuracy you’ll need.