OLED, an acronym for Organic Light-Emitting Diode, is an LED that has an emissive electroluminescent layer is a film of organic compound that produces light with the introduction of an electric current. It is used for making displays and solid state lighting applications. Simply put, it’s like an LED made up of tiny LEDs. The result is a flat light-emitting surface that is like a mosaic of minute LEDs capable of displaying images or changing colors.
Image credit: LG via Wikimedia Commons
OLED is best known for being a display tech that ditches backlighting or edge-lighting. Notably different from LCD display tech, each pixel in an OLED display emits light instead of serving as switches for letting light through or blocking it. OLED employs a sophisticated circuitry to control every pixel to display the desired picture. When it comes to lighting, OLED tech is used to produce slim flat panel lights that produce uniform lighting that may be designed to change colors.
Other important features of OLED you are likely interested in are discussed below.
- There are two basic types of OLED: PMOLED and AMOLED.
To be clear, AMOLED is not Samsung’s brand. It is one of the two main types of OLED, the other one being POLED. In PMOLED or passive-matrix OLED, every row and line of the display is controlled sequentially. AMOLED or active-matrix OLED, on the other hand, has a thin-film transistor backplane component to directly access and control each pixel, making it possible to produce high resolution OLED displays. AMOLED is the tech used in mobile devices and televisions.
- OLED displays are regarded as superior for mobile devices.
Samsung has been using OLED for many of its mobile devices including the excellent Galaxy Note 8. Over the years, the Korean tech giant made progress in improving their AMOLED panels that Apple finally decided to switch to OLED for their new generation of iPhones. The OLED on the new iPhones is manufactured by Samsung and it demonstrates how much OLED technology has improved over the years. In particular, the OLED screen on the iPhone X is regarded as the “king of OLED screens” by some reviewers with its topnotch brightness levels, natural-looking (not oversaturated) picture, and excellent white balance.
Other top smartphones that use OLED are Google’s Pixel 2 and the flagship devices of major manufacturers such as Oppo, Huawei, Vivo, ZTE, and Motorola. Some leading smartphone makers are reportedly planning to switch OLED for their upcoming devices.
- OLED TVs are great but expensive.
OLED screens are likewise known for their superior picture quality when used on TVs. They are often described by those who newly encounter them as TVs with images that seem to pop out of the screen. It’s worth noting, though, that the best 40 inches TV you can find may not be OLED televisions. This is mostly due to their prices. OLED TVs easily outmatch their LCD counterparts when it comes to overall picture quality. It’s just that their steep prices are difficult to ignore so it’s difficult to make them rank high up as compared to less expensive TVs with picture quality and other features that are not significantly inferior.
- LED vs OLED: What’s the difference?
At present, many TV manufacturers tend to use the term “LED TV” even though what they offer are actually just LCD TVs that have LED edge-lighting or backlighting (that may come with local dimming). LED TV is not real “LED TV” as it’s only an LCD TV that replaces the traditional backlight with LED. It’s mostly just a marketing term, which appears to be widely accepted at present. OLED is notably different from LCD display tech because of the absence of backlighting, since the individual pixels in an OLED panel emit light. Because of this, blacks on OLEDs are truly black (not dark gray) and the issue of backlight bleeding and other related defects are avoided.
- Why was OLED created? Does it provide advantages?
OLED offers a number of advantages. For one, it is capable of delivering excellent picture quality. OLED display technology has significantly improved over the years that it is now capable of delivering natural-looking colors (not the oft-maligned oversaturated images of OLED displays of yore). Notably, they deliver the best possible contrast ratio for any display. Since OLED pixels totally put out light when showing blacks, you can see true blacks when displaying blacks on screen. Properly calibrated OLED displays look stunning with the sharp and “punchy” images they show. Additionally, OLED displays can be made thinner because they no longer need backlighting. They also have better response time as compared to LCD displays.
Moreover, OLED panels tend to be easier to bend or curve. They can also be created in different shapes. That’s why most wearables devices that need displays with decent resolution turn to OLED tech. There are also many concept devices that take advantage of this special feature of OLED displays, the rollable display from LG and the possible foldable displays from Samsung and Apple.
When it comes to lighting applications, OLED also has its advantages. It provides more efficient flat panel LED lighting (for ceilings) since light is directly aimed downward and not made to pass through a dispersing or refracting layer like what most flat panel ceiling lights have at present. OLED flat panel lights can deliver uniform lighting that may also change colors.
- OLED may or may not lead to lower power consumption.
OLED can lead to lower or higher power consumption. It depends on the kind of picture being shown. OLED tends to consume more power (as compared to LCD displays) when showing white or bright pictures. However, it logically consumes less when displaying dark or mostly black pictures. OLED displays have greatly improved over the years but they still consume more power when showing mostly white or bright images. Ironically, OLED “shines” in terms of power efficiency when it goes dark whereas the power consumption of LCD displays barely changes with respect to the kind of picture they show.
The introduction of OLED technology has brought about several advantages. It is arguably the preferred display technology of the future. It’s still relatively expensive but as it improves and innovative ideas are infused into it, it is bound to become more affordable that it will eventually become more popular than LCDs. I will be sure to write about this when it happens in my blog Techi Signals. OLED is an exciting technology that still has a lot of untapped potentials.