The Samsung Galaxy Book looks amazing, but it hides a secret that no-one talks about: Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) displays suffer from serious problems.
While OLED devices are slightly slimmer than those with LCD screens, they come with reliability, cost, and longevity issues. Here are 10 reasons you might not want to buy a laptop with OLED technology, like the Samsung Galaxy Book — in 2017, at least.
Samsung Galaxy Book Release Date and Specifications
Before explaining why you shouldn’t buy a Samsung Galaxy Book, look at its hardware. The Galaxy Book comes in two models: the first is a 9.7-inch 2048 x 1536 Android tablet with similar specs as the other tablets on the market, the larger model comes with a 2160 x 1440 12-inch display, Windows 10, and an Intel processor. The 9.7-incher may launch on March 31st. Its 12-inch brother may release some time after that.
1. OLEDs Displays Burn-In Over Time
The biggest weakness of OLED technology: the organic components found in OLEDs decay over time. While manufacturers estimate lifespans to hover between 80,000 and 150,000 hours, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Burn-in can occur within weeks of purchase — and it only gets worse over time as it is completely irreversible. So what’s burn-in?
Burn-in occurs when the sub-pixels that make up an OLED display decay. Of the three or four colors which compose an OLED sub-pixel, blue wears out the fastest. As a blue pixel breaks down, it emits less light. And that shows up on the screen in the form of a slightly darker blotch or retained image.
In comparison, an LCD screen offers an MTBF of roughly 100,000 hours — equal to the life expectancy of its LED backlight. The liquid crystals that make up the display last significantly longer. Up until it fails, it retains the same picture quality at the time of purchase. When burn-in does occur, it quickly returns to normal (the image above is of burn-in on an LCD panel).
2. Operating Systems Kill OLED Displays
As mentioned above, bright and blue OLEDs burn out over time. The more they’re used, the faster they die. For example, status bars, icon trays, and browser tabs sit on the screen for hours at a time. These elements rapidly burn themselves into your screen.
It’s possible to dramatically reduce the rate of decay through darker and less blue colors. But while the Windows 10 Anniversary Update includes an optional dark theme, many Windows 10 apps lack this. And even the dark theme isn’t fully OLED friendly.
3. Early OLED Laptops Cost a Fortune
The first OLED laptops cost a fortune. Here are a few examples:
Lenovo X1 Yoga (UK) — At over $2,000, the X1 Yoga 2-in-1 comes with fairly anemic hardware for the money. Its dual-core Core i5 processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a 256 GB SSD can be found on $700 2-in-1 laptops (like the Acer Switch Alpha 12). Compared to the competition, its 2K OLED screen runs the price up by around $1,100.
The Acer Switch Alpha matches the Lenovo X1 Yoga in all aspects. It includes a similar resolution screen (LCD instead of OLED), the same RAM, SSD, and tablet functionality — for hundreds less.
Alienware 13 R3 — The Alienware 13 R3 is the first gaming laptop to feature an OLED display. It comes with a quad-core Intel processor, a midrange Nvidia 1060 GPU, and a 2560 x 1440 OLED panel. On paper, it looks like a good deal.
Dell (which owns Alienware) only charges $250 to upgrade the 1080p LCD display to a 2K OLED panel. Unfortunately, the price is obscured by the specs — a common practice among marketing departments. Other manufacturers, however, lack the whacky pricing scheme. The Asus STRIX (UK) offers the same specs but costs $1,400 — $700 less.
We Don’t Know How Much the Samsung Galaxy Book Costs
It seems that almost all OLED laptops, regardless of specs, run for around $2,000. As a Surface Pro competitor, the Samsung Galaxy Book will probably cost more than that. Perhaps around $1,800. While that might seem reasonable, it’s not.
Prepare to have your mind blown: According to IHS Technology, OLED panels cost less to manufacture than LCD screens. However, the early production of large, laptop-quality OLED panels will cost a fortune due to limited supply.
As manufacturers increase production, though, prices will rapidly drop. If you do purchase an OLED-equipped laptop, buy one later rather than sooner.
4. OLED Displays Aren’t Battery Friendly
While in theory OLED displays consume less power than LCDs, the truth is more complicated. LCD displays use less power when displaying white colors. OLED uses less power when displaying blacks. Reviewers, however, continually note that the OLED displays used in laptops tend to consume more power than LCDs.
For example, Anandtech found that the OLED version of the Yoga X1 consumed dramatically more power than the LCD version. In short, you get roughly 41 percent more battery life by using an LCD laptop, if all other factors remain the same.
6. Better Technology Is Coming Soon
LCD technology is far more mature than OLED. Most OLED manufacturers, however, compare older models of LCD to the newer models of OLED. For example, technologies such as Panel Self-Refresh technology and IGZO backplanes can extend battery life by a tremendous amount.
Panasonic’s LCD Technology Has the Same Contrast
The newest LCD technology from Panasonic can represent blacks (contrast ratio) about as good as OLEDs. That takes pretty much all the juice out of OLEDs, except that OLEDs will eventually cost less than LCD panels.
Quantum Dot Technology Has Better Accuracy and Drain
Another panel that beats down OLEDs: Samsung’s Quantum Dot (QLED). QLED technology blows OLED away in color accuracy, longevity, and power consumption. For example, the Asus ZenBook NX500 scores extremely high in color accuracy and battery life tests. Unfortunately, it costs a fortune at $3,000. But over time QLED displays will fall in price.
But QLED isn’t the only competition to OLED. A lot of other technologies compete on a superior footing.
7. There’s Lots of Competition
There are just a few kinds of OLED panel types out there. But many kinds of Liquid Crystal Displays exist.
The problem is that advertisers typically lump all LCD screens into a single category. Often, you don’t know whether you’re getting a twisted-nematic (TN) or in-pane switching (IPS) screen. For example, the Dell XPS 13 (UK) throws several kinds of battery-saving technologies into the same package, such as Panel Self-Refresh, and an IGZO backplane. With such technologies, the XPS 13 gets the best battery life in its size and form factor.
LCDs also don’t suffer from burn-in — which can prove costly.
8. Warranty Policies Sometimes Don’t Cover Burn-in
Warranty policies rarely cover physical damage outside of 30–60 day return period (depending on the retailer). Consumers aren’t warned to take precautions, either. Overall, if you start to notice that your screen is degrading, chances are you will need to pay to have it replaced. And that can cost a fortune.
9. OLED Panels Cost More to Replace
If you ever break the screen, OLED panels come with much higher replacement costs. On top of that, OLED panels are very delicate and thin, compared to other displays. That makes replacing them more time consuming and costly.
On the positive side, OLED panels will drop in price rapidly over time, which will make replacements cheaper — but that won’t happen anytime soon.
10. Higher Rate of Defect in Early Production
OLED panels won’t just burn-in. They’ll have a higher failure rate, due to a lack of maturation. Just as early LCD panels also suffered from a large number of broken or stuck pixels, early OLEDs will also suffer from teething problems.
Combine that with the high cost of replacement, and you have a losing formula.
Should You Buy a Samsung Galaxy Book or OLED Laptop?
Don’t buy a large OLED display until later. OLED panels may be an inevitability, rather than a possibility. More or less, the cost of producing an OLED panel will be less than that of an LCD. On top of that, they are less durable and require more frequent replacement compared to LCD. Finally, they look better so that average consumers (who aren’t aware of the disadvantages) will likely prefer them over LCD screens.
Altogether, the road seems paved toward a future in which OLEDs are the dominant technology on the market. But until that future becomes an inevitability, consumers should prefer LCD screens over OLED.