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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

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?

dell xps 13 screen burn-in

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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.

windows 10 dark contrast theme

It’s possible to dramatically reduce the rate of decay through darker and less blue colors. But while the Windows 10 Anniversary Update Windows 10 Anniversary Update Due in July & These Are Its Best Features Windows 10 Anniversary Update Due in July & These Are Its Best Features You will love the Windows 10 Anniversary Update! The second big upgrade to Windows 10 since its launch in July 2015 is expected this summer. Here we highlight the most exciting features. Read More includes an optional dark theme 5 Dark Themes for Windows 10 5 Dark Themes for Windows 10 Dark themes can help with eyestrain, make text easier to read, and they are stylish too. We have compiled five of the best ones for Windows 10. Read More , 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.

lenovo x1 yoga

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.

alienware r3 13 laptop

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.

panasonic contrast ratio
Image Credit: Panasonic

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.

zenbook nx500 qled

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 Understanding The Differences Between LCD Display Panels [Technology Explained] Understanding The Differences Between LCD Display Panels [Technology Explained] Read More 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.

dell xps 13 2015

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.

amoled close up
Image Credit: Matthew Rollings via Wikimedia

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.

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  1. Justin H.
    April 5, 2017 at 5:05 pm

    OLED display quality beats LCD (TFT/IPS) hands-down. My old eyes really appreciate it. How long do you expect to use the same laptop? 4-5 years? If so, burn-in is exaggerated.

    • Kannon Y
      April 6, 2017 at 1:05 pm

      Hi Justin, thanks for the comment.

      Whether or not burn-in becomes an issue is dependent on the screen brightness, the maturation of the OLED technology, how much the screen is used, and whether or not on-screen elements are frequently displayed.

      Whether or not you can see the damage depends on the background. Burn-in is most noticeable when the display is producing grey colors. There are apps that can detect this. What's shocking is that even the most advanced OLED tech (Samsung) always shows minor amounts of burn-in. For most users it's not noticeable, but it's there.

      For example on my Pixel XL which is now five or six months old, the on-screen navigation buttons are burned into the screen. This is with minimum brightness being used and a solid black wallpaper. Imagine what happens to a phone that uses maximum brightness over the period of a year.

  2. Perry F. Bruns
    April 4, 2017 at 5:14 am

    Don't OLEDs also draw less power than regular LEDs?

    • Kannon Y
      April 4, 2017 at 3:10 pm

      It depends on what's being displayed and the kind of LCD that's being compared. The problem is that OLED manufacturers love comparing the lowest quality LCD screens (aSi) to the state of the art in OLED technology.

      So if you're looking at an amorphous silicon backplane IPS LCD without pane-self refresh under black lighting conditions, then, yes, an OLED panel might come out ahead in terms of power draw. But the real world battery comparisons have been very poor for OLED. I mentioned it in the article:

      Anandtech's battery analysis really illustrates this point. Lenovo produced two versions of the Lenovo X1. One model had an OLED screen and the other had an LCD screen. All other hardware features are identical. They found that the LCD model had 41% better battery life compared to the OLED panel. I suspect that the difference is that the first/second generation OLED panels do NOT have panel self-refresh technology and/or Anandtech's test used a high amount of white/blue colors.

      But overall, the first generation of OLED panels are NOT worth buying. There's just too many issues.

      • Perry F. Bruns
        April 4, 2017 at 4:12 pm

        Thank you very much for clarifying! That's excellent information, and something I will definitely keep in mind. You've probably saved me at least one hardware generation's worth of regret.

        • Kannon Y
          April 4, 2017 at 7:31 pm

          Thanks for the kind words!

          I think that once they sort out the problem with Blue OLEDs burning out faster than the other colors, OLEDs will become the dominant screen technology. That may take many years, but it's an inevitability.