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In October 2016, there was a bit of buzz as Samsung launched the world’s first quantum dot monitor, a cutting-edge device that advanced display technology in ways that few thought possible. We aren’t just talking about a curved screen here — this is a brand new way to produce images to screen.
Samsung’s recently-launched monitor is being marketed towards hardcore gamers, and that absolutely makes sense as the first big market to pursue, but it won’t be long before other industries start benefiting as well. Should you be excited? Keep reading to learn all you need to know.
What Is a Quantum Dot?
Most people are currently excited about HDR display tech and 4K display resolution, but a lot of that is only made possible by the the concept of a “quantum dot”, so let’s take a moment to explore what that actually is.
A quantum dot (QD) is a semiconductor nanocrystal — or in other words, a tiny particle that can emit light when electricity is applied. How tiny are they? Each QD has an approximate diameter of 4–12 nanometers.
It’s this tiny size that gives them unique optical and electronic properties, and it’s these unique properties that allow them to display images that are far better than anything we’ve seen up until this point.
QDs work by absorbing one wavelength of light and outputting a different wavelength of light — in other words, they take in one color of light and emit a different color. The conversion depends on the physical size of the QD: smaller dots are more blue while larger dots are more red, for example.
So how does it work in a monitor? In short, QDs are layered on top of an LED-backlit LCD monitor. As the backlight shines through the QD layer, the light is broken down and converted, resulting in a much richer light that contains much more of the visible spectrum than can be produced by traditional monitors.
More specifically, the backlight LEDs produce all of the blue shades needed in the picture. For portions of the image that are green or red, QDs refract the outgoing blue light into the exact shades needed. A single quantum dot monitor has billions of QDs, and each dot is fine-tuned to produce a specific color (a significant improvement to modern LCD monitors).
If you were expecting some kind of quantum-mechanics-driven tech, I’m sorry to disappoint. The “quantum dot” term definitely sounds a lot more futuristic than it should, but don’t be too disappointed. This is revolutionary stuff.
3 Big Benefits of Quantum Dot Monitors
Okay, so you understand how they work, but what does the end result look like? What are the benefits over traditional display tech? How will quantum dots make your life better? Here are some of the more compelling benefits that you might like.
1. Darks and brights.
Due to the way that quantum dots work, the resulting image on the screen can be much brighter than what’s currently possible — and not only that, but the image can also be much darker than what’s currently possible. Brighter brights and darker darks can only mean one thing: higher contrast.
The difference between the brightest bright and the darkest dark is called contrast ratio, and this is one of the more important specs to consider in a monitor. In general, a better contrast ratio means sharper and more pleasing images.
And in fact, this massive boost to contrast ratio is what has paved the way for high dynamic range (HDR) displays in recent years. If you want an HDR experience without shelling out too much cash, quantum dot monitors could be the answer for you (more on this below).
2. Color saturation.
Remember how we talked about the varying sizes of quantum dots and how they can be fine-tuned to refract light into very specific colors? This means that the colors on the screen can now be much more pure and precise.
And not only will colors be more accurate, but they will be more saturated as well. If your TV is old or cheap, you may have noticed that colors always look washed out or dead, even during scenes that should be vibrant and lively. This washed-out look comes from a lack of color saturation.
According to estimates, quantum dots will be able to increase the color range of a display by up to 50 percent. With a quantum dot monitor, you can be sure that the colors you’re seeing on the screen are true to the colors they’re meant to be, and that means a greater level of detail in videos and images.
3. Overall price and availability.
The closest competitors to the quantum dot display, at least in terms of picture quality, are plasma displays and OLED displays — and for the most part, quantum dot seems like it will be the winner.
Let’s consider the very first quantum dot monitor, the one that was recently launched by Samsung. The 24-inch and 27-inch models of the CFG70 are priced at $399 and $499, respectively. The 34-inch model of the ultra-wide CFG71 is priced at $999. Pretty hefty, but not unreasonable.
Now try to find an equivalent OLED monitor. You can’t. On Amazon, as of this writing, there’s only one OLED monitor listed — the Sony PVMA250 25-inch OLED Monitor which will set you back $5,495. Are you willing to buy a monitor for the price of a used car in good condition?
The problem with OLED technology is that they’re difficult to produce, and scaling up has proven troublesome for manufacturers. As for plasma screens, they’ve always suffered from issues with burned-in images, which isn’t much of a problem on TVs but is a huge concern on PCs (due to static taskbars, windows, etc).
With quantum dots, we’ll finally be able to enjoy the features of OLED and plasma displays at LCD prices.
Quantum Dot Monitors: Worth It?
I know this post has mostly been praise for the quantum dot, but we’re not saying that you should jump on the hype train just yet. In fact, the prudent thing to do would be to wait and see how things develop going forward.
New technology is still new technology, and even though it’s an incremental advancement on top of existing LCD/LED, quantum dot monitors are going to experience growing pains just like every other tech in the world. If you want to skip those headaches, then you should wait until it all gets refined.
Plus, waiting means that you’ll be able to buy them for cheaper later on. Your wallet will thank you.
Note that QDs are useful for more than just display technology. Scientists are experimenting with applications in solar cells and solar fuel, in vitro imaging of cells, quantum computations, and more.
Are you going to shell out the cash for a quantum dot monitor? Or are you happy with what you already have? Got any questions? Let us know in the comments!