A Better Picture. But What Are the Tradeoffs?

Should You Buy an OLED Laptop? Here’s What You Need to Know


August 29, 2019 Tech By

Should you buy a laptop with an OLED display? The answer is yes, potentially. For those not up to speed, OLED laptops are pretty new to the scene. The first OLED laptops weren’t introduced until 2016, but they’ve hit the mainstream in 2019; a number of reputable manufacturers, such as Lenovo, Dell, Razer and Alienware, have all released laptops with OLED displays. That said, many of today’s more popular laptops are still equipped with LCD displays, including every MacBook. (Although, rumor has it that Apple is gearing up to release a 16-inch MacBook Pro with an OLED display this fall.) So, what’s the deal?

The OLED Advantage

You’ve probably used or at least seen a smartphone or a television with an OLED display. OLED, which stands for “Organic Light Emitting Diode,” is a newer display technology that boasts numerous advantages over more traditional LCD displays. The main reason why it’s taken this long to get to OLED displays in laptops? Simply, it’s a newer technology and it’s been hard to perfect.

Beautiful Picture: Just like with OLED TVs, laptops with OLED panels are able to produce brighter and more lifelike colors, with superior black levels and contrast. The reason for this is the OLED display is able to turn on and off individual pixels, as opposed to groups (or zones) of pixels like in LCD displays, making the OLED display capable of producing a more accurate image. It also makes the OLED display more efficient because it’s not illuminating extra pixels, and in fact can save energy in “dark mode” because it requires no power to show the color black.

No lag: There are other performance advantages to using an OLED display – most noticeably, better refresh rates. Traditional LCD displays require a separate LED panel for backlighting, which tends to cause lag and motion blur, but OLED displays don’t need a separate panel and therefore don’t have this lag problem. This also results in faster refresh rates and wider viewing angles.

Potentially lighter: The lack of the extra backlighting panel means that OLED displays (and thus OLED laptops) can be thinner and lighter. That’s definitely and obviously a good thing.

Watch Out For

One maker: One important detail to know is that Samsung is the only manufacturer of OLED panels for laptops. That means whether you’re buying a Lenovo, Samsung, Microsoft, Dell or HP OLED laptop – they’re all going to have a similar Samsung display.

Needs to be big: Samsung is the sole provider of OLED panels to laptop manufacturers, and Samsung is only making 15-inch panels. This means that all new OLED laptops in 2019 are 15-inch laptops. If you were thinking about getting something smaller, or possibly larger, you’re out of luck.

Burn-in: As is true with OLED smartphones and OLED TVs, burn-in is a problem. Certain pixels on an OLED panel that are used more often than other pixels, probably because they are located in a more central part of the panel, will become less bright over time and creating an uneven image. There are different types of burn-in – temporarily or permanent – but generally OLED displays don’t age as well LCDs.

Price: The main knock against OLED TVs is the price. Since OLED technology is still relatively new, it’s more expensive to manufacture. And the same is true with OLED laptops.

Who Should Buy an OLED Laptop?

The superior picture quality and faster refresh rates mean that OLED laptops are generally great for gamers. It doesn’t hurt that most of the best OLED laptops to date are actually gaming laptops, too. Still, more and more OLED laptops are getting released which are more creative and productivity-focused, too. They typically make good laptops for anybody video editors and photographers, thanks to the vibrant and accurate screen.

The Laptops

Dell XPS 15 7590

Best All-Around: The Dell XPS 15 is probably the best OLED laptop if you’re non-gamer. It’s essentially a larger, higher-end version of the Dell XPS 13, which is one of the best all-around laptops you can buy, and it’s packed out with specs, including Intel’s 9th-generation processor, up to 32GB of memory and, if you’re so inclined, up to 2TB of SSD storage. If you are a gamer, however, there is the option to deck the XPS 15 with a Nvidia GTX 1650 graphics card.

HP Spectre x360 AMOLED

Best Convertible: The HP Spectre x360 AMOLED is essentially just a spec’d out and upgraded version of last year’s HP Spectre x360. The new version has a OLED display, rather than LCD, and is ideal for watching movies and shows in beautiful 4K. It’s also powerful enough to be a fine work laptop as well. Thanks to its 360-degree hinge and touchscreen display, the HP Spectre X360 OLED can be used as either an ultra-thin laptop or tablet. As for other specs, it’s powered by Intel’s 8th-generation process, packs an Nvidia GeForce MX150 graphics card and has 1 TB of SSD storage.

Razer Blade 15

Best Gaming Laptop: That’s right, you can now buy the 15-inch Razer Blade, already one of the best gaming laptops out there, with a beautiful 4K OLED touchscreen display . It’s expensive, for sure, but it’s hella powerful and arguably delivers the most vivid colors, the fast response times, and the lowest lag of any other gaming laptops that are available right now.

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