4k IPS vs 4k OLED Laptop

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OLED displays are undeniably one of the greatest revolutions of display technology since the first LCD monitor was introduced to the world. They display perfect black, don’t have a backlight, and boast wonderfully low response times in addition to vivid colors.

This technology recently made its way to notebooks, and while it isn’t exactly new, it’s still exciting. OLED displays are based on organic light-emitting diodes and have been used for TVs, smartphones, and tablets for some time now. So far, notebooks – or laptops – have been excluded for reasons financial and technical.

Of course, this is changing, as several popular notebook manufacturers such as Lenovo and Alienware have recently come out with OLED notebooks. Let’s take a look at the difference between IPS and OLED laptops.

4k IPS vs 4k OLED Laptop

Why Even Consider OLED?

Before we go any further, we should discuss OLED technology in general. While regular displays are essentially filters that pass through the light-emitting backlight for each individual pixel in a specific color and intensity, the pixels that are in an OLED display also serve as their own sources of light.

There are quite a few advantages that come with this approach to creating displays:

  • As the display gets darker, it consumes less power
  • Black areas have no brightness at all
  • Wide color gamut
  • Great stability of viewing angle
  • Very quick response times
  • No backlight means very slim displays

Of course, it’s not all sunshine and roses, and you’re going to run into a number of drawbacks:

  • Production is expensive
  • Limited maximum brightness
  • Aging behavior
  • Susceptible to screen burn-in

Distribution & Brightness

The backlight on an LCD is always set to a constant level of brightness, though some TV dimming techniques make an exception to this rule. White areas are therefore always the same level of brightness, regardless of whether it’s the entire image or just one small section.

OLED displays are different – because all six sub-pixels have to be at their highest intensity in order for an image to be white and bright, the power draw in this scenario is significantly higher. In order to keep the power consumption down and increase the life expectancy of the display, manufacturers will vary the luminance depending on the display content.

Response Times & PWM

Because the individual pixels on an OLED display will never be able to achieve their purported maximum brightness, their luminance must be adjusted using PWM. In order to dim the screen, some notebooks will opt to cycle the backlight on and off repeatedly and rapidly. This method is called Pulse Width Modulation, or PWM.

When it comes to response time, the response times of OLED panels are usually in the realm of microseconds, which means they are far quicker than their LCD counterparts and are also not vulnerable to streaking. Because of this, a laptop like the ThinkPad X1 could be the perfect notebook for gaming if it wasn’t for the pretty terrible performance of its integrated HD Graphics 520.

Asus, MSI, and Schenker make some gaming rigs that could definitely benefit from OLED technology. Because the black, white, and gray response times are so quick, it is difficult for measurement tools to capture them accurately.

Viewing Angles & Contrast

The dark, black areas on even the most high-end of IPS panels will still emit some light at one 1,000th of the backlight luminance. On the other hand, OLED displays are in a league that is entirely their own – most manufacturers boast a contrast ratio of 2,000,000:1.

The resulting black value of 0.000015 cd/m2 is far too low to be confirmed or measured by the naked eye. In a room that is totally dark, black is simply black, even at maximum brightness. Though this might not seem as exciting to begin with, it actually has quite an impact when using the display every day.

In dimmer, darker environments, OLED displays provide a more saturated appearance to images, which makes them more vivid and life-like than any IPS panel could even hope to achieve. The difference is extremely noticeable when viewed in pitch-black surroundings, especially when watching movies that feature a lot of contrast.

Even the best IPS displays in the world depict blacks as a kind of gray color, while OLED displays do not show any differences. This means that the black bars on the top and bottom of an image blend into the rest of a dark scene.

This causes the picture to float seamlessly in space, and the resulting immersion is incredible. It also makes OLED displays fantastic for gaming, as they make colors more vibrant and blacks more black, offering fantastic immersion.

Outdoor Use

While the greatest advantage that OLED technology provides is its perfect black value, the panels also have a great performance during the daytime. Images are much easier to see when in sunlight on an OLED display, especially since the panel reflects less of the ambient light, which therefore allows it to have a higher ‘real’ contrast ratio.

When viewed outdoors, IPS displays do not look quite as clear and appear to be rather pale in comparison. However, one advantage that IPS displays do have over OLED displays when it comes to outdoor viewing is that OLED displays produce a highly reflective kind of glare that can be quite distracting, while IPS displays produce a semi-matte glare that is far less noticeable and much easier to ignore.

Color Reproduction

Color reproduction on an OLED display is nothing short of breathtaking. The vivid colors they produce are hard to find amongst IPS notebooks. OLED displays are able to stay true to color, and the enhanced saturation makes it easier to distinguish various shapes and images on the screen.

With that being said, OLEDs do not look oversaturated, even at their highest saturation levels.

Of course, the higher saturation could become a problem when working in the smaller sRGB color space, but most OLED notebook manufacturers provide different colors profiles that can be selected manually. Lenovo is one of the most famous examples of brands that do this.

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