“But what about burn-in?”
This is the first question many people have when it comes to OLED monitors. And quite fair. This has been a big problem in technology of the past, which is also evident in the words we use. After all, this isn’t the burn-in of an old CRT TV we’re talking about. What we’re really talking about is decline. The static elements of the PC desktop environment are enough to make some people worried.
But are these concerns justified by actual testing and solid evidence? Well, not a ton – at least not yet.
After all, the latest crop of OLED monitors have been out in the wild for a few years now. It’s clear that these new OLED monitors don’t have any of the dramatic burn-in issues that will surely cause problems within the first year or two. And after those few years, long-term evidence is hard to find.
The publication RTIGS has been conducting “long-term” stress testing on OLED panels, and its most recent report revealed some interesting results – though you need to be careful with how you interpret the findings. For testing, the outlet looked at three popular OLED gaming monitors — including our beloved Alienware 34 QD-OLED. From there, the stress test involved running CNN’s 16:9 video feed on these ultrawide monitors at maximum brightness to see how the pixels responded over time. After about 700 hours, that central area of the display had some noticeable wear compared to the black bars on either side.
This sounds bad, but RTINGS also highlights two important things. First, the report suggests that even this amount of wear and tear on normal material was not really noticeable. Second, switching to full-screen mode on these ultrawide panels actually reversed some of the damage done, meaning it wasn’t actually permanent damage at this point in the test cycle. “Since we switched to full-screen mode, the gap between the edges and the center has decreased,” the video says. Additionally, the longer refresh cycle also helped reduce wear.
Most importantly, this stress test is completely contrary to how I can imagine someone actually using these monitors. yes, if you try To damage these panels, they are damaged. But factoring in screen savers, pixel shifting, and time to reset pixels, and there are plenty of other unaccounted for data points that will extend the lifespan of these panels even more.
I’m not saying this is a useless test, mind you. It’s interesting to see, and I’m curious what further testing will reveal.
The only part I disagree with is the conclusion at the end of the video, which states that these OLED monitors should be used exclusively for gaming. This isn’t exactly good advice – not to mention the fact that, again, people don’t use PC monitors that way. RTIGS also has its own in-depth report on the degradation of LCD panels, showing that no display is immune to degradation over time.
In the written report, RTIGS has more generous conclusions about these monitors, specifically mentioning how useful a panel refresh can be: “After refreshing a panel on all three before taking six photos in a month, there is very little image retention on any panel.”
That’s not to say there’s no risk of “burn-in” with OLED monitors. But as our own testing has shown, as long as you’re using a mix of content at full screen – as most people do – and maintaining the panel appropriately with pixel refresh and screensavers, There’s no big reason to be afraid of OLED monitors these days. And considering how good they’ve become, you’ll be missing out on a lot.