A Beginner’s Guide To OLED Displays

OLED Laptop

LED displays are everywhere these days. At this point, we all know that. But, when working out your display needs, one of the most important things you always need to keep in mind is finding the perfect type of LED that will work for you.

These days, a lot of users are starting to choose the OLED version instead. But, why exactly is that? And what makes OLED stand out among the other LED types? Let’s find out in this article:

What Is An OLED Display?

OLED Phone

The word “OLED” is an acronym for “Organic Light-Emitting Diode.” Basically, this is a form of display technology that has become very popular for its ability to provide bright and vivid colors that are both accurate and appealing. Besides that, OLED is known for its thin form factor, which means that all displays that work with this technology tend to be very slim and easy to carry around. 

Basic Principles Of OLED Displays 

An organic light emitting diode display operates based on several important principles that help to guide both its being and its work. These principles generally revolve around the following: 

Organic Layers 

Every OLED display comes with a makeup that includes organic compounds which immediately light up when you pass some electric current to them. These compounds come arranged in layers, standing between two electrodes.

How Light Comes Out 

As soon as you pass an electric current to an OLED display, the electrons and holes come together in an emissive layer,pushing out energy in the form of light. Now, every pixel in OLED screens can emit light – unlike LCDs, which tend to need an additional backlight to shed light on the available pixels. 

The Structure Of The Pixels 

With OLED displays, you have individual panels that show green, red, and blue light. And, the fact that they can control the intensity of each color in every individual pixel means that OLED displays allow you to achieve even higher levels of color accuracy across the board.

Your Screens Don’t Have To Be Rigid

The flexibility of OLED screens is something that’s starting to really catch on. You see, OLED displays can be built on flexible substrates. And, this is what gives rise to things like curved and flexible screens that we see around us.  

The Contrast Ratio Is Immaculate 

You also get impressive levels of contrast ratio with OLED displays, primarily because you can turn the individual panels on or off independently. As soon as a pixel is powered down, you get true black coming out of it – the perfect element for a high-contrast viewing experience. 

Responding To Inputs Quicker

An OLED display comes with a much quicker response time compared to most other display technologies. In areas where you need sharp image transitions, this is beyond important. 

How OLED Displays Work

So now, we understand the OLED definition and the things that make up these displays. Let’s go ahead to see how these screens and displays work, as well as the process that they go through to create the displays that we see: 

The Foundation Is The Anode & Substrate

Every OLED display begins with a substrate, which is usually made of plastic or glass. A transparent layer of anode is deposited on this substrate, with the anode usually coming in the form of a material like indium tin oxide.

Additional Organic Layers

It is also important to have different organic layers on the anode that will make up the OLED structure. From the conductive layer to the emissive layer and even the cathode, all of these help with light emission in one way or the other. 

The Role Of The Cathode

As soon as you pass voltage through the OLED panel, the cathode – an electrode that carries a negative charge – will immediately infuse some of those electrons into the organic layers. This cathode can be transparent or semi-transparent, depending on the needs of the display. 

The Anode Pushes Into The Hole

At the same time that the cathode works, the anode – which carries a positive charge – is injected into holes. Thanks to the help of the conductive layers, electrons can be transported to the emissive layer. 

Combining Holes & Electrons

In the emissive layer, you have a process where holes and electrons are combined. This process leads to the release of energy, although the compounds that are present in the emissive layer will determine the color of the light that you get. 

Mixing Colors To Form One Emission

Most OLED displays tend to use compounds that emit the primary colors of light. However, they make it possible to control the intensity of each color in each pixel with the use of RGB color mixing

Forming The Important Pixels

The pixels in OLED displays are arranged in a grid. Each of them has green, red, and blue sub-pixels, and the combination of different pixel intensities is what makes for different color displays. 

Control Each Pixel As You Want

Another interesting feature of OLED displays is the fact that they allow you to accurately control every pixel on its own. With this, you get to properly manage brightness levels and even the color that every pixel gives off. 

Complete Blackness When Off

As soon as you turn a pixel off, it doesn’t emit a single speck of light. This means that it achieves true black – another factor that puts OLED in a class of its own.     

Types of OLED Displays

OLED Screen

Even though OLED itself is a type of LED display, it also has some categories under it that deserve to be highlighted. Each of these categories is unique in its way, although they still have working principles that tie back to the traditional OLED technology operational module. 

The available types here include: 

Passive Matrix OLED 

Most professionals shorten this to “PMOLED,” and it describes a display option where every pixel is controlled by a simple circuit that decides whether the pixel is turned off or on. Most PMOLED displays are used on small screens, such as the ones on smartwatches. 

Generally, PMOLED is beneficial for its ease and generally lower cost. But, they also tend to have issues with size scalability and can consume more power than most other types of OLED screens. 

Active Matrix OLED 

In many ways, the active matrix OLED – or the AMOLED, for short – works as an opposite to PMOLED. Here, you have a thin-film transistor (TFT) that controls every pixel. With the TFT, you can achieve even better control over pixels, thus leading to quicker refreshing and much better output for the images. 

That said, AMOLEDs tend to have a high chance of screen burn-in. And, when used in larger screens, they can be a bit on the pricier side.  

Transparent OLED Displays 

The TOLEDs, as they are usually called, are specifically built to be transparent when you turn them off. You get the traditional OLED display when it is active, but it becomes immediately transparent when you turn it off.  

Thanks to the transparency involved in these displays, you have the potential to use them in different innovative applications. But, they’re still a novel concept, so getting your hands on one can be a bit challenging. 

Top-Emitting OLED 

The TEOLED comes with its light-emitting layer at the top of the device. With this design, the display dissipates heat better, making it especially perfect for developing bigger displays. And, you also have the potential to achieve higher brightness levels with it. 

The issue, though, is that the manufacturing process for this display can be complex. And by extension, the costs incurred also tend to be pretty high. 

Rollable, Foldable LEDs 

We mentioned earlier that OLEDs are foldable and flexible. This means that you also have LED screens that can curve or be rolled into each other. 

Already, we’ve seen a lot of these screens featured in smartphones and television designs. They’re innovative and impressive to look at, but we should also point out the challenge of implementing them since they’re still very novel.

White OLEDs

These OLEDs use the same traditional OLED technology, but they add color filters to provide the desired colors – mostly because they focus more on white light traditionally. 

White OLEDs last long and can be very energy-efficient. But, the manufacturing challenges involved in making them are also pretty considerable. 

Red-Green-Blue OLEDs

RGBOLEDs emit the RBG colors, shedding light directly through them. You mostly see their working technology in OLED TVs, where they focus on ensuring precise control over color.

What Are The Benefits Of OLED Displays?

Next, let’s take a quick look at what makes these LEDs especially great and why manufacturers are particularly enamored with them. 

Control Each Pixel By Yourself 

Easily the biggest merit that this LED format has is the fact that you can control each pixel independently of the others. So, you get to achieve the color and brightness you want at the base level. 

Contrast Ratios Are Premium

OLED displays also offer an impressive contrast ratio. When individual pixels aren’t being used, you can immediately turn them off. And, with the displays being able to produce true black, you can get those lifelike, vibrant pictures.

You Can View Them From Anywhere

With OLED displays, you get consistent color accuracy and image quality even at very broad viewing angles. This benefits devices that have much larger screens, as well as situations where you might have different people around. 

They’re Flexible & They’re Slim 

Because they can be made on flexible substrates, OLED displays are very flexible. And, they’re pretty slim as well, so you can create really thin display options with them. 

Making Good Use Of Power

As you’d expect from anything that’s an LED, OLEDs do well when it comes to energy efficiency. Each pixel shines its own light, so you don’t need additional tools like backlights and such. 

You Don’t Deal With Backlight Bleeding 

Still on the subject of OLEDs not needing backlights, this also provides the benefit of you not having to deal with any form of backlight bleeding. This is an issue where unwanted light shows towards the edges of the screen. And, it’s a major issue that you tend to have with LCDs. OLEDs avoid this entirely with their impressive build. 

Enjoy A Wide Color Gamut

The advancement of OLED technology allows you to enjoy a much wider color gamut. This means that the display can produce a broader color spectrum, resulting in a much more realistic representation of color.

Where Can You Find OLED Displays?

stretch OLED

As we said earlier, OLED displays are starting to get ubiquitous. Now that we’ve been able to define OLED technology, let’s take a look at some areas where these screens and displays find the most use. 

Everyday Electronics

Many of the tools we use daily – whether it’s microwaves or television screens – make use of OLED screens. Many of these devices need to share information and display accurately, and OLED’s ability to get this done will come in handy in that regard.

Displays For Automotives

Cars and other vehicles have become more than just tools of transportation these days – they’ve also turned into full-blown entertainment services. Since most of the screens in cars and vehicles tend to be smaller, it makes a lot of sense that OLEDs will feature in them. 

Healthcare Devices & Everyday Wearables 

Smartwatches, heart monitors, and much more are also becoming especially popular these days. And, many of them use OLED technology just for the same reasons as vehicle screens. The technology helps them to share accurate and comprehensible information, while also being especially attractive to look at.

What To Look Out For With OLEDs

Everything that has a good side will have a few downsides. And when it comes to OLEDs, there are no exceptions, really. For all the benefits that they offer, OLEDs can also have some of the following challenges: 

  • Degradation can be a major issue because OLED materials will degrade as time goes on. This means that brightness and color accuracy can drop with time. 
  • The cost of making OLEDs is considerably higher than most other display technologies. Of course, when you consider the benefits that they have, you kind of see why.
  • You need to be very careful with screen burn-in – especially if you’re showing still images for long. 
  • The materials used in OLED screens are very sensitive to oxygen and water. So, if your application might involve exposure to these, you need to be very careful. 
  • For blue OLEDs, there’s a tendency for quicker decay compared to most other display technologies. 
  • You might also have issues with getting proper uniformity across very large OLED displays. 

Is OLED The Best Display Format?

Transparent OLED
Transparent OLED

These days, displays are very different. And, although the umbrella term is broad, anyone who wants to work with displays or screens will want to be aware of which option to go with. So, how does OLED technology stack up against its peers?

OLED vs LCD (Liquid Crystal Display)

The first technology you’d probably compare OLED to is LCD. These displays couldn’t be further apart, with even their working principles being completely different. But, here’s a quick rundown of the comparison between them and what you might want to keep in mind:

How Do They Work?

With OLEDs, you pass an electric current through organic compounds that immediately illuminate. And, each pixel stands on its own as a light source. 

This is different from LCD, where backlights are used to shed light on the pixels, and liquid crystals help you to control the passage of light. 

Comparing Their Technical Specifications

Contrast Ratio: Here, OLEDs take the prize. With each pixel emitting its light, you get true blacks when they’re off. 

Color Accuracy & Saturation: Once again, OLEDs do better. Colors are more vibrant here since you can control the brightness of each color. 

Available Viewing Angles: This is pretty tight, but OLEDs are slightly better. Even at broad viewing angles, you can get consistent color. 

Response Time: What is OLED if you don’t get a sharp response time? With them, you can cut down on motion blur and capture fast-moving content. 

Energy Efficiency: It should come as no surprise that OLEDs do better from an energy efficiency standpoint. Each pixel shines its light, and the dark pixels themselves don’t use too much power. 

Overall Lifespan: OLEDs tend to last longer, although you need to also be careful with the issue of burn-in and how it might affect the display

Flexibility & Form Thickness: Because LCDs need backlighting, they tend to be thicker. 

OLED vs LED (Light Emitting Diode) Displays

Finally, we have the traditional LEDs. There are a lot of similarities between both as you’d be able to imagine, but there will always be lines of divergence that show how both of them differ.  

The Principles Behind Them 

For traditional LEDs, you have displays that make use of backlights to shine pixels with an LCD panel. This differs from OLEDs, where organic compounds help to emit light once an electric current has been passed through. 

A Rundown Of Their Technicals

Contrast Ratios: The application of backlighting means that traditional LEDs will most likely struggle with getting true black levels. This is a struggle that OLEDs don’t have. 

Accuracy In Presenting Color: An OLED display will also be able to offer sharper and more accurate colors since you can control each pixel and its illumination. 

Available Viewing Angles: As you have it with the LCD comparison, OLEDs take the prize here as well. 

How Quickly Do They Respond: You usually experience sharper response times with OLEDs, although advancements in traditional LED technology mean that they are also catching up. 

Which Option Is Thinner: OLEDs don’t need additional backlights. So, they are generally slimmer in their form. 

The General Lifespan: This is a bit of a stalemate. OLEDs have the issue of burn-in over time, but for LEDs, there’s also the issue of individual pixels degrading. So, it’s almost tied


All in all, OLEDs are an innovation in the display field that is hard to beat. And as time goes on, more people are starting to see just how effective they can be when it comes to working in displays. 

If you need more clarity about these screens and displays, feel free to reach out to us at NSE LED Cloud. 

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