A QD-OLED monitor may be worth it to the gamer who has to have it all. If you’re a regular user, someone on a budget, or a professional, QD-OLED won’t become a compelling choice for you until more models hit the market and the overall price drops.
QD-OLED combines techniques first seen in QLED LCD panels with self-emissive OLED technology, improving on both for better colors and a brighter picture. Prices for QD-LED monitors at the time of writing exceed $1000, though, so should you consider buying one?
What Is a QD-OLED Monitor?
A QD-OLED monitor is simply a computer monitor that uses a QD-OLED panel, rather than a competing technology. The “QD” in QD-OLED stands for “Quantum Dots” and “OLED” stands for “Organic Light Emitting Diode”. QD-OLED is an evolution of existing OLED display technology which competes with standard LED-LCD. QD-OLED is a Samsung Display technology with all QD-OLED panels produced by this manufacturer.
We’ve already covered the basics of QD-OLED technology in detail, but the key difference over standard OLED is the addition of a QD layer that is responsible for color reproduction. This is the same layer of quantum dots that lends its name to QLED, which uses a different underlying display technology that relies on a backlight.
OLED displays of all kinds use self-emissive display technology. That means that these displays have exceptional contrast ratio since individual pixels can be switched off to reproduce near-perfect blacks. This is an important aspect of display quality, providing both standard OLED and newer QD-OLED displays with better perceived image quality in the right viewing conditions.
QD-OLED first made its way into televisions in 2022 like the Samsung S95B, but monitor manufacturers have been slow to adopt the technology. The risk of “burn-in” or permanent image retention, cost, and the size of most OLED panels (rarely under 42 or 48 inches) likely hasn’t helped.
How Does QD-OLED Improve on LCD or Regular OLED?
Compared to older LED-lit LCD monitors, QD-OLED monitors include all the benefits of an OLED display. Self-emissive pixels mean an unbeatable contrast ratio with no need for local dimming algorithms that may introduce latency. OLED displays also have excellent response times, consume less power, and usually offer thinner and lighter designs.
The differences between standard OLED and QD-OLED are a little more subtle. Standard OLED, also known as WOLED, relies on an RGB sub-pixel layout where each pixel comprises smaller red, green, and blue sub-pixels. These are combined to create different colors. Most modern OLED panels also use a white subpixel for added brightness.
A QD-OLED panel only outputs blue light at the pixel level. This is then passed through the QD layer, which converts blue light to color with no loss of energy in the process. The presence of a QD layer also means that QD-OLED panels can theoretically display more colors than standard WOLED panels.
QD-OLED panels should also get brighter than old-fashioned WOLED since the blue light generated is converted with no energy lost. Standard OLED panels are less efficient when relying on the WRGB subpixel structure to create color, which results in a dimmer image.
Which QD-OLED Monitors Are Available?
So far, Alienware (a division of Dell) is the only brand to have released QD-OLED to market. The first was the G-Sync Ultimate AW3423DW which retails for around $1,300. G-Sync Ultimate pairs well with an NVIDIA graphics card, enabling up to 175Hz with variable refresh rate (VRR) and guaranteeing a peak brightness of 1000 nits in HDR content.
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Alienware followed this up with the AW3423DWF which lacks G-Sync Ultimate in favor of AMD FreeSeync Premium Pro and VESA AdaptiveSync certification for $200 cheaper. The refresh rate on the cheaper version has been revised down to 165Hz, but VRR works with NVIDIA, AMD, and even Intel graphics cards.
Both monitors use an ultrawide 21:9 aspect ratio with a resolution of 3440×1440 and an 1800 curve. Both are aimed squarely at gamers, with the standard Alienware “gamer aesthetic” and glowing extraterrestrial logos to boot.
Even though the QD-OLED panels in these monitors are manufactured by Samsung Display, Samsung’s consumer division is still yet to bring a product to market at the time of writing. If you’re interested in QD-OLED but aren’t ready to drop over $1000 on a 21:9 monitor, consider waiting a little longer to see what materializes.
Alternatively, consider something like the 42-inch LG C2 if you’re happy with a standard 4K WOLED display in a size should fit on a well-sized desk. It may not have the QD layer or additional brightness but now available for less than $1000 for the first time, has more screen real estate (in a 16:9 aspect ratio), and works great as a TV to boot.
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If you have room for a 48-inch monitor, LG’s UltraGear OLED and the AORUS OLED are other options.
What About Burn-In?
QD-OLED may be more burn-in resistant, but only time will tell. The technology hasn’t been on the market long enough to put this to the test. On the plus side, manufacturers are familiar enough with the issue that burn-in mitigation measures are there from the start. Websites like RTINGS have performed burn-in tests on older OLED models in the past and are now in the process of testing newer models using similar methodology.
This wasn’t the case with standard OLED, and techniques to prevent image retention like static logo dimming and pixel refreshers only made it into later revisions. The threat of burn-in is likely one of the main reasons that OLED monitors haven’t taken off in a big way yet.
You can mitigate burn-in on a TV by avoiding static content. Most people display a range of content on their TVs including movies, sports, video games, YouTube, and so on. On a monitor, the same static elements are frequently on display. Things like your Windows taskbar, the macOS dock, system tray or menu bar icons, the user interface of your browser, or any app you use a lot.
QD-OLED, like WOLED before it, and any future iteration of OLED technology, depends on organic material to generate light. Like any other organic material, this will degrade over time through normal use. When certain pixels get more use than other pixels, they degrade at a faster rate than those around them. This can result in image retention, or what has colloquially become known as burn-in.
On WOLED sets, burn-in occurs at a sub-pixel level. For example, if you display a static red element on screen then it may “burn in” faster than green or blue elements surrounding it. This means that retention will be far more visible on a red background, or any other colors that depend on the red subpixel (purple, for example).
With QD-OLED, this isn’t the case. Since the OLED display generates only blue light and the QD layer is responsible for color reproduction, all pixels will burn in at an even rate. How this will present in the future is not yet known.
Are QD-OLED Monitors Worth the Cost?
It’s hard to recommend a QD-OLED monitor to all but the gamer who has to have it all, at least at the time of publication. With only two models available in a single resolution and aspect ratio, there isn’t a ton of choice out there. On the plus side, Alienware’s QD-OLED monitors have excellent HDR performance, exceptional contrast ratio, and refresh rates that are high enough for most users if a 21:9 curved monitor is what you’re after.
OLED technology in general is good for video production, providing a faithful representation of “absolute black” for mastering purposes. The QD layer will certainly help color reproduction, though calibration is essential for this sort of work. The lack of a 4K panel will be of concern, however, and video artists may be better off sinking their money into an existing OLED like the LG C2.
In time, more models will hit the market, which should force prices to come down. If you haven’t upgraded your monitor in a while, the jump to 4K might be enough to impress you regardless of whether you go LCD or (QD) OLED.