A QD-OLED monitor may be worth it for the gamer who needs to have it all. Whether you’re a regular user, someone on a budget, or a professional, QD-OLED won’t become a compelling option 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, enhancing both for better colors and a brighter picture. However, prices for QD-LED monitors at the time of writing are well over $1000, 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 competitive 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 that competes with standard LED-LCD. QD-OLED is a Samsung screen 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 from standard OLEDs is the addition of a QD layer that’s responsible for color reproduction. This is the same quantum dot layer that gives QLED its name, which uses a different underlying display technology that relies on a backlight.
OLED screens of all kinds use self-emissive screen technology. That means these displays have an exceptional contrast ratio, as individual pixels can be turned off to reproduce near-perfect blacks. This is an important aspect of display quality, providing both standard OLED displays and newer QD-OLED displays with better perceived image quality under the right viewing conditions.
QD-OLED first hit TVs in 2022 as the Samsung S95B, but monitor makers have been slow to embrace the technology. The risk of “burn-in” or permanent image retention, the cost, and the size of most OLED panels (rarely less than 42 or 48 inches) probably haven’t helped.
How does QD-OLED improve on normal LCD or 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 without the need for local dimming algorithms that can introduce latency. OLED screens also have excellent response times, consume less power, and generally offer thinner and lighter designs.
The differences between standard OLED and QD-OLED are a bit more subtle. Standard OLED, also known as WOLED, is based on an RGB sub-pixel design in which each pixel consists of smaller red, green, and blue sub-pixels. These are combined to create different colors. Most modern OLED panels also use a white sub-pixel for added brightness.
A QD-OLED panel only emits blue light at the pixel level. It is then passed through the QD layer, which converts the blue light to color without losing 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 be brighter than traditional WOLED panels, as the generated blue light is converted without loss of energy. Standard OLED panels are less efficient when they rely on the WRGB sub-pixel structure to create color, resulting in a dimmer image.
What QD-OLED monitors are available?
So far, Alienware (a division of Dell) is the only brand that has brought QD-OLED to the 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, allowing up to 175Hz with Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) and ensuring a maximum brightness of 1000 nits on HDR content.
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Dell Alienware AW3423DW
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Alienware followed this up with the AW3423DWF that lacks G-Sync Ultimate in favor of AMD FreeSeync Premium Pro and VESA AdaptiveSync certification for $200 cheaper. The cheaper version’s refresh rate has been lowered to 165Hz, but VRR works with NVIDIA, AMD, and even Intel graphics cards.
Both monitors use an ultra-wide 21:9 aspect ratio with a 3440×1440 resolution and 1800 curve. Both are aimed squarely at gamers, with Alienware’s standard “gamer aesthetic” and glowing alien logos to boot.
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Although the QD-OLED panels in these monitors are made by Samsung Display, Samsung’s consumer division has yet to bring a product to market at the time of writing. If you’re interested in QD-OLED but aren’t ready to spend more than $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 suitable for a good-sized desktop. It might not have the QD layer or extra brightness, but it’s now available for under $1000 for the first time, has more screen real estate (in a 16:9 aspect ratio), and works great as a TV.
LG 42 inch Class OLED evo C2
The 42-inch C2 is an affordable OLED that’s perfectly sized for a monitor, supports the latest variable refresh technologies for gaming, and offers all the benefits of OLED, as long as you have an HDMI 2.1 GPU!
If you have room for a 48-inch monitor, LG’s UltraGear OLED and AORUS OLED are other options.
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What about the burn?
QD-OLED may be more resistant to burn-in, 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 problem that burn mitigation measures are there from the start. Websites like RTINGS have done burn-in tests on older OLED models in the past and are now in the process of testing newer models using a similar methodology.
This was not the case with standard OLED, and techniques to prevent image retention such as logo static dimming and pixel updates were only included in later revisions. The threat of burn-in is probably one of the main reasons why 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 variety of content on their TVs, including movies, sports, video games, YouTube, etc. On a monitor, the same static elements are displayed frequently. Things like the Windows taskbar, the macOS dock, the 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, relies on organic material to generate light. Like any other organic material, it will degrade over time through normal use. When certain pixels are used more than other pixels, they degrade at a faster rate than those around them. This can result in image retention, or what is colloquially known as burn-in.
In WOLED assemblies, burn-in occurs at a sub-pixel level. For example, if you show a static red item on the screen, it may “burn out” faster than surrounding green or blue items. This means that retention will be much more visible on a red background or any other color that depends on the red sub-pixel (purple, for example).
With QD-OLED, this is not the case. Since the OLED screen generates only blue light and the QD layer is responsible for color reproduction, all pixels will burn out at an even rate. It is not yet known how this will present itself in the future.
Are QD-OLED monitors worth the cost?
It’s hard to recommend a QD-OLED monitor to everyone but the must-have-everything gamer, at least at the time of writing. With only two models available in a single resolution and aspect ratio, there aren’t many options available. 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 you’re looking for a 21:9 curved monitor.
OLED technology in general is good for video production, as it provides a faithful representation of “absolute black” for mastering purposes. The QD coating will certainly help with color reproduction, although calibration is essential for this type of work. However, the lack of a 4K panel will be cause for concern, and video artists are better off throwing their money at an existing OLED like the LG C2.
Over time, more models will hit the market, which should force prices 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 use LCD or OLED (QD).