Starting in the 1970s LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) screens have gradually taken over the whole world of displays. The early LCDs were small and mono, without backlighting, so used little power. They were ideal for watches and calculators. Then came colour LCDs, these are technologically crude devices using layers of filters to achieve colour. However they are relatively light in weight and quite thin so became the display of choice for applications like laptop computers. As technology advanced LCDs became bigger and became the display of choice for televisions.
There are several drawbacks to colour LCD displays:
- They are very complex, with polarisers, filters, backlights etc. which make them very expensive to produce.
- Most of the light produced by the display is absorbed within the display, this makes them very inefficient users of energy. With mobile devices they are the main limit of battery life.
- The fundamentals of the technology produce a narrow viewing angle.
- LCDs switch relatively slowly so are not very good at displaying motion.
- They cannot display black, which reduces picture quality enormously.
- As many people have discovered they are fragile and easily broken.
LCD displays have become the TVs of choice because they have big screens which are thin and thus easy to live with in a domestic environment. Most users are not critical enough to be bothered by the poor picture quality.
I still use a CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) television because it is better. My Philips 36PW9525 has a picture quality that puts any LCD television to shame. It does, however, need three people to pick it up.
But both LCD and CRT technologies are in the process of being made obsolete. There is a display technology being introduced that is vastly superior to both in every way. It is called OLED and it works by semiconductor emissive electroluminescence. The advantages are startling:
- Manufactured by a lithographic process, the screen is literally printed. This will, ultimately, make them very cheap to produce.
- The incredibly simple construction makes them very light, a fraction of the weight of an LCD. Also they are extremely robust. And only a few millimetres thick.
- Nearly all the energy is turned into the light that you see, this is incredible energy efficiency and will revolutionise portable devices.
- Black really is black because no light is being produced. This massively improves picture quality.
- Better colors, brightness, contrast and viewing angle than LCD.
- Switch very fast (0.01ms) compared with LCD (2.0ms) so can display motion vastly better.
- They can be made curved and they can be made out of flexible materials. You could even make clothes out of them!
As you can see OLED confers massive advantages, the main problem is in productionising the technology. They are starting with small screens, just as LCD did, and then gradually working their way up. But already they can be found in a number of production devices. The Zune HD and Samsung i7500 for instance, in the world of gaming. Soon they will be in iPods and iPhones, which will really bring them to the public’s attention.
So every LCD device will become obsolete, as the features and benefits of OLED devices are so overwhelmingly superior. And games will look so much better.
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