Burn-in with OLED televisions

OLED TVs continue to enjoy great popularity. This can also be seen in the new models that brands like LG, Sony or Panasonic are launching this year. But even with the new, significantly brighter OLED TVs, the fear of burn-in risk still remains. Is the fear justified? We have summarized all questions about the dreaded burn-in risk with an OLED TV for you here.

Burn-In – Definition

It is one of the most discussed topics regarding OLED TVs: the burn-in risk. Image burn-in is not a new phenomenon; after all, it already existed in the times of plasma TVs and not only kept customers away from the products, but manufacturers also had to reorient themselves. In the meantime, the TV market is dominated by OLED and QLED TVs, although the issue around burn-in risk is still an issue with the former.

Burn-in means that static content in particular, such as TV logos or the headline bars of news channels, are permanently burned in, leaving a permanent shadow in the picture. However, the risk only exists if the TV always displays the same content for a very long time. Various long-term tests have already shown that devices have to display the same content for over 10,000 hours for burn-in to occur at all. But why are OLED TVs affected by this problem?

Burn-in with OLEDs

OLED TVs are known for displaying near-perfect blacks and brilliant colors, which is why they are incredibly popular, especially among movie and series fans. This unique OLED technology delivers an incredible picture and also doesn’t need a backlight compared to the LED panel.

OLED panel structure

The abbreviation OLED stands for “organic light emitting diode” and means that each pixel lights up itself or simply turns off completely when the picture is black. This is how OLED TVs achieve the almost perfect black level. Due to the WRGB pixel structure, all pixels are the same and can generate white or colored light themselves. This is only possible because each pixel consists of a red, blue, green and white subpixel that lie on top of each other. This guarantees the high color variety and accuracy.

OLED Pixel Macro Shot
OLED pixels in a macro shot.

However, the white pixels are the most sensitive here because they regulate the brightness. That’s why an OLED TV doesn’t have a separate backlight because the organic pixels of the panel take care of that themselves. However, if they get too warm with very bright content, they can lose their lifespan very quickly. To preserve the durability of these pixels, they are dimmed accordingly, which results in a darker picture on an OLED TV compared to a QLED. If very bright, static content is now displayed for a long time, there is a risk of burn-in. Therefore, you should make sure not to use the TV at maximum brightness for a long time.

Long-term tests

However, long-term tests with OLED TVs show that a burn-in risk is only theory, especially during normal use. In many of these long-term tests, OLED TVs permanently displayed very bright and static pictures, and only after more than 10,000 hours was a visible burn-in of logos or message bars detected. That is hardly achievable under normal use conditions. Only for office use, in waiting rooms or as general display screens should OLEDs not be used.

There is also the phenomenon of afterglow. Here, very bright parts of the image are still displayed for a short time when switching off or over, but they disappear again after a few moments.

Living room setup

Burn-in prevention

The various manufacturers of different OLED TVs have meanwhile installed some functions and technologies in their TVs that are supposed to minimize the risk of burn-in as much as possible. Some functions happen in the background and the user does not notice them, while others should be performed manually at regular intervals to maintain the TV.

Pixel-Shift

One possible option to further minimize a burn-in risk is Pixel Shift. This shifts the entire image up, down, or to the side by a few pixels without noticing. This way, pixels don’t permanently display the same thing, even if it’s a static content. This prevents very narrow things like a crosshair from burning in during gaming.

Pixel Refresher

Pixel Refresh is a kind of maintenance program that activates when the OLED is turned off. Thus, all pixels of the OLED panel are adjusted to the weakest one. You can set yourself how often a refresh should be performed in the corresponding picture settings.

There is also the option of doing a major “refresh” that completely removes image residue. If this does not happen automatically, it should be done manually every 2,000 to 3,000 operating hours.

Automatic Brightness Limiter (ABL)

Another function that avoids burn-in is ABL or Automatic Brightness Limiter. This function limits the maximum brightness in large and bright scenes so that the corresponding pixels do not get too hot. As a result, the pixels don’t wear out as quickly and the TV itself doesn’t heat up too much either. A disadvantage, however, is that the brightness of colors is reduced and they look a bit darker.

Image settings

The above functions can be adjusted in the TV’s settings. For example, you can set how often the Pixel Refresh should be used and when a large refresh is useful.

New, brighter OLEDs

In the course of CES 2021 in January, the new OLED evo panels were also presented, which are significantly brighter compared to conventional OLED panels. But doesn’t that even increase the risk of burn-in? No, quite the opposite.

Structure of the OLED evo

evo panel with deuterium instead of hydrogen

To understand why a brighter image of all things reduces the risk of burn-in, we need to look a bit more into the exact structure of evo pixels. A normal OLED pixel consists of many layers that lie on top of each other. Among them are the four relevant layers, two of which are blue and the other two are red and yellow-green, respectively. Two blue layers are used because blue OLEDs are the most inefficient.

evo Pixel, green layer
The green layer is added to the evo pixel.

The OLED evo panels now have an additional, green layer, and the blue layers have also been significantly improved through the use of a new material. This is deuterium, a natural isotope of hydrogen that is generally referred to as heavy hydrogen. Deuterium has an extra neutron compared to normal hydrogen. Compared to normal hydrogen, deuterium makes blue OLEDs much more heat resistant, allowing them to be brighter and used more efficiently. Thanks to the use of deuterium, the OLED evo panels can now be significantly brighter and the burn-in risk is further minimized.

The new OLEDs from LG and Sony score with many improvements. Even though there are no long-term tests for these models yet, the new technologies speak for an even lower burn-in risk than the predecessors.

LG OLED G1 evo

LG’s G1 already has the new evo panels installed and is therefore much more efficient. Furthermore, the new panels deliver a better luminosity and can be much brighter than the predecessors. In addition, the new TVs shine with a clear, detailed picture, as you would expect from an OLED. The Gallery Design TV will be available in 55-inch, 65-inch and 77-inch sizes from April.

OLED65G19LA 65'' 4K OLEDOLED65G19LA 65'' 4K OLED evo TV G1 evo TV G1
LG OLED65G19LA 65” 4K OLED evo TV G1

Sony OLED A90J

Sony also launches a new OLED with its A90J, which can become significantly brighter than its predecessors. In addition, the OLED has a more powerful processor, and it also features Acoustic Surface Audio+ technology, which turns the screen itself into a large speaker. Furthermore, we find an HDMI 2.1 port on the A90J, which will especially please gamers. The A90J will be available in 55 inches, 65 inches and 83 inches.

Only a theoretical risk

If you want to buy an OLED because of its great picture quality, you should do so despite the burn-in risk. This is because the risk of burn-in is generally very low and only possible in theory in home use. Furthermore, the new evo panels additionally reduce the probability of burn-in risk. In addition, long-term tests show that OLEDs can only pose a real risk of burn-in if they are subjected to very long periods of continuous use.

Due to the additional built-in features and technologies of the manufacturers, which are getting better and better, the probability of a burn-in risk also decreases more and more with the home TV. However, if you need a TV for an office or a waiting room, on which an info show is supposed to run permanently, then we rather advise against buying an OLED. A QLED TV is much better suited for such cases.

This post is also available in: Deutsch


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