Active-matrix organic light-emitting diode or AMOLED is a display technology that was first introduced in 2006 and became popular starting in 2008. It has now become a premium display option used in various consumer electronic devices such as smartphones, tablet computers, laptops, digital cameras, media players, smartwatches, and television sets.
This display technology is a reapplication of a specific electroluminescent technology based on organic light-emitting diode or OLED. An OLED is an organic material that emits light in response to an electric current. Furthermore, when applied in display panels, OLED technology involves the simultaneous switching of individual organic diodes. Each diode emits a particular color of light and can represent an individual picture element or pixel.
AMOLED display technology specifically addresses the aforementioned through active matrix switching in which each diode or pixel is attached to a transistor and capacitor to actively maintain the pixel state while addressing other pixels. Nevertheless, to understand further this display technology, this article discusses the pros and cons of AMOLED.
Advantages of AMOLED Display Technology
1. Consumes Less Power
One of the main advantages of AMOLED is lower power consumption. It is more energy efficient than other display technologies such as LCD and traditional LED. Take note that each diode in an AMOLED panel emits light without generating too much heat. Hence, unlike LED and LCD, energy loss due to heat transfer is lesser in this display technology.
Furthermore, because each diode or pixel generates light itself, an AMOLED display panel does not require backlighting for colors and overall images to become visible unlike in LCD. A backlight requires drawing additional power from an energy source.
Power consumption is also uneven across the panel. Power draw comes from active pixels. Darker colors consume less power while blacks do not draw any power because they are presented by inactive pixels. The energy efficiency of AMOLED panels makes them more suitable for portable and battery-powered electronic devices.
2. Thinner Physical Profile
A conventional AMOLED panel has an organic plastic layer with a thinness of about 100 to 500 nanometers. This is about 200 times thinner than the strand of human hair. LCD panels, such as those based on in-plane switching technology, are thicker because it is made of multiple layers that include the backlighting, a liquid crystal layer, and color filters.
This thinness also translates to lightness and flexibility. The organic plastic layer of AMOLED is specifically thinner, lighter, and more flexible than the rigid layers of an LCD. This also allows more light to pass through to produce clearer and sharper images.
Nonetheless, based on this physical profile, the use of AMOLED has resulted in the development of novel and informative form factors. Manufacturers have produced devices that are thinner. Some have also developed and commercialized curved displays and devices with bendable and foldable screens using plastic OLED and flexible OLED materials.
3. High Contrast Ratio
Another advantage of AMOLED is its high contrast ratio. This ratio represents the difference between the brightest whites and the darkest blacks. This is evident when compared to LCD technologies such as in-plane switching and twisted nematic or TN. It remains unrivaled even by newer LCD backlighting schemes such as mini-LED backlighting.
It is important to underscore the fact that a conventional AMOLED display panel has a higher and almost infinite contrast ratio because each of its organic diodes emits light and produces color. The blacks are deep because they represent the absence of light.
The specific contrast ratio of the lowest-end AMOLED display panel is 200000:1 while the higher-end ones is infinite. Conventional IPS LCD panels have a contrast ratio of 1000:1 and the more expensive ones have a contrast ratio of 10000:1. The closest rival to an AMOLED is LCD panels that use newer backlighting schemes such as QLED and mini-LED.
4. Overall Display Quality
The overall visual experience form using an AMOLED display panel is incomparable. This comes from its unrivaled contrast ratio, deeper whites, and vivid and vibrant color reproduction. The quality of the display or the colors and images it produces are very evident when compared to display panels based on other display technologies
It also has a wider viewing angle or viewing cone that cannot be matched even by the highest-end IPS LCD panel. There are no noticeable color shifts and brightness and vibrancy remain unchanged even when the display panel is viewed from extreme angles.
AMOLED display panels also have a better pixel response time and higher refresh rates by default than conventional IPS LCD panels. This means that the visual experience is more fluid and less straining to the eyes. Take note that a slower response time and a lower refresh rate can produce ghosting effects and motion blurs during image movements.
Disadvantages of AMOLED Display Technology
1. Short Lifespan Due to Degradation
A significant limitation of AMOLED display technology is its shorter lifespan due to its faster evident degradation. This is more apparent when compared to display technologies such as LED and LCD. The organic materials in an AMOLED display panel have a shorter lifespan than traditional or inorganic light-emitting diodes and liquid crystals.
The pixels or color-specific organic materials in a particular panel have different lifespans. Take note that blue-emitting diodes fade faster than red-emitting and green-emitting diodes. This results in the development of noticeable color shifts and screen burn-ins.
The high susceptibility to screen burn-ins is a defining disadvantage of AMOLED display panels. Nevertheless, because blue-emitting diodes degrade faster, the entire process can leave permanent imprints. A conventional panel would have noticeable burn-ins after at least two years of normal use. Dead pixels can also appear over time.
2. Vulnerability to Water Damage
AMOLED display panels are very prone to water damage. Organic materials are essentially more vulnerable to water unlike the diodes in LED and inorganic crystalline found in LCD. Water molecules can specifically disrupt the delicate molecular bonds in the organic materials and render them inoperable or unable to emit light while in their active phase.
Submerging an AMOLED panel in water will immediately result in noticeable damage as represented by screen burn-ins or dead pixels. This vulnerability makes the sealing process an important consideration in the fabrication and manufacturing of AMOLED panels.
It is important to note that several mid-range and flagship smartphones have water resistance ratings to overcome this drawback. However, for other consumer electronic devices, this added feature is rare. There are different ways that water can enter the panel. These include direct water exposure from accidental splashes and exposure to humid environments.
3. Problem With Outdoor Visibility
Images in an AMOLED display panel are difficult to view under direct sunlight as compared to IPS LCD panels. Low-end panels are even unviewable under this condition. This limitation stems from the fact that individual organic diodes emit light and produce color themselves. Most LCD panels use backlighting to allow colors to become visible to users.
Several workarounds have been implemented to resolve this problem. These included reducing the size of gaps between layers within the panel or the application of matte coating and polarizing filters on the screen to reduce external reflection.
Manufacturers have also increased the peak brightness of mid-range to high-end AMOLED display panels. This can be done either through using new materials that are more efficient at converting light into electricity, improving the design of the OLED pixel structure, or improving image processing using a dedicated chip or display accelerator.
4. Oversaturation and High-Contrast
Furthermore, despite its unrivaled contrast ratio from its deep natural blacks and production of vivid and vibrant colors, several AMOLED display panels are prone to producing oversaturated colors and high-contrast images that are somewhat hard and unnatural. This translates to inaccurate color reproduction and unrealistic image representation.
The aforementioned problem comes from the wider range of colors that it can produce. Some manufacturers are also intentional when it comes to using color enhancement algorithms while failing to calibrate the colors in accordance with real-world images.
Nevertheless, based on this inherent display quality issue, this display technology might be unsuitable in use cases in which accurate color and real-world image reproduction are essential. Notable examples of these color-critical works are photo editing, graphic design, video editing, and more specific video grading and video coloring applications.
Conclusion: Advantages and Disadvantages of AMOLED
Nevertheless, because of its vivid colors, deep blacks, and wide viewing angle, the visual experience of using an AMOLED display panel is incomparable with other display technologies. These are the critical advantages of AMOLED that have made it the popular display technology in modern consumer electronic devices.
The possibility of producing innovative form factors is also another advantage of AMOLED. It supports the design and development of thin and flexible electronic displays. This has been evident in curved monitors and smartphones with foldable screens.
However, the shorter lifespan of this display technology when compared to IPS or TN LCD technologies is a very important limitation. This limitation collectively affects the lifespan of a consumer electronic device that uses an AMOLED display panel. The susceptibility to color shifts and screen burn-ins make it unsuitable for displaying static images.
Take note that images on computers or laptops are usually static. Static image shortens further the lifespan of individual pixels. The fact that blue-emitting diodes degrade faster increases the likelihood of color shifts and screen burn-ins.
It is still worth mentioning the high demand for products with shorter product lifecycles such as smartphones offsets the problem concerning the short lifespan of AMOLED display panels. Hence, by the time a particular panel starts to show more noticeable signs of degradation, a user would have already bought and owned a newer device.