Thin is in. Despite the rise of childhood obesity and the fact that the average American is wider than ever, thin is in. At least with our TVs and desktop monitors. Today everyone wants a nice thin PC monitor, and for small and home offices these make sense.
LCD monitors typically take up less desk space, are easier on the eyes during extended use of the computer and generally provide a better picture. Of course there is nothing wrong with those old CRTs. If you are still using one, don’t feel the need to run out and buy an LCD monitor…especially because the hype is that OLED is on the way.
Or is it? At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, Sony unveiled the much-publicized XEL-1, which is the world’s first commercially marketed OLED TV. This display is a mere 3mm thick, making today’s LCD monitors look downright fat in comparison. The picture quality is – in a word – outstanding. This reporter certainly liked what he saw at Sony’s press conference at CES. So is OLED the hot new thing?
I was asked this very question by a friend who happens to be in the market for a larger LCD. The question he asked was whether he should wait for OLED. Well, here’s the deal. The XEL-1 looks great, but it is a mere 11-inch wide! That’s not exactly what I’d call ready for prime time just yet, not when the price of $2,500 could easily get you into a nice 50-inch plasma or LCD set. I warned my friend that it will be years, maybe as much as a decade before we see OLED technology in sizes that rival plasma or LCD HDTVs.
None of this matters for small business because while LCD TVs have only become affordable in the last couple of years, we’ve have reasonable size monitors for a decade now. So could OLED make its way to the desktop instead? At this point I’m thinking the chances are thin… at least for now.
Last week TWICE, the consumer electronics trade magazine, reported that the Sony XEL-1 TV didn’t fare as well in the lifespan ratings. While Sony believes such technology should be good for 10 years or 30,000 hours, independent testing by DisplaySearch, an NPD Group company, suggested the set could fade to black in about 17,000 hours. That’s still a lot of episodes of LOST or Desperate Housewives, but far fewer hours than what LCD monitors are providing to users today.
More importantly, the DisplaySearch test revealed that the set might only provide 5,000 hours for white and 17,000 hours for video. Considering that many spreadsheets, word processing applications and even Web sites are made up of a lot of white…and well you get the picture!
Eventually, we might get super thin monitors—not that the inch-thick monitors of today are presenting much of a problem—however, this is yet another example of “don’t believe the hype.” The notion of super thin OLED displays for work and play is great, but does it really improve on what we have today? LCD monitors were a good step forward from CRTs, but it took time. CRT had advantages over LCD for a long time; the bulky monitors of days gone by were affordable, provided good contrast ratio and accurate colors (one reason why not every graphic designer was eager to jump to the thinner displays). CRT also provided a better refresh rate—called response time with LCD—which made the bulky monitor good for gaming, and video.