What is an OLED display?

OLED displays are electronic visual panels that harness organic light-emitting diodes (which, of course, is what the acronym OLED stands for) for their core illumination power. OLED is a type of electroluminescent display technology, in which an organic material layer generates light when molecules in the diode are agitated by an electric current.

As with many other display types, an OLED array can be used to present images, text, video and more on a screen or panel of almost any size, and the technology has been especially prevalent on the high-end home entertainment market over the past few years. Thanks to the unique strengths they deliver in terms of power and performance, OLED screens are also in increasingly widespread use as performance display tools across all industries and sectors today.

In this guide, we’ll look more closely at exactly how OLED panels function, what the main strengths of the technology are when compared with more entry-level alternatives, and some of the brands whose products are currently excelling in a range of professional and industrial display settings.

What is OLED technology?

Most of us are already familiar with standard LEDs, or light-emitting diodes - the small lights you often find included as components on printed circuit boards (PCBs) and electronic instrument panels. They’re also very widely used today in countless forms of modern household illumination, high-end screen technologies, and much more besides.

OLEDs are mechanically comparable to any other standard LED, insofar as:

      • A diode is set up to emit light by being sandwiched between two electrodes with a voltage attached.
      • When power is sent through this component in the form of electricity, it illuminates with a bright, clear light that doesn’t generate any significant heat (or guzzle anything like the power that traditional incandescent lamps do).
      • The key difference with an OLED specifically is that the light it gives off is created through the interaction of organic molecules undercurrent.
      • 'Organic’ in this context means carbon-based molecules, which are deposited across a thin film to which the requisite anode and cathode are connected.Midas-matrix-OLED-Display.jpg

Aside from the precise nature of the compounds involved, then, the core principle behind how LEDs/OLEDs themselves work is broadly similar. However, when talking about panel technology, OLED screens differ from standard LED displays in a much more fundamental way:

      • LED screens are a form of LCD, or liquid crystal display. (There’s often major confusion between these two terms, thanks largely to the vagaries of TV brand marketing.)
        • To clarify, LED is really just a subtype of LCD, and an incredibly common one at that. In fact, most modern LCD displays will be LED versions, to the extent that you can almost use the terms interchangeably nowadays - hence the confusion!
        • In a typical LED/LCD display, the LEDs are what provide the backlighting that illuminates pixels beneath the LCD layer of the setup.
      • OLED panels, however, are quite different. When used in a display, OLEDs emit their own light directly to screen from immediately beneath it - to all intents and purposes, they are the pixels being lit up, rather than OLEDs doing the heavy lifting in the background as standard LEDs do.
        • This important distinction enables OLED displays to offer various significant advantages over standard LED technologies, many of which make them far stronger performers across a number of specific criteria and applications.