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OLED vs LED for Virtual Reality Headsets: Which is the Best Display?

LCD vs OLEd Display for VR - VR Expert

The choice between OLED vs LED in a virtual reality headset determines aspects such as visual fidelity and price point. It is, therefore, one of the most pivotal aspects of a VR headset. Resolution is important, but the display engine that produces the picture plays a factor that is commonly forgotten about. Here is why it is critical.

In this article, you will discover:

  • The differences between the OLED and LED technology
  • The benefits of each within a virtual reality headset

The differences between the OLED and LED technology

What is a LED display?

A LED display works by having a LCD backlit by a LED panel. 

A LCD without a light source is just black and will stay black. As a result, an LED (light-emitting diodes) panel provides the backlight to shine through the LCD. This is what creates the pixels that are seen by your eyes.

What is an OLED display?

On the other hand, an OLED display still has the ‘light-emitting diodes’. The difference is that each diode is “organic”. Hence the name OLED.

The property of these organic light-emitting diodes is that they can produce their own light, i.e., no LCD panel is needed. In essence, each pixel is a self-sufficient generator of color and illumination. In practice, an OLED display acts as its own light source, meaning that when it is on, you can see the pixels – the display – and when it is off, it is completely black. OLED display engines, therefore, have an incredibly deep black and contrast level.

OLED general benefits

Other differences with the OLED display engine are that it enables a thinner profile, is generally lighter in weight, uses a lower amount of energy, is rollable and offers better viewing angles overall.

LED general benefits

Oppositely, while OLED features deeper blacks and contrasts, LED engines offer higher brightness levels. The reason, naturally, is that the panel of diodes backlighting the LCD can be stronger in luminance than individual organic diodes.

Color accuracy comparison

Color accuracy is a tie between OLED and LED display engines. The reason is that the LED panel backlighting the LCD has matured to deliver results on par with OLED color performance, which previously produced better and more vivid color representation. Software solutions such as HDR (high dynamic range) also equal the playing field in the difference between LED and OLED.

Refresh rate of OLED compared to LED

Refresh rate is the speed at which each pixel changes state, i.e., how fast the overall image updates for the human eye to perceive. While the human eye can only perceive somewhere between 30 to 60 frames per second, our cognition can register about 75 frames per second. As a result, anything higher than 75 frames per second increases immersion, as our brain will interpret what is seen as more real.

LCD vs OLEd Display for VR - VR Expert

OLED displays because each pixel acts as its own light source can refresh much quicker than an LED display that requires a separate light source.

Benefits of each within a virtual reality headset

LED display for virtual reality

LED display engines in virtual reality are an older technology and are cheaper to produce, resulting in a lower VR headset price point for the moment.

Then, LED displays produce higher brightness levels. However, this is less important in VR as the experience is contained within a closed headset and is therefore always in a darkened setting. 

OLED display for virtual reality

On almost all fronts, the OLED technology is better for virtual reality. It features deeper blackness levels which is critical, as the distance between the wearer’s eyes and the screen is much closer. 

LCD vs OLEd Display for VR - VR Expert

OLED enables a much slimmer and lighter profile which reduces the weight upon the wearer’s head and makes virtual reality less cumbersome. 

The refresh rate potential is higher for OLED, making it easier for manufacturers to mirror real-life and increase immersion. 

Lastly, the power consumption drawn in an OLED is much lower than the LED technology. Effectively, this enables standalone VR headsets’ battery life to run for longer periods.

Conclusion

OLED displays offer several advantages over LED technology for virtual reality headsets. These benefits include deeper blacks and contrast levels, higher refresh rates, and lower power consumption. As the technology matures, it is likely that all VR headsets will feature OLED displays, as the disparity between OLED and LED is skewed towards OLED. The reason why OLED is not seen in more virtual reality headsets comes down to price point and technology maturity.

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