Quantum dot OLED: what the new technology means for gaming

A sign of things to come

There’s a new hotness in display tech: QD-OLED or quantum dot organic light-emitting diode, and it’s positioned to be a game-changer within the gaming space.

Thanks to showings from Samsung, Sony, and Dell (Alienware) during CES 2022, enthusiasts were treated to first-ever in-person QD-OLED displays via TVs and monitors, and it’s looking like a significant jump from standard OLED and QLED technology. In particular, Alienware’s gaming monitor reveal shows an exciting glimpse into what gamers can expect in the coming years.

What is QD-OLED?

QD-OLED improves upon already-capable OLED and QLED displays.

QD-OLED technology combines OLED’s current popular display tech with the improved brightness levels of QLED and quantum dot LED. The final product combines OLED’s perfect blacks and response times with the quantum dot LED’s better brightness and color reproduction.

qd-oled oled tv explained
Image via Leon Seibert / Unsplash

Who is the QD-OLED gaming monitor frontrunner?

During CES 2022, Samsung captured a Best of Innovation award, Sony revealed the A95K QD-OLED TV, and Alienware showed off an ultrawide QD-OLED gaming monitor.

As things stand, Alienware is the frontrunner for the QD-OLED gaming monitor crown—with market entry timing likely proving key to success.

What is the current monitor display technology to beat?

IPS and VA panels are the current gaming monitor displays to beat, according to many gamers. They’re each a type of liquid crystal display (LCD). Although LCD panels are nothing new—and have limitations of their own—they still prove as the go-to choice, especially for competitive gamers. IPS panels are notable for their excellent viewing angles and color representation. On the other hand, VA panels tend to have lower viewing angles than IPS, albeit superior contrast ratios and excel at providing incredible levels of in-game detail.

Manufacturers have slowly been moving on from traditional IPS, VA, and TN-type monitor panels over the past few years, although a clear new display technology isn’t winning the race yet. That may change soon.

Why aren’t OLED gaming monitors the current display-tech-to-beat?

As mentioned, OLED panels are known for their perfect blacks and high contrast. However, high price, burn-in, and capped brightness levels have largely kept them out of the gaming space.

Speaking of pitfalls, OLED panels can suffer from burn-in. While not an issue on TVs that constantly display refreshed pictures, PCs constantly display a fixed taskbar, icons, web pages, and the like for extended periods.

Although newer OLEDs appear to of largely addressed burn-in, it’s still possible for minor distortion or discoloration to set in. Once it sets in, you can’t fix it.

Image: Sony

Another weakness—until now—is a lack of brightness and the fact that OLED naturally loses brightness over time as the organic diodes wear out.

Still, gamers haven’t gone without noticing the potential of OLED in gaming. During CES 2021, Alienware dropped the first OLED gaming monitor—impressing the gaming world. OLED’s instantaneous technology doesn’t have ghosting like a normal gaming monitor, which immediately makes OLED well suited for fast-moving shooters and battle royales, where players are constantly scanning the screen for enemies.

Alienware’s QD-OLED debut

Gaming monitors had an impressive CES 2022. In particular, Alienware’s AW3423DW could be the QD-OLED monitor to rule them all. The 34-inch screen was the world’s first to be announced with a QD-OLED panel—interesting—because Samsung’s display division is supplying the panel.

alienware 34 inch ces 2022-1
Image: Alienware / Dell

The addition of QD-OLED technology in the AW3423DW means that this screen supports the brightness necessary for all types of HDR content. OLED screens just like this one are revered in the TV market for their ability to reproduce dark scenes without losing detail. Great news for gamers playing horror, thrillers, or games featuring dark environments.

Alienware also boasts improved brightness and energy efficiency, along with a 175Hz refresh rate and 0.1 MS response time.

Image: Dell / Alienware

Releasing in March 2022 with “improved OLED reliability” and a three-year premium warranty that covers OLED burn-in, Alienware aims to address original OLED concerns head on.

We’re looking at a price-point likely in the low-to-mid $1,000’s—but potentially its warranty will inflate that figure even higher.

QD-OLED: What it does differently

OLED panels create their light and color starting point with white light, combining blue and yellow OLED organic material to create a blend of pure white light. From the white light, the red, green, and blue portions are separated from that spectrum, and that’s where a color filter comes in. Color filters do a solid job of filtering color, although reducing brightness in the process.

Image via Samsung

To deal with OLED brightness limitation, QD-OLED panels blast blue light through a quantum dot layer, dividing it into three subpixels to help replicate the full color.

This has a whole range of benefits. Because blue is the highest frequency light and the most powerful, it’s more power-efficient to translate into multiple colors.

If you’re replicating blue, there’s no conversion needed at all, saving even more power. Each individual pixel can still be turned off to reproduce OLED’s perfect blacks.

The quantum dot layer also helps with QD-OLED’s color reproduction, especially when it comes to deep reds, golds, or other colors that often suffer from saturation issues on existing OLED TVs. And because the improved efficiency of the technology means less power is required to hit the same level of brightness as previous TVs, it means these newer quantum dot OLEDs should last longer without suffering from burn-in.

The bottom line

A new display technology in QD-OLED is poised to alter the way gamers view the games they play, like nothing seen before. QD-OLED improves upon the handful of shortcomings of traditional OLED, taking the technology to the next level.

If Alienware—or fellow competitions—can manage to deliver a product that’s able to capture gamers’ attention, it’ll be an exciting chapter in the gaming monitor space for years to come.