IPS vs OLED – Which Panel Type Should I Choose?

Should you stick with the good old IPS panel or get one of those fancy new OLED panels? We'll guide you through them both and help you discover which one is the right one for you.

Answer:

While OLED panels produce true blacks and have an instantaneous pixel response time speed, you have to look out for image burn-in. Moreover, OLED displays can’t get as bright as some high-end LED-backlit LCDs with IPS or VA panels.

IPS panels have a slower response time and lower contrast, which when combined with IPS glow and backlight bleeding results in grayish blacks in comparison to that of OLED displays and an overall inferior viewing experience, but there’s no risk of burn-in.

With OLED prices steadily going down, you are probably wondering whether you should finally get one or stick with the old and trusted IPS technology. Here’s what you need to keep in mind when choosing between these panel types.

OLED vs. IPS

First of all, what makes these two panel technologies genuinely different?

Unlike LCD LED panels, such as VA, TN and IPS, OLED displays don’t rely on a backlight to produce the image.

Instead, each pixel emits its own light, which allows for an infinite contrast ratio that results in stunning image quality with true blacks and without backlight bleeding, glowing, blooming, or other visual artifacts.

That’s why in comparison to OLED displays, IPS and even VA TVs and monitors have grayish blacks. But, there are still many other things to consider.

OLED Image Retention/Burn-In

ips lcd burn in

The main problem with OLED displays is image burn-in.

If you leave your TV or monitor with an image with bright static elements for a very long time, there’s a chance those elements will burn in and become permanently visible.

OLED displays have built-in screen savers, pixel shifters and other features to prevent this, but you still need to be careful.

Another problem is image retention, which is similar to image burn-in, but it’s not permanent as it goes away after a few minutes or after you refresh pixels using a dedicated display’s feature.

Still, if you play video games on an OLED display for a long time, fixed HUD items such as mini-maps, health bars, menus, etc. may remain visible for some time even after the image has changed. A lot of games have dedicated options to auto-hide fixed elements in games precisely for this reason.

Overall, you can still enjoy playing your favorite game for hours every day without worrying. Just don’t leave the same static image on the screen for too long and play varying content so that the pixels refresh.

For instance, after playing a game for four hours or more, just play a YouTube video without static elements for a while, and you’ll be fine.

Burn-in is also a concern if you plan on doing office-related and/or color-critical work as every application has a lot of static elements, but as long as you play varied content every now and then, it won’t be an issue.

Screen Size & Resolution

LG OLED48C1

For most people, the display size is the first thing to look for when buying a new TV or monitor.

OLED TVs (and some monitors) use either LG’s 42″ – 97″ W-OLED panels or Samsung’s 55″ – 77″ QD-OLED panels – both of which have 4K UHD resolution and a 120Hz native refresh rate.

There are also a few 14″ – 22″ portable OLED displays mainly intended for color-critical work on the go, as well as 27″ and 32″ 4K 60Hz high-end professional monitors.

As far as OLED gaming monitors go, you can get them in the forms of 27″ 1440p (240Hz, 360Hz or 480Hz), 32″ 4K 240Hz, 3440×1440 240Hz ultrawides (34″, 39″ or 45″) and 49″ 5120×1440 240Hz super-ultrawide at the moment.

Regular LED-backlit displays, on the other hand, are available in various sizes ranging from 14-inch to over 100-inch models.

So, gamers who want a 27″ 4K high refresh rate monitor, a higher resolution ultrawide display, or a smaller ~24″ sized model with an OLED panel will have to wait until they (hopefully) become available at some point – or opt for an IPS, TN or VA monitor instead.

Check out our dedicated OLED article for all upcoming and currently available models.

HDR (High Dynamic Range)

SDR vs HDR Comparison

When it comes to HDR, both technologies have their advantages and disadvantages.

IPS panels have a low native contrast ratio, so they need an expensive full-array local dimming (FALD) implementation to overcome that.

A FALD system consists of numerous dimming zones (for instance, 1152) that dim parts of the screen where the image is supposed to be dark without greatly affecting parts that are supposed to remain bright, thus significantly increasing the contrast ratio.

However, even 1152 zones are not enough for some demanding scenes. If you have small bright objects on a dark background (for instance, stars in a night sky), the light from those objects will bleed into the surrounding dimmed zones, which creates blooming.

As each pixel is self-emissive on an OLED display, you essentially get 8,294,400 dimming zones on a 4K panel, resulting in a much better image quality overall without any blooming.

The main advantage of IPS panels is that they can get much brighter, especially if they’re enhanced with a mini LED backlight. Some mini LED displays can reach over 1,500-nits of peak brightness for both small <10% window sizes and full-screen white windows, while OLED displays are usually limited to around 1,000-nits for small <5% window sizes and 150 to 250-nits for full-screen white windows.

1,000-nits is still enough to create punchy highlights under normal lighting conditions, but if you’re watching the screen in a particularly bright room, HDR content can appear underwhelming on OLED displays in comparison to mini LED LCDs.

So, it all comes down to your personal preference.

If you can control the lighting in your room, OLED will deliver better HDR image quality. In case you have a room with plenty of lighting without any options to block it, a good mini LED display will offer a much brighter image that’ll easily overcome glare.

Keep in mind that mini LED and FALD backlights aren’t exclusive to IPS technology. You can also find them paired with VA panels, which have a higher native contrast ratio for deeper blacks with less blooming, but not as wide viewing angles or as consistent colors as IPS.

Related:IPS vs TN vs VA – Which Panel Type Should I Choose?

When it comes to color gamut, IPS and VA monitors can cover anywhere from the standard 100% sRGB up to ~86% of Rec. 2020 coverage (172% relative sRGB gamut size) depending on the backlight.

Samsung’s QD-OLED displays cover up to ~84% Rec. 2020, whereas LG’s W-OLED panels cover ~73% Rec.2020.

Gaming

OLED Gaming

Response Time

Another big advantage of OLED panels is the instantaneous pixel response time speed that ensures there’s no noticeable ghosting or overshoot behind fast-moving objects, regardless of the refresh rate.

With IPS displays, the response time performance varies from panel to panel. However, even the fastest IPS panel isn’t as quick as OLED, but as long as its pixels transitions can keep up with the refresh rate, gaming performance will be smooth.

Refresh Rate

At the moment, there are OLED displays with a maximum refresh rate of 480Hz, which is more than enough for most gamers.

However, because high refresh rates bring lower input lag, competitive and professional gamers will always aim for the fastest panel and there are TN monitors with up to 540Hz already available.

While there are IPS monitors with 500Hz, these models don’t have a fast enough pixel response time speed to keep up with such a high refresh rate, which results in noticeable ghosting thus making them undesirable for competitive FPS games. There are very fast 360Hz models though, such as the ASUS PG27AQN.

QD-OLED

OLED vs QD OLED

Samsung’s QD-OLED technology improves on other OLED panels, which are mainly made by LG and JOLED.

Unlike LG’s W-OLED panels with a WBGR subpixel layout, QD-OLED doesn’t require white subpixels but relies on a blue self-luminescent layer that basically allows it to achieve higher color luminance, wider color gamut and (allegedly) better burn-in resistance.

Related:OLED vs QD-OLED – What Is The Difference?

Longevity, Power Consumption and Design

While OLED panels should last as long as LED ones, this hasn’t yet been confirmed, as OLED TVs are relatively new on the market.

Power consumption between the two is pretty much the same, depending on what brightness setting you are using.

While both panel technologies allow the display to be very thin, OLED displays can be a lot thinner than LED LCDs.

Price

Both OLED and mini LED displays are finally becoming more affordable. The cheapest OLED can be found for ~$600 on sale, while mini LED IPS monitors start at $250 with the AOC Q27G3XMN.

You can find the best OLED and mini LED displays in our best HDR monitors buyer’s guide.

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Rob Shafer

Rob is a software engineer with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Denver. He now works full-time managing DisplayNinja while coding his own projects on the side.