My OLED Gaming Monitor Feels Like It’s Gaslighting Me

Most lists counting down the best gaming monitors produce a common result at the top: Alienware’s 34 QD-OLED. Even after almost a year in the market, it remains the reigning champion in the world of gaming displays, so much so that I bought it a few months back to upgrade my personal setup.

and I love it. There’s really only one problem I’ve encountered: the constant hassle of refreshing the panel to prevent OLED burn-in.

I initially wrote this off as a minor annoyance, but the longer I’ve owned this monitor, the more I realize OLED has a marketing problem that may be a deterrent to future widespread adoption. can be a matter of serious concern.

increasing fear

Alienware 34 QD-OLED Monitor on your desktop.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

I’ve had an LG C8 OLED TV for five years, and I’ve never worried about burn-in. I don’t have cable, and I mainly use my TV a few times a week to watch a movie or a few episodes of a show.

But when I bought my Alienware 34QD-OLED, all that changed. Not that I was actively concerned about burning myself—that’s what Alienware clearly does. After every four hours of cumulative use, the monitor will display a warning that you should run its Pixel Refresh feature.

It only takes about 10 minutes to finish, but it always pops up at the worst possible times – like when I’m knee-deep in a raid Prarabdha 2. In a hilariously annoying moment, an alert went off in my pitch-black room while I was playing Dead Space Remake. Talk about jump scares.

A burn-in notification on the Alienware 34 QD-OLED.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The message goes through quickly, and you can turn off the notification entirely if you choose. But I don’t want to run the risk of possibly having the panel go months without refreshing and elements like my taskbar burning into the screen. How long can I let this go? Am I going to potentially ruin my expensive new gaming monitor?

Alienware offers a Panel Health feature to help you gauge how your monitor is doing, but it’s vague to the point of uselessness. Within a week, it went from green (healthy) to red (unhealthy), and has since oscillated back between yellow and green. To drive this point home, the indicator was yellow this morning. When I started writing this article, it was green. As I’m finalizing, it’s yellow again. How can I believe what it’s telling me?

That’s the dilemma I and most other OLED owners have. Code the panel with features like pixel refresh and panel refresh, or let it go unchecked and risk the potential for burn-in. And that, as I’ll go on to next, is a slight possibility.

OLED monitors, including newer displays like the LG UltraGear OLED 27, are a constant reminder of how they can break if you don’t intervene. They need to tell you that your expensive investment may be fragile, even if it doesn’t have burn-in problems, so your monitor doesn’t end up on a pile of manufacturer returns.

We need to talk about burn-in

Burn-in on monitor.

OLED burn-in itself is one of the hottest topics in panel technology to date. Anyone who’s survived the days of plasma TVs will be all too familiar with OLED’s problem. For the average viewer, this is the first concern people have when it comes to buying an OLED monitor.

OLED has come a long way since its early days, and manufacturers continue to find new ways to avoid burn-in, even when using it for desktop monitors. But no one is claiming that the problem has been completely resolved. Also, the Alienware 34QD-OLED isn’t just an OLED panel. It is a QD-OLED panel, which brings quantum dots into the mix. QD-OLED panels are said to have major issues with burn-in, at least if extreme use case tests are to be believed.

And this is where the OLED burn-in problem lies. Its extremely Difficult to test. Most monitor and TV reviews resort to saying that OLED burn-in is possible because the effects of burn-in are impossible to test. On top of that, it’s nearly impossible to account for all the ways a person uses a display.

Are you blasting a still image at full brightness for several hours? Do you have screensaver on? How long until that screensaver kicks in and what brightness is your display already set to? I think it’s clear to see that testing for burn-in isn’t as simple as leaving a still image on the screen until you see the panel start to crack.

Panel health icon on the Alienware 34QD-OLED.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Some review websites, such as Rtings, have attempted to tackle burn-in testing. After a complex schedule that involved displays between 15 and 20 hours per day, every day of the week, the publication has seen burn-in on some models after three months. It sounds scary, but according to Ratings’ own admission, it is “a quick torture test; It does not represent normal daily use.

Without years of observation and careful control of variables, the two options for evaluating burn-in are extreme torture tests like the ones Rtings has conducted or just acknowledging how you use your performance instead. Burn-in at the base is a possibility.

Burn-in is a problem that’s both unsightly and harmful, so if you’re going to buy an OLED TV or monitor, it’s always a matter of accepting burn-in, without it getting in the way of your enjoying the display. there’s a possibility. , After all, OLED panels aren’t cheap. You want to enjoy it without wasting it. And this is the crux of the issue.

reduce inflammation (-in)

Desktop background on the Alienware 34QD-OLED.
Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

From CRTs to plasmas to now OLEDs, the concept of image retention and burn-in has long kept display shoppers looking for the best image possible. But as was true of CRTs and plasmas, the reality of burn-in with OLED panels is not scary, and it’s something monitor brands need to recognize and compensate for.

Monitor brands focused on extreme use cases want to sell you monitors while constantly reminding you that you need to take care of the screen. It makes this expensive, impressive technology sound fragile when it really isn’t.

There is a risk, especially for screens in airports, bars and restaurants tuned to the same CNN broadcast for 16 hours a day for years, but the practical risk for the general public is very low. This is true even when you leave a still image on your screen. I have run panel refresh on my Alienware 34 QD-OLED Once In the three months that I’ve owned the monitor, I’ve used it for between 12 and 16 hours a day, and I haven’t had even the slightest sign of burn-in. And most of that time is spent with my Windows taskbar spanning the bottom of the screen.

For a more impressive feat, I keep Games Done Quick (GDQ) running 24 hours a day on my C8 OLED for a whole week twice a year. Even with a stable overlay and OLED technology that is five years old, not a single element has faded into the screen.

I’m not saying that reminders and warnings need to go away, and I’m certainly not advocating turning off panel-saving features. But monitor brands need to find new ways to test their products and educate their customers. The way it does now puts the burden of burn-in risk on the end user, which is only going to scare people away with what are otherwise the best displays you can buy.

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