Display tech has advanced faster than we’ve been able to combat climate change in the last few years. Every single year, there’s something new and exciting propelling the bleeding-edge to an even more bleeding edge. At the same time, good screens are becoming more affordable than ever and customers are getting their money’s worth. Without a doubt, this has been the year of foldable displays seen in mobile devices. But, what about big-format displays?
Monitors and TVs are pushing the screen to its limits as well. Manufacturers are challenging the established ideals and trying new, more creative things while customers trends shift. We’re seeing unprecedented advances in display tech by some companies as we speak and this is only the start. One of those companies is Lenovo. Lenovo is one of the most well-respected manufacturers of monitors in the world, and their displays often rank among the best.
Lenovo has its own vision of the future of displays and where they see the market going towards in the coming years. Windows Central sat down with Stefan Engel, VP & General Manager of Visuals Business at Lenovo to drive the conversation about display tech and how the company sees the future of displays in its own eyes. Stefan provided insights about how customer demands are changing, and what new innovation we can see going forward in this sector.
16:10 is the new 16:9
Right off the bat, Stefan starts with a crowd-pleaser. Upon being asked about changing trends in aspect ratios, Stefan states that the 16:10 aspect ratio has been getting a lot of attention. He thinks that 16:10 will become even more widespread in the next few years.
There has been an increasing amount of positive feedback for the 16:10 format as opposed to the 3:2. Over the next two years, we anticipate that the 16:10 ratio will take on a larger share of the laptop market as users will want to connect to monitors with the same aspect ratio.
Most widescreen displays today are 16:9 but we’ve started to see a lot of 16:10 displays pop up here and there, most prominently on laptops. Compared to 16:9, 16:10 offers more vertical screen real estate as its a taller aspect ratio, while having the same width. That allows users to see more of the image and this helps not only in productivity-related tasks, but also TV shows which are generally not 16:9.
In comparison, the less desirable 16:9 format is the aspect ratio delivering the lowest amount of vertical space relative to its horizontal space, potentially placing products still supporting that ratio in the ‘cost-effective’ category for users — also, using a borderless panel just makes optimizing the keyboard and touchpad layout much more difficult.
Energy efficiency is key
It’s crucial to not consume energy that won’t be utilized and go to waste in any electronic item. Efficiency is important and it certainly matters when it comes to display tech. Maybe you don’t see this factor holding much weight outside of mobile displays that run on battery, but, in fact, reducing the power consumption to the minimum is not only a priority in monitors, but it’s beneficial for the environment.
For Lenovo, one way to play their part in the strive for maximum energy efficiency is to stick with LCD for now. Stefan mentions how we are at the brink of LCD’s power limits as it literally cannot consume any more power. That’s why every year Lenovo, among others, work hard to lower power consumption without removing any features or sacrificing on image quality.
In terms of low power tech, LCD has almost reached the limit of power consumption. Each year power consumption is lowered in order to comply with regulations, such as EnergyStar and ErP, thus we believe LCD provides tech with the lowest power it can achieve while still providing a great experience.
So, it looks like LCD is already at its peak and there is seemingly little that can be done to make it any more efficient. At this point, if it were to be made more efficient, we’d have to give up something in return for it. However, Lenovo is not done yet. When asked about what could potentially be improved in LCD displays when it comes energy efficiency, Stefan went ahead and said this:
One avenue is to improve Open Cell’s transmittance rate, increasing luminance backlight or decreasing the power distributed to normal integrated circuits (ICs), especially for premium models with the USB-C docking feature.
Stefan also mentioned “natural low blue light technology” to Windows Central as part of the company’s efforts to be more conservative of their energy, and the user’s eye. Blue light can cause fatigue and strain when exposed to in high quantities, that’s why many displays have a special feature to either turn it off or switch to a warm mode for more comfortable viewing.
Lastly, dynamic refresh rate (DRR) was also brought up as a poignant way of reducing energy wastage, especially in gaming displays by only ramping up the refresh rate when called for, and staying at a lower one when not needed. Stefan went over auto-brightness as well, speaking about how screens can adjust their brightness depending on the ambient light sensors’ readings of the user’s environment. This tech can help save energy and provide a more seamless user experience.
Mini and Micro-LED is coming
Coming to the admittedly more exciting stuff, Stefan didn’t leave us without talking about what the future holds. Stefan firstly mentioned that mini-LED and Micro-LED tech is actually going to become much more common going forward. Right now, Apple is currently really the only one striving for it, with their 2021 M1 MacBook Pros and the M1 iPad Pro already being equipped with a mini-LED display. However, things are about to get a lot more interesting…
Another new technology we see advancing is Mini-LED/Micro and flexible OLED — enabling richer colors, higher contrast ratios, better response times and lighter/thinner designs that are less obtrusive while still providing enough screen real-estate.
Mini/Micro-LED is also much more energy efficient than standard LCD or OLED since there are more individual LEDs in the backlight, making the whole thing more accurate. More diodes, thus lead to better colors and also more efficiency. That being said, mini-LED is considerably cheaper than Micro-LED at this moment, and due to low demand in the tech, it’s unlikely those prices are getting their high horse anytime soon.
Lastly, Stefan ended the conversation with perhaps the most exciting comment of all: flexible displays. In particular, flexible OLEDs. This is still a relatively new category as the only screens inhabiting this kind of tech are novelty mobile devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Fold 3. But, it seems like it’s not going to remain as niche for a long time as interest is starting to spark around the industry.
Flexible OLED will be key to enabling new solutions and product form factors resulting in more design opportunities and a better user experience.