OLED Consumes Less Power Than LCD?

I was in San Francisco today for Samsung’s GREENnovation media luncheon at the Sheraton Palace Hotel. I got there just in time to listen to Scott Birnbaum, VP of Samsung’s LCD Business, present “LCDs: Low-power Performance Across a High-powered Landscape”. Although the presentation centered around LCDs there were some nuggets about OLED power consumption:

  • Samsung’s AMOLED consumes 65% less power than typical LCDs
  • The Super version of its AMOLED consumes 20% less than regular AMOLEDs

I wasn’t sure whether or not these claims were true so I asked Dr. Raymond Soneira, President of DisplayMate Technologies, via email. And here’s his response:

I measured the AC power consumed by the phones for different luminance levels on the display, and published my results in a table. Note that I normalized my results to a given luminance and a given screen area so that I compared their relative efficiencies. The Galaxy S had significantly lower luminance than the LCDs but it’s important to compare the power consumed for equal luminance levels.

I was surprised at how much power the OLEDs used and how little the iPhone 4 used. I confirm in the article that the Super OLEDs use 20% less power than the non-super OLEDs.

If OLEDs consume 65% less power than LCDs that means they only use 35% of the power of an LCD – i.e. LCDs consume 3 times as much power as OLEDs… and then Super OLEDs are 20 percent better that… No way!!

Maybe that could be true at the device level, but in a complete display there are several layers between the device and the outside world, where the viewer and measuring instruments are. In particular the Galaxy S appears to have a strong absorbing layer used to reduce its screen reflectance, which then also cuts down on the visible light from the OLEDs – and that directly cuts the true observed power efficiency.

The bottom line: the possibility that Samsung’s AMOLED display consumes 65% less power than LCDs is very low. There is a small chance that Samsung Mobile Display’s AMOLED might consume 65% less power than the very worst mobile LCD, but in general AMOLEDs consume more power than LCDs. However it is true that SMD’s Super AMOLED consumes 20% less than the regular version. The article that Dr. Soneira is referring to is the Smartphone “Super” LCD-OLED Display Technology Shoot-Out.