Although I adore my OLED gaming monitor, I can’t help but feel like it’s gaslighting me.

When it comes to ranking the best gaming monitors, the Alienware 34 QD-OLED consistently takes the top spot. This remains true even a year after its release, and it’s the reason why I recently purchased one for my personal setup. I must say, I am thoroughly impressed with its performance.

However, the only issue I have encountered is the constant reminder to refresh the panel to avoid OLED burn-in. Initially, I dismissed this as a minor inconvenience, but the longer I use the monitor, the more apparent it becomes that OLED technology has a marketing problem that could potentially hinder its widespread adoption in the future.

For five years, I have been the proud owner of an LG C8 OLED TV, and I have never been concerned about burn-in. As someone who doesn’t have cable, I only use my TV a few times a week to watch a movie or catch up on a few episodes of a show.

However, when I purchased my Alienware 34 QD-OLED, my approach changed. Although I wasn’t actively worried about burn-in, Alienware seemed to be. After every four hours of cumulative use, the monitor displays a warning to run its Pixel Refresh feature.

While it only takes about 10 minutes to complete, the warning always seems to appear at the worst possible times, such as when I’m in the middle of a raid in Destiny 2. On one particularly frustrating occasion, the message appeared in my completely dark room while I was playing the Dead Space Remake, causing quite a jump scare.

Although the message disappears quickly, I don’t want to risk the panel going for months without a refresh, potentially resulting in elements like my taskbar burning into the screen.

So, how long can I go without running the Pixel Refresh feature? Am I risking damaging my expensive new gaming monitor?

Alienware offers a panel health feature to monitor the performance of your monitor. However, its lack of clarity makes it unhelpful. Within a week, it transitioned from green (healthy) to red (unhealthy) and has fluctuated between yellow and green ever since.

This morning it was yellow, but when I began writing this article, it was green. Currently, as I’m finishing up, it’s yellow again. This raises the question of how reliable the indicator is.

As an OLED monitor owner, I face the predicament of either pampering my panel with features like Pixel Refresh and Panel Refresh, or leaving it unchecked and risking burn-in, which is a remote possibility.

OLED monitors, such as the LG UltraGear OLED 27, frequently remind you of their susceptibility to damage if left unattended. It is essential to understand that your costly investment is delicate, even if it is unlikely to suffer from burn-in. This knowledge helps prevent your monitor from ending up in the manufacturer’s return pile.

The issue of OLED burn-in remains a highly debated topic in panel technology to this day, particularly for those who remember the days of plasma TVs. The concern of burn-in is often the first consideration for those considering purchasing an OLED monitor.

While manufacturers have made significant progress in finding ways to prevent burn-in, it is still not entirely solved. Additionally, the Alienware 34 QD-OLED panel, which incorporates quantum dots, may have even bigger issues with burn-in, particularly under extreme usage tests.

The challenge with OLED burn-in is that it is difficult to test comprehensively. Reviews of monitors and TVs generally acknowledge that burn-in is a possibility, but it is challenging to determine the actual effects of burn-in or account for all the ways in which someone may use a display.

Despite ongoing efforts to mitigate the problem, the issue of OLED burn-in remains a complex and challenging aspect of panel technology.

Is a static image being displayed at full brightness for an extended period of time? Is a screensaver activated, and if so, when does it activate and at what brightness level is the display set before activation? It’s evident that burn-in testing is more complex than merely leaving a static image on the screen until the panel begins to degrade.

Rtings and other review websites have attempted to address the issue of burn-in testing. Rtings’ testing involved an intensive schedule of displaying images for 15 to 20 hours per day, every day of the week, resulting in burn-in on some models after three months. However, it is important to note that this extreme testing is not indicative of normal daily usage.

Without extensive observation and control of variables, the only options for evaluating burn-in are these extreme torture tests or acknowledging that burn-in is a possibility depending on how the display is used.

Burn-in is a nebulous and detrimental problem that must be considered when purchasing an OLED TV or monitor. It is important to accept the possibility of burn-in without letting it hinder the enjoyment of the display, especially considering the high cost of OLED panels. Ultimately, the goal is to enjoy the display without damaging it, and this is the main issue to consider.

For years, the issue of image retention and burn-in has troubled display shoppers seeking the best possible image quality, from the era of CRTs to plasmas and now OLEDs. However, just as with previous technologies, the fear of burn-in with OLED panels is often exaggerated. Monitor brands need to acknowledge and address this issue in their products.

These brands have tended to focus on worst-case scenarios, cautioning users to be extra careful with their screens in order to sell more monitors. This can create an impression that the technology is fragile and expensive, when in fact the practical risk to most people is quite low.

Even leaving static images on your screen is unlikely to result in burn-in. For example, after using my Alienware 34 QD-OLED for 12 to 16 hours per day for three months, I only had to run the Panel Refresh once, and I have not experienced any burn-in, despite my Windows taskbar being fixed at the bottom of the screen.

Although there is some risk, particularly for screens that are constantly displaying the same content for extended periods of time, such as those found in airports, bars, and restaurants, for most individuals, the risk of burn-in is minimal. It is important for monitor brands to recognize this fact and provide reassurance to their customers.

To showcase an impressive feat, I run Games Done Quick (GDQ) on my C8 OLED for a full week, twice a year, with the display turned on 24 hours a day. Despite using a static overlay and an OLED technology that’s five years old, none of the elements have faded into the screen.

While I believe reminders and warnings about burn-in risks are necessary, I think it’s important for monitor brands to explore new ways to test their products and educate their customers. The current approach puts the entire burden of burn-in risk on the end user, which may discourage them from purchasing the best displays available.

I’m not advocating for the retirement of panel-saving features, but rather a more comprehensive and collaborative approach to monitor design and usage.

Leave a Comment