Will Quantum Dot LEDs Show Up in Tablets or Phones?

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Samsung made a splash at CES 2017 with quantum dot LEDs (QLED), a new type that look better than traditional LCD displays, and are less expensive than OLED screens. This raises the possibility that QLEDs will appear in future tablets, but there are also reasons why this might not happen.

What Are Quantum Dot LEDs?

A standard LCD screen has a white backlight that shines through a liquid crystal (LCD) layer that either blocks the light or lets it through to red, blue, and green filters.

Quantum Dot LEDs

Quantum Dot LED TV

A QLED screen works the same way, but with one change: instead of a white backlight, a blue one is used, and before going to the LCD layer this light shines through a layer of tiny quantum dots. These glow either red or green when struck by light… of any color. So the LCD and color filters start with very pure red, blue, and green light, resulting in displays that offer more vivid colors than traditional LCD displays.

This is because a quantum dot with a diameter of roughly 50 atoms emits red light in a very narrow range, while one that’s roughly 30 atoms across puts out green light in an equally narrow range. So the QLED display doesn’t have to try to pull these colors out of white light, but can work with a pure source.

Adding the quantum dot layer doesn’t add significantly to the price, and there’s no technological hurdles in producing them in quantity.

QLED Tablets: Pro

A large majority of tablets use LCDs, and switching to quantum dot LEDs would improve the appearance of these for a small increase in price. Samsung announced TVs using this technology at CES, and also mentioned a monitor, so it is investing heavily in this new type of screen. It’s only logical for the company to be investigating using it in tablets and phones. And Samsung actually makes the screens that are used in many of its rivals’ mobile devices, so QLED could become common in the industry.

QLED Tablets: Con

In tablets, thin and light are in, and adding the layer of quantum dots to a LCD adds bulk. A QLED screen will look better than a standard one, but be slightly thicker and heavier.

Rival OLED screen look even better than QLED ones, and are thinner and lighter than even traditional LCDs. This is because they don’t require a backlight at all. This type of display is made of of an array of organic compounds that glow red, blue, or green when current is applied to them… hence the name Organic LED. Leaving the backlight out of the display allows the tablet or phone maker to offer a device that’s less bulky than its competitors that still use standard LCDs.

OLED screen aren’t used everywhere because they cost more to produce. So far they have appeared mostly in high-end models like the Samsung Galaxy Tab S2.

Only time will tell if quantum dot LEDs appear in tablets. Much will depend on whether the manufacturers of OLED displays can find ways to drive down the prices. QLEDs could appear in less expensive devices where thickness and weight are less critical, but companies are still looking for ways to make their products stand out in the market.

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