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Tandem OLED laptops are right here, however they’re not what you assume

Dell XPS 13 2024 front view showing display and keyboard.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

Tandem OLED made fairly a splash on the brand new M4 iPad Pro when it was introduced. After all, it appeared to unravel one of many main points with OLED screens. Having used the show myself, I can say it’s actually spectacular.

That’s why I used to be excited to see that Windows laptops were quickly adopting the technology as effectively, with the primary one introduced being the brand new XPS 13 Copilot+ laptop computer.

But as I dug into it, the extra complicated the image grew to become round what tandem OLED is and the way it may be used.

Why tandem OLED?

Watching video on M4 iPad Pro.
Nadeem Sarwar / Digital Trends

Basically, tandem OLED is precisely what it feels like — it’s two OLED panels stacked one over the opposite. Before we get into why tandem OLED is an effective factor, let’s speak in regards to the fundamentals.

OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode. Instead of getting a backlight (an LED, or Light Emitting Diode) with some variety of lighting zones shining by means of a panel of particular person liquid crystals (LCD, or Liquid Crystal Display) to show a picture, every particular person OLED pixel generates its personal gentle and colour. Essentially, that permits OLED shows to show every particular person pixel on and off and to set its colour, leading to deeper blacks, purer whites, and sometimes extra correct colours.

A limitation of OLED has been its restricted brightness (good however not nice), together with its energy draw, particularly when displaying brighter photographs. Other show applied sciences, similar to mini-LED, supply much more brightness, and low-power IPS panels, for instance, can burn much less energy. This is, clearly, a paramount concern on a laptop computer.

Tandem OLED goals at resolving one or the opposite drawback, or doubtlessly each on the identical time. Apple’s tandem OLED implementation on the newest iPad Pro focuses on brightness, which is extremely necessary in displaying nice excessive dynamic vary (HDR) content material. Apple calls its new shows “Ultra Retina XDR,” which is a play on the identify for its “Liquid Retina XDR” mini-LED panels within the newest MacBook Pro. Another benefit of tandem OLED is that it may possibly assist keep away from burn-in, as a result of every OLED layer doesn’t should get as shiny.

The iPad Pro OLED can hit 1,000 nits in commonplace dynamic vary (SDR) content material and 1,600 nits in HDR. That’s based on Apple. But Apple makes no claims about its effectivity. The new iPad Pro is thinner than the older mini-LED iPad Pro, however Apple estimates the identical battery life. So, the implication is that the brand new shows are a minimum of considerably extra environment friendly even whereas being extremely shiny.

Dell takes a distinct strategy

Dell XPS 13 2024 front view showing display and keyboard.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

Dell’s new XPS 13 Copilot+ mannequin has a tandem OLED choice. What shocked me as I anticipated this new laptop computer, which makes use of Qualcomm’s extra environment friendly Snapdragon X Elite Arm chipset, is that its show was getting used on a laptop computer that I already reviewed — the Intel Meteor Lake XPS 13 launched earlier this 12 months.

It shocked me partly as a result of, whereas that laptop computer’s show has OLED’s traditional inky blacks good and correct colours, it didn’t hit the form of brightness that Apple advertises for the iPad Pro. Furthermore, the tandem OLED show wasn’t talked about within the advertising supplies on the time.

I contacted Dell to search out out extra, and it offered the next assertion:

“XPS 13 makes use of a tandem OLED design co-developed with considered one of our show companions. By utilizing tandem know-how, which stacks a number of emissive layers on high of one another, it elevated the effectivity of our OLED show. This design permits for greater brightness and an extended lifespan with the identical energy enter. Multiple layers allow these new tandem OLEDs to attain greater luminous effectivity, which means the show can produce extra gentle in comparison with single-stack OLEDs at the moment in the marketplace utilizing the identical quantity {of electrical} energy.

Because OLEDs typically devour extra energy than conventional LCD (IPS) panels, minimizing energy consumption is essential. The XPS 13’s new tandem OLED design lowers energy consumption for a similar brightness in comparison with the older single-stack OLED, which helps prolong battery life. This new design, mixed with tandem know-how, improves battery runtime by about 10% whereas additionally being thinner and lighter. As a consequence, the brand new XPS 13 is roughly 3% thinner and 5% lighter than the earlier technology with its older OLED.

We spec all XPS OLEDs at 400 nits as a result of their inherently higher distinction ratios in comparison with LCDs, that are spec’d at 500 nits. The new OLED design and tandem know-how not solely achieves decrease energy consumption, but additionally options HDR TrueBlack 500, with 1,000,000:1 distinction ratios and 1.07 billion colours.”

So, Dell’s strategy is to deal with effectivity as a substitute of brightness. The XPS 13’s tandem OLED show got here in at 482 nits, which is brighter than another OLED shows I’ve examined, however nothing just like the iPad Pro’s score. Most OLED shows are available at round 400 nits, so the Dell model continues to be a slight enchancment over the common.

At the identical time, Dell is claiming a ten% enchancment in battery life. The XPS 13 OLED model managed 7.25 hours of net shopping in comparison with the IPS model’s 14 hours, and it’s across the identical as different OLED machines with Intel’s Meteor Lake chipset, so possibly that is smart given the additional brightness.

Things aren’t all the time as they appear

Dell XPS 13 2024 top down view showing LED function keys.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

Arguably, Apple’s implementation of Tandem OLED is the extra spectacular — a minimum of, on paper. All that brightness is superior if it doesn’t come at the price of considerably diminished battery life. But that’s one thing I can’t confirm a method or one other proper now.

Dell’s strategy can also be good in idea. But it’s exhausting to say that the XPS 13’s considerably extra environment friendly tandem OLED show makes a significant distinction within the laptop computer’s battery life.

Either approach, I’d like to finally see Windows laptops (and even MacBooks) undertake tandem OLED panels for the aim of attaining higher brightness — even perhaps on gaming laptops the place battery life is much less of a promoting level.

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