Quantum Dot (QD) Films: A New Benchmark for Displays?

Industry experts have written extensively on the competition between different panel architectures for modern display technologies, primarily quantum dots (QDs) versus organic light-emitting diodes (OLEDs). Despite significant media hyperbole, however, this cannot be described as an outright format war. Format wars are founded on a fundamental incompatibility, and similar functionalities; Blu-ray versus HD DVD, for example.

QD film-enhanced liquid crystal displays (LCDs) and OLEDs do have similar functionalities, but each technology meets different key performance indicators (KPIs) in the consumer electronics space. These differences are myriad, but they are commonly whittled down to two primary selling points:

  • QD film-enhanced displays offer higher peak brightness levels (+2,000 nits), and wider color gamut (WCG), with high coverage of leading color spaces, including Rec.2020 and DCI-P3.
  • OLEDs provide technically infinite contrast ratios for true black representation and high-dynamic-range (HDR) content at low peak brightness.

So, QD films currently set the industry benchmark when it comes to brightness and color. This is a key factor for LCDs, which have been beleaguered by comparatively poor gamut capabilities due to the limitations of light-emitting diode (LED) backlighting.

Display Format War: HDR10 Vs Dolby Vision

If there is a format war occurring within the display sector, it is software-based and is waged between HDR10 and Dolby Vision. These are the two leading formats used to process HDR content on premium displays, which can be a challenge for conventional LED-backlit LCDs. Generally, these suffer from poor contrast and subdued colors. This is a barrier to entry for HDR content which is characterized by unprecedented detail, with vibrant color and stark blacks represented onscreen simultaneously.

The reason color and contrast are two of the most important properties when it comes to rendering HDR content is that it essentially comprises images with a high differential between their brightest and darkest points. Using an LED backlight and existing color filtering technologies, it is difficult – if not impossible – to achieve that HDR effect. QD films, with their wide color range and outstandingly efficient peak brightness capabilities, have spurred something of a renaissance for LCD technologies, re-establishing their footing in the commercial display sector, in which 4K resolution and HDR capabilities are now a prerequisite.

HDR10 and Dolby Vision perform the same function, but with different approaches and results. As with the definitions of QD films and OLEDs, these overviews offer limited insight into the two formats:

  • HDR10 is an open-source format that is essentially standard for HDR TVs. It supports <4,000 nits peak brightness and can display the entire Rec.2020 color
  • Dolby Vision is a licensed format that offers premium quality at a cost to manufactures. It supports <10,000 nits and, likewise, can display all colors in the Rec.2020 space.

Without QD films and quantum dot technologies, LCDs would be incapable of meeting these exceptional standards, unless they significantly ratcheted-up the overall peak brightness levels of the panel. This would have a detrimental and noticeable effect on efficiency, and ultimately consumer cost. It may be that HDR TVs in the future support a universal format, but, currently, it is paramount that display panels meet the target levels of at least HDR10. QD films can provide that competitive edge.

It is not outside the realms of possibility that QD films and OLEDs will also combine into an integrated format in the future. Samsung recently confirmed rumors that the company was making capacity for hybrid high-definition display panels, marrying their QD film-enhanced LCD technologies with a blue OLED backlight. The result would, theoretically, offer the truest blacks and most vibrant colors ever found in consumer displays.

More on QD Films

If you have found this post interesting and would like to learn more about the current status quo of QD films in consumer displays, you may like our previous blog post: Different Approaches to QDs in displays. It outlines how QD films succeeded earlier architectures, and proposes new QD technologies for future display applications.

Or, if you have any questions for the Avantama team, simply contact us today.