Kuo: Apple's First MacBook With an OLED Display to Launch as Early as Next Year
Apple plans to release the first MacBook with an OLED display by the end of 2024 at the earliest, according to supply chain analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a series of tweets today, Kuo said OLED technology would allow for thinner and lighter MacBook designs.
All existing MacBooks have LCD panels, with the latest 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro featuring mini-LED backlighting and ProMotion. Unlike LCDs with mini-LEDs, OLED displays have self-emitting pixels and do not require backlighting, which would give MacBooks even better contrast ratio and allow for longer battery life.
Kuo did not specify whether the OLED MacBook would be a Pro or Air model. Last month, however, display industry analyst Ross Young said Apple planned to introduce a new 13-inch MacBook Air with an OLED display in 2024. He also expects Apple to release new 11.1-inch and 13-inch iPad Pro models with OLED displays next year.
While it appears that Macs and iPads will transition to OLED displays over the next few years, the Apple Watch might start moving away from the technology. Bloomberg's Mark Gurman today reported that a new Apple Watch Ultra with a microLED display could be released by the end of 2024. MicroLED technology would offer even higher brightness and improved contrast ratio compared to existing Apple Watch models with OLED displays.
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OLEDs can be dimmed with analog dimming (aka constant current reduction), in which the OLED's simply emit less light. But analog dimming's downsides include color shifts as the screen is dimmed, larger circuitry, and higher power consumption. Thus OLED screens are instead usually dimmed digitally by keeping the OLED's brightness constant (when they're on), and rapidly switching them on and off. This is called pulse width modulation (PWM). The idea is that if you want, say, 50% brightness, you rapidly switch the OLEDs on and off so that they illuminate the screen only 50% of the time.
The problem with PWM is that the frequency at which OLEDs can do this is not that high (often just a few hundred Hz, though it can go higher), and some can perceive this flickering and get headaches from it. The flicker becomes especially noticeable when the display is significantly dimmed. E.g., at 10% brightness, the display would have a duty cycle of 10% on and 90% off. That's why people using OLED devices at night are more likely to get eyestrain.
It would be nice if Apple gave consideration to this in making its MacBook Pro OLED screens, and either implemented an improved analog dimmer, or chose an OLED technology with an extremely high PWM frequency. For instance, according to https://www.notebookcheck.net/PWM-Ranking-Notebooks-Smartphones-and-Tablets-with-PWM.163979.0.html?&sort=b_350_944&max_results=50000&or=0&showBars=1&bench_350_944=1&model=1&screen_resolution=1&screen_panel_type=1 , OLED variants are available with PWM frequencies > 800 Hz (833 Hz for the AMOLED Lenovo Legion Phone Duel). According to https://www.xda-developers.com/apple-iphone-14-pro-max-display-review/ , Apple's implementation of PWM in Apple's iPhone 14 is complicated, with two different PWM frequencies (240 Hz and 480 Hz)*. [Unfortunately, the article doesn't fully explain how that works.] 480 Hz is towards the upper end of the range, but higher would be better.
The LED's used to backlight LCD screens also use PWM dimming. The difference is that their PWM frequency is much higher, which makes flicker far less noticeable (and typically imperceptible, even for sensitive viewers). For instance, according to the above link, the PWM frequency for the 14" & 16" M1 MacBook Pro LCD screens is 14,880 Hz.
*Correction: I had previously quoted a 60 Hz PWM frequency for the iPhone 14 from the notebookcheck table but, based on the more detailed analysis from xda-developers, that appears to be incorrect.
I'm also having trouble at this point keeping track of all these display predictions. Can we get a chart showing when the iMac, MacBook Air/Pro, iPad Air/Pro, and Watch are switching to microLED/OLED/ProMotion?