Nintendo just announced a new, available in October for $ 350, and my first thought was “Great, the current LCD screen sucks a bit.”
My second was “I bet people will be worried about wear and tear.” I.and a lot of people ask me about the burned in I have been recommending it for years. My answer for Switch is the same as it is for TVs: I’m not worried about wear and tear. And from what I know now, most other potential buyers shouldn’t be either.
Let’s start with the basics. Today’s displays – on televisions, phones, laptops, tablets, smart watches, and yes, handheld game consoles – use two main technologies:. OLED displays have better image quality than LCD displays, primarily because they can produce a perfect shade of black, which creates better contrast and “pop”, as well as more saturated and rich color.
Nintendo touts “vivid colors and sharp contrast” on the 7-inch OLED screen found on the new Switch, and I have no reason to doubt that statement. In my years of owning the original Switch and countless hours of gaming on its LCD screen, I found it mediocre at best in terms of contrast and color. Hope the new switch looks A LOT better.
Ghost in the machine
One possible downside to OLED technology is something known as burnout. As we put it in our extensive guide to: “Burnout occurs when a part of an image (the navigation buttons on a phone, for example, or a channel logo, the news ticker, or a scoreboard on a television) persists as a ghostly background no matter what. appears on the screen “.
TV and phone manufacturers selling OLED displays, from LG to Apple to Google, recognize the possibility of burnout, also known as “image persistence” or “image retention.” Everyone characterizes it as something that can happen in “extreme” or “rare” circumstances, and I agree.
Here’s Nintendo’s response to my request for comment on the burnout:
We have designed the OLED display to aim for longevity as much as possible, but OLED displays can experience image retention if subjected to static images for a long period of time. However, users can take preventive measures to preserve the screen. [by] using features included in Nintendo Switch systems by default, such as the auto-brightness feature to prevent the screen from getting too bright, and the auto-sleep feature to enter auto-sleep mode after short periods of time.
In my experience checking (and viewing) OLED TVs over the years, I have never caused a burnout case, although I have never directly tested it. You check the site you have, rtings.com, conducted a real-world TV burn-in test and concluded: “We do not expect most people who watch varied content without static areas to experience burn-in problems with an OLED TV.”
As a screen that will primarily display games, the Nintendo Switch OLED screen will definitely have some static elements: persistent corner scores, life bars, ammo counts, status icons, etc. These could, if left on the screen for an extended period. time, possibly causing burns.
What worries me?
Despite the persistence of static screen elements in games, there are numerous reasons why I am not concerned with wear and tear on the OLED switch. Here are some.
- Static elements like a score, a life bar or a grid would have to stay on screen for many hours at a time.
- If you play different games, they will have different (or no) static elements, which reduces or eliminates the problem.
- Aside from the games themselves, the Switch doesn’t have an always-on static menu item like the navigation bar on some phones.
- As Nintendo mentioned, the Switch has an auto-brightness feature and a automatic sleep mode It turns off the screen completely after a set period, which helps reduce the problem.
Now if I were the type of gamer who plays the same game almost exclusively, one who keeps the same bright and persistent static elements on the laptop screen constantly, I would avoid the OLED switch. But I (like every other Switch user I know) get enough screen variation by playing enough different games that burnout isn’t a problem.
This is where I mention that this is all just a guess, based on my own experience as a TV critic, Switch gamer, and someone who has owned an OLED screen phone since the Samsung Vibrant (circa 2010). The new Switch was just announced, and maybe something like the, where the persistent bottom nav bar caused burns, will come to light for some OLED switch users once it hits the market. But for the reasons described above, I doubt it.
However, if that possibility worries you, don’t buy the new switch. Or just get a switch with a traditional LCD screen.
For my part, I consider the risk of burnout to be fully worth the benefit of OLED. In fact, compared to a TV that can be left on for hours or days playing a channel with a persistent logo like CNN, I expect burn reports to be less common with the Switch than with TVs.
I have lots of other questions about the new Switch, for example how the OLED screen affects battery life, how it works outdoors or in other bright light, and if it squashes shadow details or makes colors appear less realistic. If burnout will be a problem it is not one of them.