It took three years, but OLED laptops are having another moment at CES

HP Spectre x360 15 review
Luke Larsen/Digital Trends

OLED laptops already had their moment at CES 2016. Lenovo showed off the first laptop with an OLED display, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga. It wowed with its deep blacks and incredible contrast, qualities it was already known for in other devices.

Then 2017 came. And then 2018. OLED went mysteriously missing from laptops that once offered it. Even as flagship TVs have even moved beyond OLED to micro-LEDs, laptops screens are stuck in the past.

Now, at CES 2019, OLED laptops are mounting a comeback.

OLED, OLED everywhere

The announcements didn’t start strong. The first came from Lenovo, the company that started the conversation years earlier. Lenovo announced the Yoga C730, a 15-inch laptop with a beautiful OLED display. The catch? It wouldn’t be sold in the US. As magnificent as it looked, the lack of confidence Lenovo seemed to have in display manufacturers had us worried.

Fortunately, the story improved from there. I was given a sneak peek of a laptop that might be coming later this year – the Razer Blade with a 4K OLED screen. A high-end gaming laptop with the richness of OLED is a tempting proposition. It would no doubt be expensive, and it would be taxing on the hardware. But with Nvidia RTX 20-series mobile graphics, especially the RTX 2080 Max-Q, the pipedream of gaming on a 4K OLED display might come true this year.

Lenovo Yoga S940 review
Luke Larsen/Digital Trends

Then Dell took to its stage. After impressing the crowd with machines like the new XPS 13 and Alienware Area-51m, the company had made final surprise announcement. Everything from XPS to the G-Series gaming brand will be getting OLED. Not at some point in the far-off future. This year.

And finally, there was the cherry on top. The HP Spectre x360 15 with an AMOLED display. Sitting next to its LCD brother, it’s not even comparable. Thanks to that per-pixel illumination, colors really come to life — and its contrast is out of this world. It was on display to be seen in person, and the Spectre will be available by March here in the states. It’s almost here.

What took so long?

Why has it taken so long for OLED to come to laptops?

Well, there are a few reasons. The first is use. Laptops are assumed to be work or productivity machines – not small, portable televisions.

OLED makes creating and watching content both more enjoyable.

Yet as laptop manufacturers consistently argue the laptop is, in fact, used more often as an entertainment device than real TVs. Not everyone owns a high-end television, but most people own a laptop, and many people who do use it as a content-consuming device.

The improved performance of laptops is also driving demand for quality displays. 15-inch laptops like the Dell XPS 15, MacBook Pro, and Razer Blade have increased power that makes tasks like video rendering and photo editing much quicker. These tasks also demand a sharp, high-quality, color accurate display. OLED beats even the best IPS displays in these areas.

I don’t know if this latest OLED trend will catch on. There are some questions that still need fleshed out, such as battery life and price. Either could seriously deflate OLED’s potential on laptops.

All I know is if I have an XPS 15 with OLED by CES 2020, I’ll be happy.


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