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Ask HN: How are OLED displays for coding?
65 points by bebna on Nov 26, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 20 comments
Some notebooks and monitors were sold with OLED displays this year. I really liked them on the smartphone or tablets and now I'm thinking about getting a notebook for coding with OLED display, too. (HP Spectre X360 13-4203ng)

Does somebody here use an OLED display for coding? Was it worth it? How is your colourscheme or general system setup for it? Any burn-ins?




I have an OLED television, but I don't own an OLED computer monitor or laptop. My desktops use several IPS LCDs and my laptop is a Surface Book.

That said, my understanding from credible technology reviewers (e.g., [1]) is that OLED displays are quite good considering they are still "first generation" in this space.

I suspect that most programmers would be happy with an OLED display, but it won't seem notably superior for programming than a high-quality LCD such as a Dell Ultrasharp or Professional series desktop display (e.g., UP3017 [2]) or the LCDs used on a Surface, Dell XPS, or Apple Macbook. In other words, I think OLED is nice, but it is not yet a deciding factor. Second generation OLED displays may create a bit more distance between OLED and LCD. For the time being, for programming, my personal preference favors usable real estate (large desktop displays) before color accuracy and pixel density.

Given all three (real estate, color accuracy, and pixel density), I would be thrilled. But if I had to pick one before the others, as a programmer, I want real estate.

[1] https://youtu.be/Dtjllca-AaQ?t=2m23s

[2] This is a 2560x1600 30-inch display which, thanks to the cult of widescreen, enjoys an annoying price premium versus the more commonplace 2560x1440 27-inch form factor. Again, as a programmer, screen height is useful since it allows you to fit more lines of code in view. (Width is also useful for displaying source of multiple files side-by-side, but that utility is probably a bit lower than the utility of height.) This is why 3:2 displays as seen on Surface Book are great for programming.


I recently got a Benq bl3201pt (32" 4K IPS) and I've been very happy with it. It's great for having a browser w/dev tools open on half the screen and Atom on the other half. The MiniDP, DP, and multiple HDMI connections work well between my desktop and MBP. It works like a professional monitor should, with no fuss. I particularly like the detachable hockey puck remote.

At work I have 2 Asus PA328Qs. It's hit-and-miss plugging them in over MiniDP into my rMBP. They are slow to power up, and I once set the DisplayPort version to 1.1 instead of 1.2 via the menus. The buttons on the back aren't super responsive, and the OSD software seems very undercooked. It took me a good 10 minutes to get the DisplayPort version back to 1.2 because it kept saying "no input" and would turn off. There's a tiny joystick to navigate the menus and the way to toggle between menus isn't obvious (click the joystick to the right when it looks like you can only move up and down, which completely changes the menu options). Overall this monitor is incredibly frustrating for me, and when I get home and plug into the Benq, I'm saddened that $WORK spent a similar amount on the inferior Asus. It's actually massively lowered my opinion of Asus in general, and raised my opinion of Benq, which I had previously thought of as a kind of budget brand, comparable to maybe AOC. I'm now looking for a gaming monitor, and while Asus has some compelling g-sync options, Benq is used in actual e-sports competitions and gets great reviews for that use-case.

TL;DR try a monitor in a store first and try to make sure it doesn't annoy you before making a significant investment in one. I also looked at OLED laptops (mostly the Alienware 13 r3) and ended up getting a used XPS 15 9550 with a maxed out CPU and the 4K IGZO display.

Edit: make sure you understand the issues with OLED burn-in and fading before buying. Especially a laptop. That's why I didn't ultimately get one.


> screen height is useful since it allows you to fit more lines of code in view.

Many external monitors can be rotated 90 degrees into portrait orientation.


If anything I think screen height is even more important if you're going to portrait mode. 16:9 is horribly thin, 16:10 is better, 4:3 is possibly the best portrait aspect ratio.


Can confirm that 4:3 is the best ratio for portrait.

I'm using one of those old SyncMaster monitors from Samsung for displaying Code.

Make sure your IDE can hide unnecessary parts of it, like directory view or something, otherwise it gets a bit crunched.


Same! 20.1" SyncMaster 204B, 1200x1600!


Yes, and if your environment can be configured with two or three monitors, a portrait orientation can be great. With just a single monitor, 1440x2560 would probably seem too narrow. Obviously individual tastes will vary.

If your environment is limited to a single monitor, 3:2 is very nice and 16:10 is also quite good.


Dark/black background colourschemes look awesome and you can massively reduce the strain on your eyes. I am planning on grabbing an OLED for my next monitor.

If you code in low or no light environments then I would certainly rank OLED as an important factor. If however your work occurs in brightly lit spaces (outside / horrid offices) then you will be wanting a white screen anyway and it makes no difference.

Of course, always consider having multiple monitors and raising the size of the text - this is often much better at reducing strain than the extra play an OLED will give with light levels.

- I am not a doctor and am in no way qualified to give the above advice. I have programmed for roughly a week on an OLED that wasn't mine


Exactly. I have always thought that short of having a e-ink screen like Dasung (which is a bit buggy and requires a driver not available for Linux/BSD), OLED could be great on black background as no light would be emitted.

Any reasonably priced OLED screens for a desktop?


Not really. If you can justify it under being a designer of some sort it becomes simply expensive instead of unreasonable.

As for e-ink, this is the dream. I want to sit out on the lawn working and as far as I can tell e-ink is the way towards this.


Dasung is pretty good for eink. But I'm waiting till someone releases a version that uses it's own firmware and not a buggy driver.


Fantastic, but you need a black background (e.g. nightmode, some terminal editors, dark theme, etc). Most major editors either have this as the default or support it (inc. Visual Studio).

For coding OLED is my favorite because in my OPINION it reduces eyestrain. In my experience the two biggest factors in eyestrain are: too small of a font for your eyesight, and too bright of a screen.

With a normal LED-IPS display you can turn down the brightness to approx 25-35%, but even then the screen remains pretty bright and below that the colors and contrast seem to wash out slightly.

With OLED because each pixel is lit as opposed to the entire display, working in a night mode means you're really looking at a very lightly lit screen even on a full page of white colored code.

Plus the white code really pops out because the background is much much darker than other technologies. On other display types the software asks for black but really gets a shade of grey, this is due to unavoidable light leaking. On an OLED it asks for black and gets actual black.

That all being said, OLED is great for coding, IPS might be better for color reproduction (e.g. photo editing) and wide angle viewing, and neither IPS or OLED is great for gaming currently (due to poor response times, etc).

PS - Obviously this post is only about display technology. In the real world other factors may come into play like relative price, resolution, orientation rotation, reliability, and so on.


I didn't know I could have an opinion on this, but you sold me on OLED. Let's see when I can get one with a good response time in the format that I currently use (40" 2160p).


Due to reflections the black on OLED is still not real black unless one is in a very dark room.


I have used an Alienware laptop with OLED screen and it was beautiful and I am sure it would be great for coding. My main concern with an OLED is burn in. There are a lot of static elements on a computer screen and if phones are anything to go by burn in of those always-on-screen widgets will leave some nasty marks.


Black being actually black (ie no light being emitted vs pixels hiding the display's backlight) feels great for terminal work, but I do not think that OLED is yet worth the overall battery life hit.

For instance, Anandtech [1] reports 6h11m for web browsing on the LCD X1 Yoga, which drops to 3h39m on the OLED variation.

[1] http://www.anandtech.com/show/10697/the-lenovo-thinkpad-x1-y...


Shouldn't this intuitively be the other way around? Especially is you utilize dark mode on your editor/terminal.


I believe the benchmark was related to web browsing.


Due to pentile pixel arrangements OLED screen is less sharp than corresponding LCD of the same resolution, so for coding and readingy my preference goes to high quality ISP panel.


What are your favorite models (monitors)? I could not find a decent OLED monitor (or HiDpi, 16:10, not too glossy not to grainy (cheap AG coating)).

I am so upset to see all constructors forgetting devs/ops/office who favore quality, specs and have decent money: 16:10 monitors are dying, monitors panels optimized for text and long days of watching the screen are non-existing (vs optimized for video or image), mouse and keyboards are cheap or for gamers.




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