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Voice point: Should we be concerned about screen burn-in with switch OLED?

Replace OLED BOTW2

It’s time for an embarrassing admission: I apparently use TikTok so much that the app’s user interface has burned into my phone screen.

But let me just redeem myself a bit: I do not have the kind of For You page (it’s TikTok’s algorithmically generated content stream) that is full of viral dances and teen boys are a bit creepy, even though I enjoy the dances from time to time – it have managed to train the algorithm to show me most really good food, extremely absurd musical comedy, old house renovations and Jacob Collier.

But my point is not that I̵

7;m very cool, in fact you like me – it’s that my phone has burn-in, something that can happen on OLED screens.

So what is the problem exactly?

Burn-in can occur with different types of monitors if they are made to display the same static image long enough. It happens with phones, TVs and generally everything with one screen. It’s not just the TikTok, nor the icons that show battery, wifi, volume, and the fact that my phone is always set to vibrate, there are also all, ghost-like appearances at the top right of my screen. To the left, there’s a pretty creepy fusion of every single time I’ve looked at my phone, represented by a permanent spectral clock, plus an annoying reminder that I have way too many unread emails and messages because there are all these messages -forms up there too.

An example of screen burning on a yellow CRT screen
An example of screen burning on a yellow CRT screen (Image: Piercetheorganist, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

By the way, I have a Google Pixel 2XL, which – according to Wikipedia – has a P-OLED screen (P, if it matters to you, stands for “polymer”). Screen burn reports on these phones were recorded as early as 2017, just months after it was released. Similarly, many owners with PlayStation Vita reported burn-in, especially if they left the screen on for long periods of time (ie while playing games or leaving the console on pause).

So of course, when the Nintendo Switch (OLED model) was pretty much the same as the old switch, but with – you guessed it – an OLED screen, worries about burning started to spread.

As highlighted in CNET’s piece on TV burning, manufacturers – from Apple to Google to LG – are aware of the curse of burn-in and seem to react largely by telling their customers how to avoid it by making fun of of the companies telling customers how to avoid it, or just flat-out denying that their TV has the problem of burning in despite evidence to the contrary.

A trend emerges: If you have screen burning, these companies say it’s your fault – watching static user videos or playing video games for too long. Just stop doing these things so you do not have burnout. Sorry, do you want me to avoid static user interface video games? It’s all of them. It is all video games.

An example of burning on an airport screen (airports are a great place to watch it)
An example of burning on an airport screen (airports are a great place to watch it) (Image: Gustav Broennimann, CC BY 3.0 CH, via Wikimedia Commons)

Now, manufacturers have begun to anticipate OLED on their part rather than deny its existence. Apple’s new iPhones have “special algorithms that monitor the use of individual pixels to produce display calibration data,” that is, it even adjusts the brightness to stop burning, even though they say burning is only an “expected behavior” with OLED screens. It’s a risk-rewarding thing, but you able to reduce the risk, at the very least.

Consoles, like the Xbox, try to reduce the burn on their side by making things fade to a “weak” setting after a while. The current switch also has a “Screen Burn-In Reduction” mode, which does a similar thing after five minutes of inactivity. These settings protect the user’s TV from being burned, even if it’s not really the responsibility of the console manufacturer. On a!

What does Nintendo say about burning on Switch OLED?

Screenshot 2021 07 06 Kl.  2.36.11 Pm

But the question is not “will the switch leave the burn-in on my OLED TV”, but “will the switch leave the burn-in on itself”. The new OLED screen is part of the console and is clearly designed for better handheld gaming. As someone who pretty much plays Switch in handheld mode, I want to know: Will it have perma-health bars and mini-cards wound into the screen?

Well, at least CNET is not worried about burning in the switch’s OLED screen. Here is the statement that Nintendo gave them:

“We have designed the OLED screen to aim for longevity as much as possible, but OLED screens can experience image retention if exposed to static graphics over a long period of time.

However, users can take precautionary measures to preserve the screen [by] use of features included in the Nintendo Switch systems by default, such as automatic brightness function to prevent the screen from becoming too bright, and the automatic sleep function to go into ‘automatic sleep mode’ after short periods. “

To sum up: they do not deny that burning is a problem, and their statement seems to suggest that it may eventually happen – but you can prevent (or postpone) the problem of careful use of brightness levels and automatic sleep.

So should I be concerned about burn-in with Switch OLED?

CNET even lists a few things that have dampened their fear of burning: First, different games have different static features, so unless you play same games for hours, the OLED Switch will be fine. Plus, unlike phones, the Switch does not have an always-on menu item such as a battery or a clock, and it do has the automatic hibernation mode that we mentioned.

But of course there are players who play the same games for hours – games like Fortnite, Minecraft or Tetris 99. These players will obviously have a higher risk of screen burn-in, and even Nintendo is not denying it.

It has to be said that OLED technology has been advanced since the Vita days, as well as built-in solutions and measures to reduce the problem and improve the life of any monitor you buy that is likely to get prolonged and daily use. That does not mean that burning could not happen on your Switch OLED screen, but Nintendo has anticipated the problem. We can not be sure until we spend considerable time with the console – and goodness knows that Nintendo does not have a perfect track record when it comes to hardware – but unless you go out of your way to induce burn-in by turning off the sensor for automatic brightness and only ever play after timer every day at 100% brightness, our gut feeling is that you will probably take care.

However, CNET puts it quite succinctly: If you think it’s likely that burn-in is “do not buy the new switch”.

Imagine having Buizel permanently on your screen
Imagine having Buizel permanently on your screen

You are, generally less likely to get burn-in on a console, even with the warning that hours on a game can make it happen. My phone problem only started happening three years into my possession of it, and that’s because I’m a trash can who sees too many TikToks. My real punishment will no doubt be the roasting I get in the comments. As for TVs, the problem becomes more likely when you have something like a news channel a lot of the time, like TV in receptions and waiting rooms.

We can not say with certainty whether the OLED screen will have significant burn-in problems because we are not mental, but the surest answer for now is that it is possible under specific conditions. As pointed out by this Best Buy employee on Reddit and by CNET, and by Nintendo itself, there are precautions we can take to reduce the chance of this happening: Do not leave the screen at full brightness for hours, especially not on a menu screen, and set the console to dim or automatically sleep after a few minutes with passivity.

In addition, there is always the option of not buying the new OLED switch at all if you mostly use it in really long Overwatch marathons in handheld mode. For some, the risk may be balanced against the rewards of darker blacks, higher contrast, and lighter colors; for others, it is best to just stick to the reliable ol ‘LCD screen.

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