How long does it take for OLED to burn-in?

So you might have heard that OLED displays can have an issue called screen burn-in. But how long exactly does it take for OLED to burn-in? What’s the average life expectancy of an OLED TV? Should even bother worrying about it?

These are important questions, especially considering OLED TVs are quite expensive. There’s lots of misinformation out there, so I’ll do my best to give you the most accurate answers to those questions in this article.

What is Burn-in?

Burn-in happens when a still image is on the screen for a long time and remains there, even when the frame changes. So you’ll always see a faded image on the screen. Examples of these still images could be TV channel logos, game HUDS, and others.

Burn-in can happen on all display types but it’s more common on OLED panels. The reason it’s more common on OLED displays is OLED displays are made of individual pixels with individual lighting controls which can wear out.

When some of those pixels start to fail, they’ll appear faded and will take longer to change as intended. Burn-in is essentially another way of saying pixel-wear. The pixels that are more worn out will not be as bright as the others.

Depending on the severity, burn-in can vary from barely noticeable to full-on unwatchable. Certain colours are also more likely to cause burn-in than others. Either way, it can ruin your media-watching experience.

Here are some important things you need to know about burn-in:

How Long Does it Take for OLED to Burn-in?

Burn-in on OLED displays can start to occur between 1,000 to 5,000 hours of aggressive 24/7 use with static images on display. The time it takes for OLED to burn-in varies depending on a number of factors such as brightness level, colours, use-time, TV model, and many others.

In other words, it’s not going to happen any time soon. Most OLED TVs will reset and recycle the display when shut down, and most people don’t leave their TVs on 24/7 months at a time. While you probably won’t experience burn-in during your TV’s lifetime, you might notice something called image-retention.

In my opinion, the burn-in issue is a little overplayed. If you use your TV normally, the chances of it getting burn-in are very low. Nevertheless, it’s still a possibility, and in some very rare occasions, it can happen in a couple of weeks.

Image Retention vs Burn-in:

Image retention is often associated with burn-in because the effect looks the same, a faded image on the screen left behind from the previous scene. What you need to know is that image retention and burn-in are two very different issues.

Most of the time, image retention is nothing to worry about because it’s a temporary issue. In fact, image retention is normal and it can happen on brand new TVs. Basically, image retention happens when the scene quickly changes from one bright colour to another colour.

The reason it happens is that the pixels need some time to refresh and change colours, they’re not rotating fast enough, or as fast as they should. You can think of this as the TV “warming up”.

Most of the time, image retention will disappear when the scene changes because the pixels can refresh and change to a different colour. Turning the TV off and back on can also help remove image retention. So if your burn-in goes away after a while, it was probably only image-retention.

Image retention is very common and more noticeable on brand new TVs. After some normal use, the issue should disappear. Burn-in can be considered a type of permanent image retention, and it happens when specific pixels start to wear down.

How Do I Stop my OLED TV from Burning In?

As mentioned earlier, on new OLED TVs you probably won’t experience burn-in until the TV has been on for thousands of hours. However, here are some tips that you can use to prolong your TV’s lifetime even further. On that note, most OLED TVs already have built-in software that will refresh and recycle the screen in the background.

1 – Lower the Brightness

One of the best tips is to simply lower the brightness on your OLED display. Lowering the brightness will put less strain on the display and it will last a lot longer. Most people recommend lowering the brightness to either 50 or 60. You could also change the scene mode to something with lower brightness, like game-mode or cinema.

2 – Limit Watch-Time

Instead of leaving the TV on in the background, consider turning it off when not in use. Use the remote to turn off the TV, it’s never a good idea to unplug the TV from the wall. Most TVs will run a screen-saver when idle, and that can help reduce burn-in too.

3 – Avoid Static High-Contrast Images

The two factors that affect burn-in are brightness and high contrast static images. One colour that seems to cause issues is red. For example, the YouTube logo, and other red static logos can create issues. Games with colourful HUDs can be a problem too. I suggest turning the contrast down a little bit.

Bear in mind, even if you do not follow any of these tips, burn-in is very rare. In fact, there have been burn-in tests running for over 9,000 hours and the TVs still aren’t showing any signs of burn-in. But you can follow these tips to be on the safe side.

Does Warranty Cover Burn-in?

In most cases, the standard TV warranty does not cover burn-in or image retention issues but it can vary depending on the company and region. However, if they confirm you do have burn-in, some companies, such as LG, will provide a courtesy panel replacement.

In certain regions, it seems like LG’s warranty does cover burn-in. It seems like LG’s Europe and Canada stores offer more warranty options. For burn-in coverage, you might need to apply for an “extended warranty”. When in doubt, it’s always worth a quick phone call to customer support.

Note: It looks like Best Buy’s warranty does cover burn-in.

Myth vs Reality:

Do Subtitles Cause Burn-in?

In most cases, subtitles will not cause burn-in because they’re either white or black.

Do TV Station Logos Cause Burn-in?

TV stations logos with high contrast colours can cause burn-in after thousands of hours on display.

Is Burn-in Repairable?

Since burn-in is permanent (not to be confused with image-retention) there’s no way to fix the issue. You will have to either buy a new TV or have a technician replace the panel. Some companies like LG offer one free panel replacement.

How Common is Burn-in?

Burn-in is actually very rare. If you use your TV normally, you probably won’t see any noticeable burn-in. Lowering the brightness and avoiding static high-contrast colours can help a lot too.

Image: “LG 4K Curved OLED TV” (CC BY 2.0) by pestoverde

About Tim Gagnon

Timothy Gagnon is a tech blogger and writer. When he's not dissembling computers, he's researching the latest tech gadgets and trends.

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