Screen burn or burn-in is when a faint still image permanently remains on an OLED screen, all but ruining your viewing experience. With new OLED TVs costing upwards of £2,000, it’s a potentially costly problem, but should it put you off buying one?
Until a few years ago, OLED displays were only found in small devices, such as smartphones and handheld games consoles, but as the manufacturing costs of big screens came down LG started making OLED TVs.
Initially, the cost of these TVs was monumental but, as with all tech, the manufacturing process got more efficient and cheaper, and now LG, Panasonic and Sony use OLED displays in the majority of their high-end TVs. They still aren’t exactly cheap, but they aren’t as prohibitively expensive as they used to be, with some 2017 OLEDs now available for just over £1,000.
Should the possibility of burn-in warn you off OLED TVs? We look at the causes, how widespread the issue is and how to avoid it.
The best TVs for 2018 – how many of the top-rated TVs are OLEDs?
What causes screen burn?
Screen burn occurs when a still image is displayed on an OLED screen for a long time. We’re not talking about a few minutes – the screen would need to be stuck on one image for several hours before there was a chance it could be burned onto the screen, so don’t worry about pausing a movie to answer the phone or make a cuppa.
Due to the nature of the issue, it most often occurs in OLEDs used commercially. An LG OLED at Incheon airport in South Korea that was displaying flight times was swapped for an LCD TV after screen burn occurred and another was found to have a burned-in logo at a tech tradeshow. Both these TVs had been displaying the same image for multiple hours, which isn’t how you use your TV at home.
With TV shows and movies, the image changes 24 times every second, so there’s no real chance of screen burn, but what about a channel logo or a graphic that doesn’t move, such as the one on the BBC News channel? Well, manufacturers have a solution. LG, Panasonic and Sony TVs all have a feature that detects a still image on screen and moves or dims it slightly to avoid burn-in. The shifts are minuscule and wouldn’t be noticeable unless you’re actively staring at the logo.
Can you get rid of screen burn?
Once an image is burned onto the screen it isn’t going away, but if you do catch a glimpse of a permanent image it may not be too late to remove it. Quickly change the channel to something else because it may just be a case of image retention and it hasn’t actually burned in yet.
Your best bet though, is to avoid the issue altogether. Set a sleep timer on your TV so that it turns off after a certain amount of time if no one uses it and don’t leave the screen paused for too long.
Is screen burn covered by your warranty?
Incredibly, it isn’t, and that’s because LG, Panasonic and Sony don’t see it as a manufacturing fault. They reckon that burn-in will only occur if you use your TV outside the normal viewing conditions, which is basically watching it for a few hours a day. If it does occur a manufacturer would consider it to be your fault because you left your TV on the same image for too long.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t try to get a repair or replacement. Warranty claims are considered on a case-by-case basis, so you may get some joy if you’re persistent. You can learn more about your rights by visiting our guide to what to do if you have a faulty product.
Does screen burn affect LCD TVs?
It is possible, but much less likely to happen. Warranties on LCD TVs are similar to OLED ones in that burn-in isn’t covered in most cases. Samsung, which doesn’t make OLED TVs, is an exception. It offers a 10-year burn-in warranty on its high-end LCD QLED TVs.
Samsung’s offer is a clear show of confidence in the resistance of LCD screens to burn-in, but if you’re torn between buying an LCD TV and an OLED one the possibility of this problem shouldn’t affect your decision. Unless you’re buying your TV for a pub and you’ll be displaying Sky Sports for 12 hours a day, screen burn shouldn’t be an issue.
Why choose an OLED?
Since screen burn doesn’t affect LCD TVs, why buy an OLED? Despite this uncommon problem, there are benefits to OLED screens. They are better at controlling light than LCD models because they don’t use a backlight. Instead, each bulb in an OLED display creates its own light and in some cases this leads to better contrast and less light bleeding from bright areas of the screen into dark ones.
The advantages of the screen doesn’t guarantee that an OLED will ace our tests though, and the high price of OLEDs means you need to be particularly careful about which one you buy. Most of the high-end TVs from LG, Panasonic and Sony in 2018 are OLEDs and you can learn more about those below, or you can look at all our TV reviews to see how they compare with this year’s LCD sets.
LG’s latest OLED features a new image processor to improve colour vibrancy and detail, as well as Dolby Atmos-tuned sound to simulate audio coming from different places in the room.
Read our LG OLED55C8PLA review to see how it fared in our tests.
The OLED screen on this TV doubles as a speaker by vibrating to create the audio. Does that compromise picture quality or does this innovation produce Best Buy sound?
Find out in our Sony KD55AF8BU review.
Panasonic’s flagship OLED doesn’t ignore audio either. The wedge-shaped base is a sound bar that should alleviate the issue many TVs face when trying to get good sound out of thin speakers housed behind the screen.
Does the 952B combine the best of OLED technology with top-notch sound? Head to our Panasonic TX-55FZ952B review to find out.