We have some updates from AU Optronics about their panel development plans which is always interesting to see. This is AUO as a panel manufacturer, as opposed to any specific monitor/display manufacturer, but it gives an indication of where monitors are likely to go in the future by looking ahead at the panel production plans. AUO make a large portion of the IPS-type panels in the market which is always of interest along with a range of interesting TN Film options. Please keep in mind that the production dates are not set in stone and may change, and there is then also a lag of several months before a panel is produced, then used in a display and launched to market. We have updated our panel parts database with all the new information we have as well as best we can. Here are the highlights
Overall AUO remain focused on several key areas. Increasing refresh rates and improving response times for gaming, providing more wide gamut and HDR options, and developing more stylish curved and borderless panels.
Gaming Panel Focus – 1440p TN Film panels with 240Hz
AU Optronics are continuing to push several developments in their gaming-oriented range of panels. When it comes to refresh rate they are investing in 240Hz for TN Film options. There are quite a large range of 24.5″ TN Film displays around now, and some 27″ versions with 1920 x 1080 resolution and 240HZ refresh rate, including the AOC AGON AG251FZ and Asus ROG Swift PG258Q for instance that we have reviewed. Perhaps of most interest are the plans to push the resolution of these 240Hz TN Film panels up to 2560 x 1440 in a 27″ panel which was originally planned for production in Q2 2018 but is now listed as November Q4. Perhaps we can expect to see some 1440p TN Film monitors with 240Hz refresh rate announced in the near future from the likes of Asus and Acer?
The response time of the currently available 1080p panels, and this new 1440p panel is being pushed as well, down from a typical 5ms spec to 3ms. Updated versions are expected to go in to production in Nov (24.5″ version) and Dec (27″ version).
Gaming Focus – IPS-type panels with up to 240Hz refresh rate
For AHVA (IPS-type) technology the typical 144Hz refresh rate support will be boosted slightly to 165Hz for a 27″ panel offering 1440p resolution. This new panel has been pushed back from originally scheduled Q1 2018 to December Q4 now. Again it looks like we will start to see this appear soon in some monitor announcements.
In the future there are also plans to release 25″ (probably actually 24.5″) and 27″ AHVA technology panels with a 1920 x 1080 resolution and both 144Hz refresh rates and 240Hz refresh rate options. The 144Hz versions will have a normal sRGB colour space backlight, while the 240Hz versions will have a wider 90% DCI-P3 gamut.
A 240Hz capable IPS-type panel will be very interesting, even if limited to 1080p initially. AUO will have to have improved IPS response times to make this viable and usable. The 25″ panels are scheduled for production in March Q1 2019 while the larger 27″ panels are listed for August Q2 2019 at the moment. The 144Hz versions of these panels are likely to go in to production a month earlier respectively.
An update on the 32″ IPS Ultra HD Panel with 144Hz and FALD
The eagerly anticipated 32″ Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) IPS panel with 144Hz refresh rate and FALD backlight seems to have disappeared off the road-map currently. This was originally expected to go in to production in Q3 2018 but seems to have slipped or perhaps been canned completely. It remains to be seen whether it will reappear, but given the challenges and very high costs faced with the 27″ version (as used in monitors like the Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ and Acer Predator X27) it is perhaps just severely delayed or on hold for now.
Similarly the talk about a non-FALD version of the 27″ panel is conspicuous by its absence in the latest roadmap. We have seen some screens announced based on what appeared to be this new panel, including the Acer Predator XB273K for instance. The idea was to offer the same 27″ panel with 3840 x 2160 resolution and 144Hz refresh rate, but without the FALD HDR backlight for those who don’t need it and want a screen at a lower retail price. Perhaps this is still under way given the Acer screen was expected to be released in Q4, but the panel isn’t talked about in the latest roadmap.
43″ and 65″ BFGD Panels now with 144Hz and in Production Soon
It was back in January 2018 that we brought you news of several very large “Big Format Gaming Displays” (BFGD) being showcased at the CES event. Models from Acer, Asus and HP were shown off with a massive 65″ screen size, Ultra HD resolution and 120Hz refresh rate. Not much has been heard of seen of them since this original concept / demo.
AUO now have the 65″ BDFG panel in their roadmap with a scheduled production of Q4 2018. This will be a VA technology panel and will now feature a 144Hz refresh rate instead of the 120Hz talked about earlier in the year. It has an Ultra HD resolution and support for HDR 1000. There is also talk of a 43″ sized panel of the same kind of spec, again scheduled for Q4 2018 production. There looks to be an HDR 1000 version and an HDR 600 version of the 43″ panel planned.
An update on the 35″ Curved HDR Panels We’ve Been Waiting For
It’s been another long wait for the release of the interesting new 35″ ultrawide screens, boasting a 3440 x 1440 resolution, 200Hz refresh rate and importantly support for a FALD HDR backlight. We already know that there are models from Asus (their ROG Swift PG35VQ) and Acer (Predator X35) planned, that we’ve been waiting for since May 2017 last year! The panel for this screen is a 34″ VA offering from AUO and has apparently now gone in to mass production as of Q3 2018. We have not had any update from Asus or Acer on these screens, so suspect they will be available sometime in Q1 based on what we know currently.
Other High Refresh Rate VA Panels
Also mentioned are a couple of other new VA panels with high refresh rate. A 27″ panel with 1080p resolution and 200Hz is penciled in for Q4 2018 production, while a 31.5″ panel with 1080p and 200Hz is listed for Q1 2019.
Mini LED development for improvements in HDR beyond FALD backlights
There are also plans to develop further HDR-capable panels with a new “mini LED” technology that will offer improvements in HDR local dimming capability over current Full Array Local Dimming (FALD) backlights. Mini LED offers much smaller chip sizes than normal LED and so can allow AUO to offer far more local dimming zones than even the current/planned FALD backlights that we’ve seen so far. Those FALD backlights have been limited to around 384 dimming zones, certainly offering improvements in dimming capability compared with say, edge-lit panels. The new mini LED backlight systems will support more than 1000 zones and also allow even higher peak brightness up to 1200 cd/m2. They will also facilitate thinner screen profiles compared to FALD screens.
Mini LED was originally talked about being used initially in gaming screens for HDR benefits, but the latest AUO plans talk more about them being used for professional grade displays. It remains to be seen of course, but there is a planned 32″ panel, that’s expected to go in to production in Q1 2019 still. This has a 3840 x 2160 resolution. A 27″ version with mini LED backlight (which will have fewer than 1000 zones, but still more than current FALD 384 zones) is also expected for production in Q2 2019, again with Ultra HD resolution.
They are a fair way away, and that date could well slip, but it’s interesting to see what’s coming around the corner with mini LED backlights.