We have some updates from AU Optronics
about their lcd panel development plans over the coming year or so. AU Optronics are one of the largest panel manufacturers in the market, and produce various panel technologies including their IPS-type AHVA technology, VA-type AMVA and TN Film variants. Looking ahead at their lcd panel production plans gives a nice indication of where monitors are likely to go in the future by looking ahead at the lcd panel production plans. 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 used in a display and launched to market. We have updated our lcd panel parts database with all the new information we have as well.
High refresh rate 240Hz TN Film panels for pro gaming with higher resolutions
AU Optronics already develop several TN Film gaming panels with a native 240Hz refresh rate, available in 24.5" and 27" sizes and used in various monitors already. These panels have been limited so far to 1920 x 1080 resolution at 240Hz, but AUO now have plans to extend that in the future. Of most interest is a planned new 27" TN Film panel with the same 240Hz refresh rate, but with a QHD 2560 x 1440 resolution. This panel is expected to go in to production in July 2018 and will also offer a 3ms response time (ISO figure without overdrive, down from the typical 5ms limit for TN Film), 400 cd/m2 brightness and even an extended gamut offering 90% DCI-P3 coverage. That 3ms response time spec is AUO pushing the overall responsiveness of the panel, and they rate that as being able to offer <1ms G2G response times with overdrive used, and in fact their target is achieving 0.5ms.
Updates to the already available 24.5" and 27" panels are also planned, pushing the response time performance a little bit and offering the new 3ms ISO response time spec. Those panels are sticking with largely the same spec as before including the FHD 1920 x 1080 resolution, 400 cd/m2 brightness and sRGB gamut. The 24.5" update is planed for August 2018 production, while the 27" update is planned for Q4 2018 some time.
Higher refresh rate for IPS-type panels with Ultra HD resolution
No doubt you're all familiar with the very eagerly anticipated 27" Ultra HD, 144Hz, IPS-type, HDR panel from AUO that will be featured in forthcoming monitors like the Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ and Acer Predator X27. The latest info we have from AUO confirms that this panel should now be in mass production which is good news. Release of the monitors could still be a couple of months away though but positive that panel production is now ongoing. AUO also plan to release a non-HDR version of a similar panel with mass production planned for June 2018. That alternative option would offer an Ultra HD 3840 x 2160 resolution AHVA IPS-type panel, 144Hz refresh rate, 90% DCI-P3 coverage and 400 cd/m2 brightness. Without the HDR FALD backlight, that will hopefully significantly bring the retail cost of monitors down. There's been a lot of complaints about the expected very high retail price of the Asus/Acer monitors mentioned above, but that is largely due to the FALD HDR backlight production. If you just want an Ultra HD 144Hz IPS gaming panel
without the added HDR capability, this forthcoming panel option might present some good, lower cost choices when it is used.
Large format VA panels in 35", 43" and 65" sizes with high refresh rate
We have known about the 35" VA offering from AUO for some time now. This will be the panel to feature in exciting HDR models like the Asus ROG Swift PG35VQ and Acer Predator X35. It will feature a 3440 x 1440 curved panel with a 512-zone FALD HDR backlight. Spec wise the panel will support 200Hz refresh rate, 90% DCI-P3 coverage and 600 cd/m2 brightness (1000 cd/m2 peak brightness for HDR). The update from AUO is that mass production of this panel is due now in July 2018 so don't expect to see any of these monitors until probably Q3.
Of other interest are some planned new 43" sized panels based on VA technology. This will be a new panel sector for AUO as sizes for gaming displays start to grow and grow. There are two 43" panels planned with very similar specs. Both offer Ultra HD 3840 x 2160 resolution, are a flat format instead of curved, have 400 cd/m2 brightness and 90% DCI-P3 colour gamut. There is a 60Hz version planned as well as a 144Hz version. Both are expected to go in to production around August 2018.
Finally is a very large format 65" VA panel in a flat format and looks very interesting from a spec point of view. This panel is expected to go in to production in September 2018 and will have a 3840 x 2160 Ultra HD resolution, 144Hz refresh rate, 700 cd/m2 brightness, 1000 cd/m2 peak brightness for HDR and 95% DCI-P3 colour gamut. It will have a 384 zone FALD backlight to support HDR content.
Development of professional panels and extending colour spaces
There's a general push to increase the colour space offered from the professional-range panels over the next few years from AUO. They hope to offer 99% Adobe RGB and 90% DCI-P3 colour space from their panels in 2018, pushing this to 99% DCI-P3 next year in 2019 and then even further towards a 90% Rec.2020 coverage by 2020. There are already some 27" and 32" panels in mass production for professional uses, and these are based on AHVA (IPS-type) technology, offering 3840 x 2160 resolution, 60Hz refresh rate, 99% Adobe RGB gamut and 8-bit+FRC colour depth. An updated 32" panel is planned for around January 2019 production which will offer similar space, but push 90% DCI-P3 coverage and offer VESA HDR 600 support.
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 on already announced 27" and 32" sized panels that are in production, certainly offering improvements in dimming capability compared with say, edge-lit panels. The new mini LED backlight systems will support more than 1000 zones on a planned 32" panel, that's expected to go in to production in Q1 2019. They are a long way away, and that date could well slip, but it's interesting to see what's coming around the corner with mini LED backlights. Considering the production cost of Mini LED is still relatively high, AUO will first launch the Mini LED-lit gaming monitor, according to Michael Tsai, President and Chief Operating Officer at AUO. The company expects customers in the gaming monitor segment to have a higher price tolerance it is said from recent press releases. In the future, expect to see even smaller "micro LED" production to offer even more zones and direct backlighting for HDR displays. There are no dates or expectations from AUO on the use of micro LED yet though.
The planned 32" panel with mini LED will be an AHVA (IPS-type) technology panel and will offer an Ultra HD 3840 x 2160 resolution, 600 cd/m2 brightness (1000 cd/m2 peak), 10-bit colour depth, 99% Adobe RGB gamut and will have two refresh rate options - a 60Hz version and even a planned 144Hz version (with 8-bit colour depth on the 144Hz option we believe).