What Comes after the Backlight?

Backlit displays have had a good run, but new technology is moving past them and their limitations.
LCD display stack components

Front Lighting vs. Backlight and OLED

The tech industry has been looking for a solution to most devices’ biggest problem for years: battery life. But battery tech isn’t exactly outpacing the growing demand for powerful devices. So why not look elsewhere for power improvements? Maybe we can address the biggest power drain—the backlight.

Normally, the backlight is as powerful as a car’s headlight. It emits a powerful light, most of which is wasted as heat. So which of the commercially available display types can solve this problem? The one that eliminates the backlight, of course.

What Can Replace the Backlight?

We need to start using the sun and ambient light to light our displays. The answer is so obvious that it’s easy to look past. Backlit and OLED displays compete against the sun and drain battery. Rather than fight the light around us, we should harness it.

In transmissive LCDs, the backlight sits in the back of the display stack shooting light directly into a user’s eyes. Emissive displays, like OLED, emit their own light. But both of these displays still lose the fight against the sun, and can’t use ambient light to their advantage. Not to mention their respective methods of display lighting are still massive power draws.

But there is hope. Reflective displays don’t fight the sun, they use it. Reflective LCDs can use ambient light, including the sun, to illuminate the screen. And for low-light situations, a power-efficient, thin front light does the job perfectly.

Different Types of Displays

Reflective Displays

Animated graphic showing how any ambient light reflects in reflective displays

Reflective displays can use any ambient light—from the sun or indoor sources—to light the display. For low-light settings, a low-power front light will do the job. There’s no competing with the sun. These displays offer a more natural experience for users.

Transmissive Displays

Animated graphic showing how backlight passes through transmissive displays

In transmissive displays, light is beamed from the back of the display stack directly into the user’s eyes. The majority of light is wasted (over 90%), and while this type of display is fairly standard, it’s incredibly inefficient.

Emissive Displays

Animated graphic showing how light emits from the pixels in an emissive display

In emissive OLED and MicroLED displays, there is no backlight—individual pixels emit light directly into the users’ eyes. While this may seem like a smarter, more efficient method, they still draw significant power when in the sun and have other issues with the tech.

OLED stands for organic light emitting diode, and they are more likely to burn out within 2 years. MicroLED is new tech that’s still under development and will be too expensive for tablets and mid-sized mobile devices. Apple has been working to make this display mainstream for years, but experts still think we’re 5 to 7 years away from this becoming the norm.

Get in Front with Azumo

Reflective LCD tech has moved ahead in the last few years — higher resolution, full video, expanded colors, and larger sizes. Here at Azumo, we’ve engineered a high-performance front light panel that illuminates these reflective screens with as little as one LED. And it’s only 0.05mm thick, which is roughly as thick as one human hair.

Even better, our front light panel works with off-the-shelf LEDs, so sourcing components is easy. With a display that utilizes the power of the sun and ambient light, your device could save up to 90% of battery life. So for your next device, consider getting in front.

How can Azumo innovate for you?

Contact us today.

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