Look for higher res displays to jump start the laptop market

The global notebook computer display market fell 23% year-over-year in the first quarter (Q1) of 2016, so laptop makers may look to higher resolution displays to jump start the market, according to IHS, a source of critical information and insight. Mac laptops are doing just fine, though Apple may look to oxide panels and LTPS panes for even better screens on future notebooks.

Due to the low profitability of high definition (HD) notebook panels, panel makers have begun to decrease production, in favor of full HD (FHD) panels. FHD panels (with 1920x1080 resolution) are expected to enjoy high growth through 2018 and could become mainstream in notebooks in three years, according to IHS. In addition to FHD resolution, some panel makers have begun promoting even higher ultra HD (UHD) resolution of at least 3,840 by 2,160

Price erosion hit the laptop market hard in 2015, as manufacturers by and large produced low-cost notebooks to maintain market share, rather than introducing new and innovative designs. Apple, of course, didn’t take this route. 

In fact, half of all notebook PCs sold in 2015 were priced below $500, and laptops costing $300 or less grew to encompass 15% of the total market in the fourth quarter. While computer replacement was driven in the past by specification upgrades, today’s consumers mainly use their computers to browse the Web or check emails, so consumers have become less concerned with upgraded replacements and notebook sales continue to decline, according to IHS.

“Performance is no longer the key motivation for customers to replace older PCs,” Jason Hsu, senior principal analyst for display supply chain at IHS Technology. “Industry players are now reviewing what might be the next driving force for laptops and finding that displays could play a larger role.”

Displays using oxide and low-temperature polysilicon (LTPS) panels are designed to address the need for higher resolution and low power consumption. Apple has been very aggressive in adopting oxide-substrate panels for its iMac and iPad Pro product lines, and the company is reportedly introducing oxide panels in its upcoming line of MacBooks. With Apple leading, Samsung Display and LG Display are now increasing investment in expanded oxide-panel manufacturing capacity.

While today’s LTPS capacity is mainly used for smartphone panel production, it will also be coming soon to notebooks and tablet panels. JDI, AUO, Tianma and other panel makers are actively promoting LTPS panels for notebook computers, and IHS anticipates the first LTPS notebook panels to be in commercial production by 2017 or even sooner, Hsu says.

LTPS (Low Temperature PolySilicon LCD) are active matrix LCD screens that is faster and more integrated than screens made with amorphous silicon substrates. LCD pixels can be closer together and achieve densities of 200 dpi and greater.