After years of owning OLED TVs, I've finally stopped worrying about burn-in

gameplay on the lg c2 oled
(Image credit: LG)

Burn-in has long been the ultimate boogeyman for OLED TV owners. Sometimes known as image retention, OLED burn-in can occur if you leave a static image on your display for hours at a time, and OLED is the television tech that’s most susceptible to this problem. As someone who’s exclusively owned OLED TVs for the past eight years, I should be worried, right?

There was a time I absolutely was. Hell, I used to be petrified about the threat of burn-in. The notion that having splashed one on of the best OLED TVs, it could be forever marred by the permanent outline of a static symbol – say the on-screen scoreboard of a soccer match or a health bar in a video game – would leave me trembling at the knees. But that’s all changed now.

The main reason my burn-in paranoia can get in the sea is down to manufacturers introducing features that make it far less of a risk. Example? Almost every major brand of OLED TV has a screen saver that kicks in after a period of inactivity. Throw in further fixes like ‘Screen Shift’ – a feature that subtly moves on-screen action by tiny, imperceptible amounts – and my fear of static symbols is nowhere near as pronounced as it used to be.

Burn-in after reading

Make no mistake, I’ve put several OLED TVs under serious risk of burn-in down the years. Hundreds of hours spent wasting Los Santos citizens in GTA 5, all while a permanent map of the city lurks in the bottom-right corner of my screen. Pausing an episode of Happy Valley on BBC iPlayer, then leaving poor Sergeant Cawood suspended in time while I take my husky for an epic walk. Test match cricket marathons where the on-screen score was a constant looming threat for what felt like a vertebral ice age. 

And my personal favorite, falling asleep while watching a Blu-ray disc, then waking up to find the title menu had probably been plastered on my TV for upwards of five hours. How a silhouette of Jon Snow’s know-nothing face isn’t permanently etched into my LG C2 OLED after regular Game of Thrones binges, only the Lord of Light knows. 

Alienware OLED monitor on a desk, with the Windows desktop on the screen

The Windows talkbar should be a nightmare for burn-in, and yet it's never been a problem on my Alienware monitor, here. (Image credit: Future)

More than anything, it’s the fact I’ve been using two OLED screens as PC monitors for the best part of a year that has well and truly banished my burn-in heebie-jeebies. I use the excellent Alienware AW3423DW QD-OLED as my main monitor, and the manufacturer is so confident about image retention not becoming a problem, its ultrawide display comes with a three year burn-in warranty as standard. 

This confidence feels well warranted, because in months of use, I haven’t witnessed a single instance of temporary image retention, let alone permanent burn-in. Despite often having multiple browser tabs open for hours on end, or those times when I stupidly forget to auto-hide my taskbar before a marathon video-editing session on Adobe Premiere Pro, my Alienware OLED has remained free from burn-in artefacts.

Pixel perfect

My office LG C2 OLED – yes, I embarrassingly own two of what TechRadar considers to be the best TV currently available – has also avoided any image retention woes. Although this may be partly down to the fact I still run manual pixel-cleaning cycles on it every other week, purely through force of habit. 

This process checks and adjusts each on-screen pixel, takes mere minutes to run, and is the best way to avoid OLED burn-in after long spells of watching content with static symbols. As a cringeworthy aside, I actually find running pixel-cleaning cycles to be mildly therapeutic. Yes, I deserved to be judged. 

The moral of this rambling assortment of anecdotes? OLED has sufficiently progressed enough as a tech to make the prospect of screen burn-in a relatively minor threat in 2023. Considering I’ve put a range of OLED displays under some pretty unreasonable stress tests down the years, if I’ve never been scarred by screen-ruining image retention, any modern OLED TV you buy isn’t likely to either.

Dave Meikleham

Dave is a freelancer who's been writing about tech and video games since 2006, with bylines across GamesRadar+, Total Film, PC Gamer, and Edge. He's been obsessed with all manner of AV equipment ever since his parents first bought him a hideously garish 13-inch CRT TV (complete with built-in VCR, no less) back in 1998. Over the years he’s owned more plasma and OLED TVs than he can count. On an average day, he spends 30% of his waking existence having mild panic attacks about vertical banding and dead pixels.