BOE Demos 600 Hz Gaming Laptop Display

BOE this week demonstrated the industry’s fastest display panel with a 600 Hz refresh rate, which by far exceeds that of the best gaming monitors. The panel is designed for laptops aimed at hardcore gamers who demand absolutely the highest performance, including an absurdly high refresh rate. Meanwhile, the demonstration raises more questions than answers as it is unclear how BOE managed to make such a panel work and its benefits to the end user are uncertain too.

BOE showcased the industry’s first 16-inch LCD panel with a 600 Hz refresh rate with an oxide backplane technology at the World Conference on Display Industry in Chengdu, China, this week, reports IT Home (opens in new tab) citing the company’s press release (opens in new tab). The demonstration of the display panel was carried out using a laptop carrying AMD Ryzen and Nvidia GeForce RTX logotypes (more on this later). First, however, the panel was attached to the chassis using tape. A 600 Hz refresh rate is something that the range-topping best graphics cards might need to show their true potential in games like CrossFire, CS: GO, or PUBG. But it’s not that easy, so let’s analyze what this 600 Hz LCD panel is all about.

BOE does not disclose any specifications of the panel beyond its refresh rate. Since making high-resolution panels run at high-speed refresh rates is hard, we suggest we deal with a 1920×1080 resolution here. BOE is also tight-lipped about the kind of display panel technology its LCD panel uses with a 600 Hz refresh rate. However, considering that panels with 480 Hz and 500 Hz refresh rate use TN panels, it is a safe bet that the 600 Hz one also uses this technology. Meanwhile, what is unclear is whether this panel is a ‘true’ 600 Hz one or a heavily overclocked LCD with a native refresh rate of 480 Hz or 500 Hz.

In any case, whether we are dealing with a native 600 Hz panel or a panel overclocked to 600 Hz, it still needs an extremely capable display controller logic. That display controller (whether a monolithic chip or a set of chips) has to feature a high-performance image processing unit, an appropriate overdrive processor, a very fast TCON (timing controller), and a general-purpose processor that will manage the operation of the aforementioned hardware. Overdrive logic performance is essential at 600 Hz to minimize ghosting. Meanwhile, assuming that we are dealing with a panel that supports a variable refresh rate (and something tells us that we do), overdrive logic is a tricky thing here.

We do not know whether any off-the-shelf display controllers can support a 600 Hz refresh rate with overdrive. Still, Nvidia’s logotype of the PC chassis may imply that the company may have an appropriate G-Sync module in the works (we are speculating). At least, the only laptop with a 480 Hz LCD comes with Nvidia G-Sync support.

Another point to consider regarding this panel is how it connects to its host system. For example, transferring an uncompressed 1920×1080 image with an eight-bit color depth at a 600 Hz refresh rate (i.e., 600 times a second) to a panel requires a usable data throughput of 37.32 Gb/s, which is a DisplayPort 2.0 with UHBR 10 territory. Meanwhile, a DisplayPort 1.3/1.4 connection offers a bandwidth of 25.92 Gb/s after factoring in 8b/10b encoding overhead.

(Image credit: ITHome)

Keeping in mind that Nvidia’s graphics processors introduced to date (which include the latest Ada Lovelace-based AD103 and AD104 GPUs that will likely be used for high-end gaming notebooks eventually) only support DisplayPort 1.4, we can only wonder if the panel used two eDP 1.4 connections, employed Display Stream Compression, or used 4:2:0 color format. Using two eDP 1.4 connections requires a custom display controller and is generally expensive, whereas using DST or 4:2:0 format arguably impacts image quality.  

Of course, it will be tough to evaluate the color quality and small details when you are shown up to 600 images a second (i.e., at an up to 600 Hz refresh rate), and this is the primary purpose of this monitor — to produce an incredibly immersive experience for e-sports professionals and hardcore gamers.

When we talk about cyber athletes and demanding gamers, we certainly need to mention the benefits they might get from a 600 Hz refresh rate display. A reasonably common competition-grade 240 Hz monitor can offer a down to 4.16 ms frame time, whereas 360 Hz LCDs for serious gamers cut that by 50% to 2.7 ms. At a 600 Hz refresh rate, a frame time drops 1.66 ms, which seems like a diminishing return, to put it mildly. 

Various research concluded that most people could see between 30 and 60 frames per second, though there is no commonly agreed solid limit of how many FPS an eye can see. Assuming that professional athletes can see 60 frames per second, their frame time is 16.66 ms. Meanwhile, this seems to be enough. For example, professional badminton players can react to a hit up to 493 km/h (306.34 mph), which is quite extraordinary. Meanwhile, many badminton players say that they do not precisely follow the shuttlecock with their eyes and then assume where it ends up, but rather make guesses where it will end up based on various factors like the opponent’s racket or body position. 

We doubt cyber athletes can see more frames per second than other athletes, but at extremely high FPS and with an extremely high refresh rate, they may perceive the gaming world better than their opponents with lower FPS and refresh rates.

Since we are mostly talking about e-sports professionals and competitive gamers, we are also talking about games like CrossFire, Fortnite, and PUBG that do not need the highest-end GPU and CPU to hit hundreds of frames per second. Therefore, these extreme display panels may make sense for those games and professional gamers. Perhaps, not because a 600 Hz panel will cut their frame time to 1.66 ms from 4.16 ms on a 240 Hz LCD, but because, for them, this might provide a more immersive competition experience, which might lead to better results.  

For everyone else, a higher resolution display with a ‘moderate’ 120 Hz or 240 Hz refresh rate based on a Fast IPS or even an OLED panel with better colors, lack of DST, and larger sizes will likely be a wiser choice. There are plenty of good gaming monitors to choose from these days. 

Yet, the demonstration of the industry’s first LCD panel with a 600 Hz refresh rate certainly attracts a lot of attention to BOE and emphasizes its lead (at least as far as refresh rates are concerned) over other players.