Garmin Venu | Image source: Garmin

AMOLED vs MIP: Which Garmin watch display reigns supreme?

Which Garmin display technology is superior, AMOLED or MIP? The answer is not simple as each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

In the rapidly evolving field of wearable technology, the display technology used is critical in shaping user-device interactions. AMOLED (Active Matrix Organic Light Emitting Diodes) and MIP (Memory in Pixel) screens are the main contenders in the Garmin smartwatch lineup.

Garmin watches used to be always-on and had transflective, memory-in-pixel displays. However, the company has been gradually shifting its focus to AMOLED displays. The Garmin Venu line, launched on September 5, 2019, marked the company’s first foray into AMOLED display watches. Additional models that use this technology include the Epix Gen 2 and, more recently, the Forerunner 965 and 265.

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There is, of course, a third category: hybrid watches. However, they are not the subject of this article. To touch briefly, these watches seek to combine the best of both worlds. They combine the classic appearance of analogue timepieces with the functionality of modern smartwatches. Garmin’s hybrid line includes models such as the Vivomove series. The devices have physical watch hands on top of a discreet digital display. When you receive a notification or move your wrist to check your step count, heart rate, or other tracked metrics, this display appears.


What are AMOLED and MIP screens?

There are several primary distinctions between AMOLED and MIP screens. They include colour vibrancy, power consumption, visibility in different lighting conditions, and ‘always-on’ capabilities.

AMOLED displays are a type of OLED display in which each pixel is made of organic compounds that light up when powered by electricity. They are well-known for their deep blacks and vibrant colours, making them popular in high-end smartphones and smartwatches.

However, this frequently comes at the expense of increased power consumption. This is due to the fact that each pixel on an AMOLED screen emits light. The more pixels that are illuminated, particularly in brighter colours, the more power is consumed. As a result, AMOLED displays may not be the best choice for devices that require a long battery life.

In contrast, MIP screens are a type of reflective LCD technology. Because these screens rely on ambient light for visibility, they are low-power and easily readable in direct sunlight. They can display information continuously without significantly draining the battery. This is why they are commonly referred to as ‘always-on’ displays. This is advantageous for sports or adventure watches that require a long battery life.

However, when compared to AMOLED screens, the colours on MIP screens can appear washed out. Furthermore, the visibility of these screens can vary depending on the lighting conditions. AMOLED screens perform better in low-light environments, providing a brighter and more colourful display. MIP screens, on the other hand, are easily readable in direct sunlight but less so in low-light environments.


User experiences are divided

The debate over MIP and AMOLED displays continues. Simply browsing a few threads on Garmin forums or Facebook groups will reveal the contrasting opinions that are shared on the subject.

Some users express dissatisfaction with the MIP screens’ washed-out colours and limited design options, such as when using vibrant watch faces. They emphasise that this issue appears to affect women more, prompting them to switch to one of the Venu series devices, which offer greater visual appeal.

Others value the easy readability of MIP screens in sunlight and the longer battery life. They state that watch faces with a lot of information or large numbers work well on these types of displays. Furthermore, the requirement to double tap or make multiple attempts to wake up AMOLED screens can be inconvenient when checking the watch late at night or during activities. Of course, enabling always-on on AMOLED could easily solve this problem. However, this consumes a lot of power and will cut your battery life in half.


Pros and cons of AMOLED and MIP screens

The more you read about these topics, the clearer it becomes that personal preferences and individual use cases play a significant role in determining which screen type is best for each user. As a result, there is no definitive answer to which screen is superior. To help you make a decision, let’s go through the Pros and Cons of each.

AMOLED screens

Pros:

  1. Vibrant colors and deep blacks: AMOLED screens are renowned for their vibrant colours and deep blacks, providing a stunning visual experience.
  2. High contrast ratio: The ability to turn off individual pixels results in a high contrast ratio, which means brighter whites and deeper blacks.
  3. Excellent performance in low light: AMOLED screens excel in low-light conditions, offering a brighter and more colorful display.

Cons:

  1. High power consumption: AMOLED screens can consume a lot of power, especially when displaying bright and colourful content, which can significantly drain the battery life of portable devices. Having said that, Garmin is making advances and its most recent crop of watches with AMOLED displays packs decent battery life.
  2. Risk of burn-in: Continuous use of static images can lead to “burn-in,” where parts of the image remain visible even after the content changes.
  3. Cost: AMOLED displays are generally more expensive to produce than other screen types.

MIP Screens

Pros:

  1. Power efficiency: MIP screens are extremely power-efficient, making them an excellent choice for users preferring ‘always-on’ displays.
  2. Visibility in direct sunlight: The ability of MIP screens to reflect ambient light means they can be easily read in direct sunlight, an advantage for outdoor use.
  3. Longer battery life: Due to their lower power consumption, devices with MIP screens often have a longer battery life compared to those using other display technologies.

Cons:

  1. Washed out colours: Colors on MIP screens may not be as vibrant compared to those on AMOLED screens, potentially leading to a less immersive visual experience.
  2. Limited brightness in low light: MIP screens may not perform as well in low-light conditions because they rely on ambient light for visibility.
  3. Limited design options: The nature of MIP technology may limit the visual design options, particularly when creating detailed and vibrant images or watch faces.

So while AMOLED screens offer vibrant colours and superior performance in low-light conditions, they consume more power and may not be the best choice for devices requiring longer battery life. These types of devices are also more costly. On the other hand, MIP screens are highly power-efficient and offer excellent readability in sunlight, but they may not deliver the same level of colour vibrancy and low-light performance.

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Marko Maslakovic

Marko founded Gadgets & Wearables in 2014, having worked for more than 15 years in the City of London’s financial district. Since then, he has led the company’s charge to become a leading information source on health and fitness gadgets and wearables.

3 thoughts on “AMOLED vs MIP: Which Garmin watch display reigns supreme?

  • Funny that you left out the most important difference as a consequence: Amoled can’t stay on at least at full brightness, not even during actual workouts. THat’s where the dreadful wrist gestures come in.

    Reply
  • MiP display can get burn-in too.

    Reply
  • It almost looks like the MIP screens are made weaker on purpose.
    Or is it just all the layers that are added, like touchscreen, solar cell and sapphire glass.

    From my own experience MIP screens can be extreme good! For example my very old Garmin 920 XT or the newer Wahoo Bold v2 bike computer. They almost never need a backlight. And the Wahoo has very nice colors outside.

    Im interested if there are still modern MIP sport watches. With such a great display?

    Reply

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