The hidden cost of brilliance: AMOLED burn-in & Garmin’s response

Garmin has been gradually transitioning their smartwatch range from Memory-in-Pixel (MIP) displays to Active-Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode (AMOLED) screens. While AMOLED technology offers vibrant colours and high pixel density, it also comes with the risk of screen burn-in, an issue that has become increasingly apparent in Garmin’s first-generation AMOLED devices. The company has addressed the issue in newer generation devices, but it may still be behind some of its rivals.

The problem with first-generation Venu watches

The original Garmin Venu, released approximately four years ago, was the company’s first smartwatch to feature an AMOLED display. Unfortunately, many users have reported significant burn-in issues, often appearing suddenly and rendering the screen unusable in severe cases.

This problem has been exacerbated by the fact that these devices are now out of warranty. This has left users with limited recourse through official support channels.

Garmin Burn In

The root of the issue lies in the organic materials used in AMOLED displays, which naturally decay over time. Without proper protective measures, static elements on the screen can cause uneven wear, leading to visible burn-in. As the images in this article show, this manifests as ghosted images, text outlines, or colour distortions on the display.

Unlike competitors such as Apple, Samsung, and Wear OS devices, the original Venu lacked sophisticated burn-in prevention techniques. And it seems many users of the first generation device opted to enable the always-on display. Which is one of the main roots of the problem.

Improvements in newer models

Recognising the severity of the burn-in issue, Garmin has implemented several protective measures in their newer AMOLED models, such as the Venu 2 and Epix Gen 2 series. These devices now incorporate protections such as:

  1. Display scaling: The screen is slightly reduced in size during idle modes.
  2. Pixel shifting: The display content is subtly moved around to prevent static image retention.
  3. Improved watch face development guidelines: Garmin has updated its recommendations for third-party developers to minimize burn-in risk. This is particularly important when it comes to designing watch-faces.
  4. Automatic screen timeout features.
  5. Recommendations against prolonged use of always-on display modes.
  6. The screen goes to sleep at night.

While these measures have improved the situation, they may not be as comprehensive as those employed by competitors like Apple. They use more aggressive display scaling and repositioning techniques for their Apple Watch series.

The good news is that Garmin is actually quite good at replacing devices suffering from screen burn-in. Particularly if you have a newer watch and it is still under warranty.

A users on Garmin forum states “I had always-on display turned off and auto brightness on since day one. Garmin Support asked for my serial number, and approved a free refurbished replacement. I’ve had it for 3 years.”

Which means even if the timepiece is out of warranty, it might be a good idea to contact Garmin Support. It seems to be a case-by-case scenario. So definitely worth a try.

Final word

Garmin seems to be transitioning to AMOLED displays. There’s even talk that the upcoming Fenix 8 might adopt this technology. So it is good that the company is making strides in addressing burn-in issues.

However, the experience with the first-generation Venu serves as a cautionary tale about the importance of implementing robust protection measures from the outset. While newer Garmin AMOLED watches offer improved longevity, users should remain mindful of best practices to maximize the lifespan of their devices.

Essential readingTop fitness trackers and health gadgets

At the end of the day, for users who prioritise an always-on display, opting for a Garmin watch with a MIP display may still be the most reliable choice. While you can still pick one up… These screens are not susceptible to burn-in.

Like this article? Subscribe to our monthly newsletter and never miss out!

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.