Is the OnePlus 7 Pro display hurting your eyes? You're not the only one (but there is a fix!)

Is the OnePlus 7 Pro display hurting your eyes? You're not the only one (but there is a fix!)
I have been using the OnePlus 7 Pro in the past month or so, and overall I am extremely impressed: first and foremost, this phone is faster than any other phone that I have used so far, secondly, after the recent update, the camera now takes true flagship-grade photos, third, battery life is solid and overall, this phone is... just kind of perfect. Well, except for one thing: I use my phone a lot at night, with the lights off. I have been doing this with all phones, it's a habit really: I usually watch about a half an hour of YouTube videos to lull myself to sleep, but I have noticed that while doing this my eyes get tired extremely easily on the OnePlus 7 Pro and after a short while they start hurting. I have never experienced something quite like that before, so... it was time to do some research: is it just me imagining things or is this a real problem for users?

And after a good amount of research, I think I have found the issue. And thanks to my co-worker Preslav, I have found a fix too.

How screen brightness works



The first step on my quest to understanding why the OnePlus 7 Pro display was hurting my eyes was to get a more detailed understanding of how screens actually work. I usually spend my days in front of a big monitor at work and that usually means at least 8 hours staring at that thing, and my eyes did not get quite as sore as a half an hour of my night viewing on the OnePlus 7 Pro. So... could it have been the type of display made a difference?


Most stand-alone monitors use the good old LCD technology with a backlight that can be turned up and down to adjust the brightness. It's technology that has been around for quite a while, and up until recently most smartphones also used LCD displays.

But as you probably know, modern flagship phones use a different technology: that newer technology is called OLED, or AMOLED, and there is no backlight there, but instead every single pixel lights up individually.

The fascinating science of screen brightness


Those differences are important, but before we explore them, we should take a diversion to find out how screen brightness actually works.

Here is the thing: LED lights do not really have a dimmer switch. They are binary: you can have them on or you can have them off. So to change the brightness, engineers perform a clever trick, they keep the lights off for a fraction of a second and then quickly turn them back on. This type of switching between an on and off stage happens hundreds or thousands of times and it is usually perceived by the human eye as a dimmed screen. Let's repeat this one more time: the screen on your phone constantly flickers to reproduce a lower brightness, it does not just stay set at one fixed brightness level. For example, if you want to get 50% screen brightness, the display would simply need to keep the digital signal on for 50% of the time and off for the remaining 50%. This is something that is scientifically called pulse-width modulation, or PWM for short, and it's done extremely rapidly. The frequency of those changes is measured in Hertz (Hz), or simply put this is the number the change occurs per second.

Now, let's go back to our good LCD vs AMOLED technology battle. On LCD screens, this flickering happened thousands of times and was essentially impossible to spot by the human eye. With most AMOLED displays, however, the screen flickers far less often. Usually, on most AMOLED screens, screen brightness change is used with that exact method and the flicker happens at a rate of about 240 times per second, or 240 Hertz. When the screen flickers just 240 times per second, this is enough for the pupil to expand and shrink to adjust to those split-second changes. More sensitive users will be able to pick this up: people still don't notice the flicker, but the eyes get tired for seemingly no apparent reason.


Now, let's go back to the OnePlus 7 Pro. Tech blog Notebookcheck measured that the OnePlus 7 Pro screen is significantly worse than most other AMOLED screens when it comes to pulse-width modulation. At a PWM rate of 120 Hertz, the OnePlus 7 Pro screen flickers twice as slow further straining your eyes and making your pupil work really hard. And this is especially true if you use your phone at a low brightness level (which usually happens at night when I experience those issues).

This is not something that will affect every single person out there, but it is definitely something that those who are sensitive will notice in a very bad way.

Here is how to fix this



So... should we just stop recommending the OnePlus 7 Pro to those who have sensitivities to display issues like that?

Thankfully, not.

OnePlus is obviously aware that this could have been a problem for users and it has implemented a clever new feature that gets away of the traditional pulse-width modulation way to change screen brightness and instead changes the circuit power of the screen to adjust the brightness. This way, screen flickers at low brightness are significantly reduced and you can use the screen without your eyes getting tired so easily.


OnePlus warns that enabling this feature "may lead to abnormal colors being displayed in some cases", but that seems like a small trade-off when you have to pick between eyes not hurting or slight issues with color balance.

So how do you enable this option?

Simply go into settings and type in OnePlus Laboratory, where you will find only one option: DC dimming. Activate it and enjoy using your OnePlus at low brightness without burning your eyes.

Finally, it's worth saying that all of the aforementioned issues with the OnePlus will probably affect users most when viewing content running at 60 Hertz (things like YouTube videos for example). When the OnePlus 7 Pro is running at the default 90 Hertz in places like the interface the PWM rate is set at 367.6 Hz, which is faster and will not affect that many users. In either case, if you find your eyes hurting more when you are using the OnePlus 7 Pro, make sure you try enabling the DC dimming option, a true godsend for those cases.

Related phones

7 Pro
  • Display 6.7" 1440 x 3120 pixels
  • Camera 48 MP / 16 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 855, Octa-core, 2840 MHz
  • Storage 256 GB
  • Battery 4000 mAh(34h talk time)

FEATURED VIDEO

23 Comments

1. Mike88

Posts: 227; Member since: Mar 05, 2019

This is what happens when you buy a cheap Chinese crap

3. baldilocks

Posts: 1486; Member since: Dec 14, 2008

It uses a Samsung display. Stop postng dumbass responses.

10. Cat97

Posts: 1804; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

Actually it is true: in comparison, Galaxy S10 and iPhone XS have 240 Hz PWM frequency. Samsung sells you what you pay for. What is strange is that while the OP 6T has a 240Hz PWM, the OP7 (not the Pro) has only a 200 Hz PWM.

11. AbhiD

Posts: 652; Member since: Apr 06, 2012

How do you know it's 240 Hz PWM on 6T and 200 Hz PWM on 7 ? Links? Source?

21. Cat97

Posts: 1804; Member since: Mar 02, 2017

Notebookcheck reviews measure and list detected PWM values for all tested phones.

15. Trex95

Posts: 2376; Member since: Mar 03, 2013

I used one plus 6T for a week only then sold it due to eye strain and dim screen under sun use so.

4. Reviewerofstuff

Posts: 119; Member since: Jun 02, 2018

Your cheap Chinese crap.

12. baldilocks

Posts: 1486; Member since: Dec 14, 2008

It’s Korean. Samsung. Get it right.

5. Venom

Posts: 3272; Member since: Dec 14, 2017

You're as bad as meanestgenius. The OnePlus is using a Samsung panel as said in comment #3. Don't be ignorant.

14. Mirwin

Posts: 5; Member since: Jun 16, 2019

Samsung is made in China as is the iPhone, so your point is invalid

16. Trex95

Posts: 2376; Member since: Mar 03, 2013

Samsung assembled in Vietnam and iPhone assembled in China and non of these made in China or Vietnam.

2. kplayon

Posts: 42; Member since: Mar 02, 2018

Phonearena, this is a serious request. I use my phone quite a bit and I noticed that when I used my Galaxy s9, I didn't suffer from eyestrain or headaches. But after I switched to the s10, I notice that I get quite a good headache and eyestrain if I use my phone a lot to watch movies and browse. I'm not 100% sure if it's the phone but I never get headaches before and now i'm getting them after I switched my phones. Since One plus uses samsung amoled's is it possible if s10 has the same issue. If so is there such way to control the DC on these phones? Can you please investigate?

6. adecvat

Posts: 630; Member since: Nov 15, 2013

Not possible for Samsung. Use smartphones with flicker free display.

7. matistight

Posts: 956; Member since: May 13, 2009

Flicker free? That's how all screens work, the only difference is the frequency of the flicker

8. mackan84

Posts: 281; Member since: Feb 13, 2014

If you have a friend or another smartphone with slowmo video you can record and see how much it flickers. Should be less then the S9

9. dumpster666

Posts: 60; Member since: Mar 07, 2019

maybe go to an ophthalmologist.

17. Larry_ThaGr81

Posts: 589; Member since: May 26, 2011

This is a good entry level phone into the flagship market for those that don't want to pay top dollar, but I can't ignore the issues surrounding this phone. Every other week there seems to be a new complaint/concern from end users about this phone, poor photos, ghost screen taps, headaches from looking at the screen too long, etc. As the saying goes, "you get what you pay for."

19. Victor.H

Posts: 1050; Member since: May 27, 2011

Once again, I would not consider it an issue since you can fix it with a two taps in the settings menu. This phone is fabulous, I have been using it for a month now and it's absolutely the best phone of the year so far for me, bar none.

18. Sam1ne

Posts: 26; Member since: Apr 07, 2019

Wow. The importance of this article can't be overstated. Basically it's revealing what is an ESSENTIAL ISSUE with OLED display smartphones. Think about it..if LCD is NOT tiring your eyes, and OLED, a supposedly superior technology used in all the "best" and most expensive phones , does it SEVERELY then this is a complete paradigm shift. BRING BACK LCD'S!!!!

20. Victor.H

Posts: 1050; Member since: May 27, 2011

I would say that many people are not affected by this, but I personally am sensitive to OLED screens and my eyes always feel tired to a different degree when I use phones with OLED screens. With the OnePlus, it was the worst. BUT having the option to change this in the menus with a couple of taps was a god-sent for me and now I can use the OnePlus without my eyes getting tired. But yeah, having the option to switch to DC dimming for OLED phones is absolutely mandatory in my view.

22. plsnoregforcomments

Posts: 25; Member since: Mar 29, 2017

DC dimming is good, but it does not solve the problem completely. Even with DC dimming on, the PWM amplitude is still around 30% on the minimal brightness, while on IPS screen it is less than 1% You can check it in this youtube video youtu.be / voZSAp5L3KM?t=151

23. txphoneguy

Posts: 1; Member since: Jun 26, 2019

Here's a better idea that's proven to work: don't stare at your phone at night while you're trying to sleep. It's bad for your brain, bad for your eyes, and bad for your health. Problem solved.

* Some comments have been hidden, because they don't meet the discussions rules.

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at https://www.parsintl.com/phonearena or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit https://www.parsintl.com/ for samples and additional information.