Long-lived image retention issue on Philips 276E8VJSB monitor

I upgraded to a Philips 276E8VJSB 4 K 68,6 cm (27″) monitor earlier this year. It’s a 60 Hz W-LED backlit 8-bit+FRC IPS-panel configuration. This configuration places it somewhere between the low and mid-range of high-resolution monitors.

A similarly specced 4 K monitor with 144 Hz refresh rate costs twice as much as this model. I’m happy with the image quality and the monitor overall. However, there are two problems with the Philips 276E8VJSB I’d like to discuss in greater detail.

The first issue is the cardinal-direction navigation-nipple/joystick that’s used to control the monitor. It’s located on the rear of the monitor; about 6 cm up from the center bottom. Pushing it in a cardinal direction opens a menu option. Pressing it in for two seconds turns the monitor on or off.

Most of the time, I only want to quickly turn the monitor on or off. After five months, I’ve yet to develop a reliable technique for turning the monitor off without accidentally pushing the nipple up or down. More often than not, I get stuck in a menu instead of quickly turning the monitor off.

I hate it. I know that a variation of the navigation nipple is the default on most monitors now. That doesn’t mean it’s a good user experience.

The second issue, and the meat of this article, is the panel’s image retention (“burn-in” or “ghost image”) problem. Many LCD panels are known to have temporary image-retention issues. This can go away by itself or with normal use. Alternatively, you can turn off the monitor for a full day or three to reset it. Depending on the exact panel and issue, you can also make the problem go away by “exercising the pixels”. That is to say, to rapidly cycle through different colors on all the pixels for about an hour.

However, these tricks don’t seem to work on the Philips 276E8VJSB. Black elements that are left on screen for a few hours can be retained for weeks and months! It’s especially visible against gray and unsaturated colors.

I left the monitor powered on over-night in the GNOME desktop environment (DE). GNOME has a persistent all-black top-bar [screenshot] (similar to MacOS’ gray/transparent top-bar). This left a darkened area at the top of my screen.

I was afraid I’d done permanent damage to the display. I switched DE to avoid having an all-black area at the top of the display. However, the image persisted with clearly visible top-bar icons on the top right corner and the word “Activity” in the top left corner.

The image started slowly fading away after about two months. The affected area had fully recovered five months later.

I was surprised by this experience. I’ve assumed, given no real information, that image retention issues were something that didn’t affect modern display panels. Or at the very least, that it only happens after leaving a static image on for weeks at a time.

About a month into the top-bar issue, I also found the headline “Google’s new reCAPTCHA has a dark side” (from a Fast Company article) faintly visible against any light gray backgrounds. I don’t recall leaving the monitor on this particular article for any prolonged time. Never the less, the headline persisted for almost three months.

I’ve had less long-lived issues with image retention too. I played World of Warcraft: Classic (WoWC) for a probably unhealthy amount of hours one weekend. Let’s just say it took almost two weeks for the WoWC game toolbars to disappear from the screen.

I did a quick test for this article. I cycled the screen with different low-saturation solid colors. This revealed a couple of more less-obvious image ghosts that I hadn’t noticed with normal use.

To my surprise, I found most of Firefox’s user interface. I also found the Ctrl blog key logo (as seen at the top of this webpage). These weren’t as obvious or severe as the other examples mentioned in this article. I don’t know how long they’ve been there or how long they’ll stick around.

I’ve already mentioned the issues with turning the monitor off as it doesn’t have an easy-to-use off-switch. The off-switch is fiddly and it’s so much easier to just not bother when leaving the computer.

My PC also turns itself on automatically following a power outage. So, does the monitor. There isn’t a firmware option to turn this behavior off on either devices.

This doesn’t happen all that often. However, my PC often fails to enter sleep or hibernation mode. It will power on again a few minutes after I try putting it to sleep. The PC won’t go back to sleep on its own if this has happened once since the last time it was completely powered down. This also wakes up the monitor and can result in it staying on at the login screen for hours.

This hasn’t been too much of a problem in the past. It’s annoying that things don’t work the way they should, but it hasn’t caused any real harm (except to the electricity bill). However, the Philips 276E8VJSB has made it a problem that I now need to worry about more.

My PC also displays a black screen with a white password input box in the middle of the screen during boot. The monitor does not time out and power down when this password prompt is displayed. This is an image retention disaster waiting to happen. I’m fully expecting to find the outlines of that password prompt burned into the panel someday.

I’ve checked the user manuals for nine of the other laptops and monitors I’ve got. They only mention issues with image retention in one or two sentences. Philips 276E8VJSB’s user manual mentions it 14 times, including in two separate warning boxes urging you to not leave the monitor switched on.

I haven’t experienced any image retention issues remotely this bad on my other two 4 K displays (nor with any of my 1080 p monitors). The only issues I’ve had with other displays have faded away after a few minutes, not hours or months.

The Philips 276E8VJSB notably doesn’t come with a timer function to switch itself off after a few hours. Such a function could have reduced the impact of the image ghosting problem. This feature is standard on many electronics sold in Europe. Energy-saving power management features, enabled by default, is required by EU regulation.

I’ve concluded that what I’ve experienced is an issue with the specific panel used in the Philips 276E8VJSB. My sample size is only one monitor with this panel. However, the repeat warnings in the monitor’s user manual is a clear indication Philips is well aware of the issue. This makes the decision to omit both an automatic power-off function and an accessible power button somewhat mystifying.