Notebook PC panels featuring 120 hertz (Hz)-or-higher frame rate accounted for 30 percent of the total gaming laptop market in 2018 and are expected to increase in 2019. High fame-rate panel shipments reached 2.7 million units in 2018, and they are expected to grow to 4.1 million units in 2019.
To achieve high performance, gaming notebook PCs must have high specification central processing units (CPUs) and graphics processing units (GPUs), and their displays must have a high-frame rate. Although the 144Hz high-frame rate display is highly valued by game players, it is too costly for many rank-and-file consumers. As a result, these panels continued to be a premium- and niche-market product in 2018.
At CES 2019, NVIDIA introduced its new GeForce RTX graphic card, which will replace the existing GeForce GTX series. Performance that used to be achieved with the high-end GTX1070/1080 graphic cards can now be achieved with the latest mid-range RTX2060 cards. At the same time, several gaming laptop models using 240Hz high frame-rate panels were also unveiled, marking a new performance benchmark in the premium gaming notebook-PC market. Prices of notebook PCs with 144Hz displays will likely be lowered, allowing them to penetrate the mainstream consumer market.
However, there are some concerns with the 240Hz panels. NVIDIA has not officially certified the 240Hz panels with its G-sync standard. Panel makers also have varying production timelines, to align with NVIDIA's GPU release schedule. For these reasons, new panels supporting 165Hz, 180Hz, 240Hz and other frame rates will complicate positioning of high-end products in the market.
Color accuracy also deserves more market attention this year. With the popularity of high-quality video streaming, more IT devices will be needed to support ultra-high definition (UHD) high-dynamic-range (HDR) content, which will increase demand for UHD notebook PC panels. Current 240Hz frame panels are featured in full high-definition (FHD) resolution. Consumers sometimes prefer UHD resolution, even if it means a lower frame rate. Both the latest AMD Radeon and Nvidia RTX flagship GPU can now provide sufficient bandwidth to transfer massive amounts of data. Decoding UHD at 120Hz will become available this year, marking a new benchmark for a flagship gaming notebook PCs.
Entry-level gaming notebook PCs used to feature “good enough” discrete GPUs, but these panels did not support high-frame rates. Nowadays, 120Hz panels have become more affordable, which could lead to prices falling below $1,000. Light gaming is the fastest-growing segment of gaming notebook PC panels, especially in Southeast Asia, while growth is flat in China and the United States. E-sports in Southeast Asia are also supported by local governments, and because the consumer price index is lower there, entry-level gaming notebook PCs are more popular than premium models in this region.
Unit shipments of entry-level GPUs with 120Hz panels are forecast to grow in 2019. A full product line – ranging from 240Hz premium panels, to 120Hz light-gaming panels -- is expected, as more suppliers join the gaming market and competition accelerates.