A report recently surfaced with information claiming that Apple is working on six new devices that use mini-LED display technology. And when it surfaced, that was the precise moment when thousands of people looked up from their screens and thought, “Wait, what’s a mini-LED?”
This new display technology doesn’t receive a lot of attention, but it’s poised to shake up the display world and make traditional LED screens a thing of the past.
Continue reading to browse some of the most common questions we’ve seen about mini-LED displays, and what you should know about them ahead of Apple’s release.
What Does Mini-LED Mean?
Mini-LED is a new type of display technology, like LCD and LED, and OLED before it. It’s a display panel technology that focuses on two critical things.
First, it uses tiny diodes, around 0.2mm or smaller (hence the name). That’s super small, even smaller than the “quantum dot” diodes used by Samsung’s QLED technology.
Second, these tiny diodes can offer “full array local dimming” which means it can dim the backlights very, very accurately anywhere in the screen, allow for better contrast ratios, truer blacks, and better brightness results – along with much better HDR compatibility.
The technology for mini-LEDs has been in development for several years. However, limited production methods, high energy costs, and high expenses for producing the screens kept them off the market until production was significantly refined as other technologies caught up.
Mini-LED displays are meant to be a direct competitor to OLED screens.
How Is Mini-LED Different from OLED?
OLED stands for organic light-emitting diodes. This is a screen technology that uses a color panel that can emit its own light. That makes OLED incredibly versatile and excellent for things like color accuracy. However, it doesn’t use any traditional backlighting; therefore, there is no need for super-tiny diodes or the other technologies in mini-LED. Mini-LED is a method that tries to mimic what OLED does “naturally” for better screen quality.
Does Mini-LED or OLED Have Better Picture Quality?
OLED, hands down. It also has the best pixel response times, best contrast, and inherent HDR compatibility. Actually, there’s not really any comparison between mini-LED and OLED, because they are such different technologies. The comparisons are largely happening because of marketing: Companies want to position mini-LED against a popular display technology like OLED so customers will associate them together, even if there’s not a scientific basis for that.
Which Option Has Better Brightness?
OLEDs rely on their organic sources of light, which are very adaptable but can't reach the brightness levels of mini LED's backlighting. So if you are looking for brightness as a priority, mini-LED may be a better choice. That isn't quite set in stone yet because the technology is so new, but similar tech like QLED does have better brightness levels, so it's a safe bet.
Do Mini-LED Displays Cost More Than OLED?
The materials and production processes for mini-LED are more affordable than creating something like OLED, especially for smaller screens (QLED, meanwhile, is a proprietary technology but appears to be more expensive as well). That could be one reason Apple is moving to mini-LED instead of jumping up to OLED. However, there’s no good way of knowing if those production savings are being passed on to the customer. So, technically yes, but in practice, you’ll have to compare devices one-on-one to get a better idea.
Why Are Manufacturers Switching to Mini-LED?
It’s a great stepping stone between traditional LEDs and OLEDs, and could possibly become a new “budget” display option in time. Plus, manufacturing methods and costs are quite similar to LEDs.
Is Any of This Linked to MicroLED?
No! microLED is an entirely different technology, and yes, this is confusing. MicroLEDs are insanely tiny, smaller than pixels – actually, Samsung is already experimenting with putting three LEDs in each pixel for its prototype displays. This allows for an incredible amount of control, and it’s likely that microLED displays will surpass OLEDs in several ways, including contrast and color.
However, the technology is not ready for the market yet and is currently far too expensive for consumers to afford anyway. But then, the same was once true of OLED and mini-LED, we’ll be seeing a lot more of microLED in the future. And we'll likely see MicroLED displays in upcoming iPhone models.