After a few years of coasting, Apple is once again investing its resources in improving its display technology, with a new analyst report saying that the company is now working on incorporating mini-LED tech in its future product lineup, the first of which will be the new standalone 31.6-inch 6K Apple Display that we reported on earlier this year.
For years, Apple produced some pretty slick standalone displays, from the company’s early Apple Cinema Displays that dominated the early OS X years to the more recent Apple Thunderbolt Displays that debuted in 2011. However, after many years in the display market, Apple discontinued its Thunderbolt display, ceding ground to other companies, and in fact partnering with LG to co-design the UltraFine lineup, which became heavily promoted in Apple’s on-stage events and marketing.
Last year actually marked the 20th anniversary of Apple’s first entry in to the Mac display market with its Apple Studio Display, which led to some hopes that the company would actually re-enter the standalone display market, especially as it continued to produce stunning displays integrated with its 4K and 5K iMacs, however with the only two non-display-equipped Macs — the Mac Pro and Mac mini — both languishing a bit at the time, there didn’t seem to be a huge need for an Apple-made display.
Now, however, not only have we been hearing rumours of Apple getting back into the game, but it sounds like the company is going to do it in a big way. The rumoured 31.6-inch screen will not only feature a 6K resolution, but according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo’s latest research note shared by MacRumors, the company will be using the new display to showcase its switch to mini-LED backlighting, which Kuo says will be coming to future MacBooks and iPads as well.
At this point, Apple is expected to use a “quasi” mini-LED solution for its new Apple Display, incorporating approximately 500 LED chips that are much larger that those traditionally used for the mini-LED spec, however Kuo suggests that this is expected to give Apple’s supply chain time to improve its production efforts for the company’s later MacBook and iPad implementations, which are expected to be full mini-LED screens, with Kuo noting that as many as 10,000 LEDs will be needed for a 10- to 12-inch iPad screen, and even more for Apple’s 15- to 17-inch MacBooks.
What this means for you
Mini-LEDs are a more modern way of providing backlighting for a screen that provides a much richer and wider color gamut, higher contrast ratios, and high dynamic range. In short, screens using mini-LEDs will look a lot better and have greater color accuracy, as well as providing more consistent backlighting with the ability to dim certain areas selectively.
Another advantage of the technology is that it allows Apple to create displays that are both thinner and more power-efficient. Mini-LED provides many of the advantages of OLED, and Kuo notes that Apple may prefer to use mini-LED as it’s less prone to burn-in.
When is it coming?
According to Kuo, Apple’s new 31.6-inch 6K display is expected to debut later this year — possibly as soon as Q2, which could make for a debut at WWDC in June, where Apple is also expected to unveil a new Mac Pro. The mini-LED-equipped iPad models — likely iPad Pros — are predicted for a late 2020 or early 2021 launch, while the 15- to 17-inch MacBook will be introduced in the first half of 2021.
Note that this doesn’t necessarily mean that the previously-rumoured 16.5-inch MacBook Pro has been delayed, and we have no reason to believe it’s not still on track for this year, but it will be another two years before we see a successor to that model that takes advantage of the new screen backlighting.