Electronics

What Is Mini LED and Why It Is Better Than OLED, Micro LED

Display technologies are developing rapidly. Mini LED is new and even has a big advantage over OLED and Micro LED. That’s behind it.

For some time now, Mini LED has been a topic for manufacturers of flat screens and even Apple, which could use this technology in the future. This has been rumored since the beginning of 2020. But it wasn’t until CES 2021 that the new type of lighting for LC displays got a real boost. In the future, companies such as LG and Samsung will use “Mini LEDs” for their new Smart TVs. And for a good reason.

Mini LED is “only” LCD with LED backlighting

No, Mini LED is not a completely new invention. The main element of a TV set with a mini LED is the Liquid Crystal Display, better known as LCD. Mini LEDs have always illuminated the display, but with different quality. The simplest variant is now called Edge LED, in which a few white glowing LEDs are attached to the sides of the screen and illuminate the liquid crystals there.

Mini LED is "only" LCD with LED backlighting
Mini LED should quickly establish itself from 2021. 
(Photo: Samsung)

The so-called Edge LED is technically relatively simple and therefore inexpensive, but leads to uneven illumination of large televisions, relatively weak black levels, and lower contrast.

For this reason, the full array LED (with local dimming), also often referred to as direct LED, was created. Here there are white or colored (RGB) LEDs on the entire surface of the LCD and thus guarantee more precise lighting, much better contrasts, but still not perfect black levels in the picture. This is because Full-Array LED divides the LEDs into between 16 and a few hundred zones, so never just one LED lights up at one point, but a group. The more zones there are, the better the overall picture.

Mini LED is ultimately the logical continuation of full-array LED, in that LCDs now have even more zones and the LEDs are smaller than before. But at its core, Mini LED continues to rely on liquid crystals and additional LEDs to illuminate them.

More LEDs, more zones, much better quality with mini LEDs

It is thanks to technological progress that manufacturers were able to make mini LEDs possible in the first place. Because the light-emitting diodes used are only between 0.05 and 0.2 mm in size.

The bigger, the more zones and mini LEDs. (Photo: Samsung)
The bigger, the more zones and mini LEDs. 
(Photo: Samsung)

Much more crucial for better black levels and contrasts and the final end of ghosting is the significantly increased number of dimming zones. While good televisions with full array LEDs have 600 of these areas, with Mini LEDs from TCL there are thousands of zones with sometimes over 150,000 mini LEDs that are located behind the LCD. LG names up to 30,000 LEDs in 2,500 zones for top devices with 8K resolution and 86 inches.

In short: the illumination of the LCD is more precise, the “scatter loss” of the white light is lower – and that increases the viewing experience even more.

The decisive advantage of the Mini LED: The price

Mini LED should prevail in the near future and primarily replace the already very good full array LEDs, which may slide into the low-price range of TV manufacturers. Even if more LEDs are used, Mini LED is much cheaper to manufacture compared to OLED – and that with a potentially excellent picture.

Nevertheless: TVs with mini LEDs are initially more expensive than current LCD TVs with local dimming from the premium segment. That should change in the months and years to come.

Even better than Mini LED: Micro LED as a competitor to OLED

What comes after Mini? Micro! And that, too, has long been a topic: Micro LED is competing to stand up to organic displays, or OLED for short. Here even several light-emitting diodes can correspond to one pixel on the television since such an LED is smaller than 0.05 mm. That means even more LEDs, but also higher production costs.

The difference to OLED: As with LED televisions, synthetic light-emitting diodes are used here and no organic counterparts. As a result, an LCD is no longer required with micro LEDs, as the screen is built up like a huge light panel with an incredible number of light-emitting diodes.

Although Micro LED will still be unaffordable for most private individuals in 2021, this technology could even overtake OLED in perspective. Because here there are no burn-in effects and no brightness that decreases over the years. Much more important for many is the much longer service life compared to OLED, which is as long as all other LCD solutions.

Thanks to even more individually controllable LEDs, micro LEDs are of course technically superior to mini LEDs. In a direct comparison, however, the advantage of mini LEDs remains the price, because micro LEDs are significantly more expensive to produce.

Current mini LED TVs 2021

The well-known TV producers presented their first mini-LED televisions at CES 2021. LG introduces the Mini LED in its NanoCell Smart TVs and goes one step further: QNED MiniLED brings Mini LED together with Quantum Dots. As with Samsung’s QLEDs (LEDs with Quantum Dots), quantum dots improve the color space or increase the color spectrum of the backlight again.

QNED is Mini LED with Quantum Dot. (Photo: LG)
QNED is Mini LED with Quantum Dot. 
(Photo: LG)

For example, Samsung is bringing Mini LED to the 2021 top models QN900A with 8K and the QN90A with 4K. Neo QLED is the magic word here. This is also a combination of Mini LED and Quantum Dots.

And Sony is also going along – with the Z9J, X95J, and X90J models. Either way, the manufacturers make it clear that they see mini LEDs on large 65, 75, or even 85 inch TVs. But the first affordable devices should also be available soon in the 50-inch segment.

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