Tom compares common display technologies and why MiniLED is a great middle ground between cost and performance.
Featuring Tom Merritt.
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I hear OLED is the best display but it’s really expensive and it’s not really LED the way an LCD is?
But an LCD is LCD not LED but OLED isn’t LED?
And what the heck is MiniLED then?
Are you confused?
Let’s help you Know a Little more about miniLED
The first thing to remember with displays is that the holy grail is a combination of resolution, light control and cost.
If you can have each pixel handle its own brightness at high resolution for cheap, you probably should patent that because that’s almost the perfect display.
Sadly you can’t have all three yet. You either can control the brightness of each pixel at a higher cost and possibly some sacrifice to the brightness. Or you can handle a little more brightness at an affordable price but without the control meaning the blacks are sometimes a little gray.
Display panels, these days break down into two camps. LCD and OLED.
OLED, stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode. It gives you the control over the picture meaning great contrast, great brightness, true blacks and more. But it’s also a lot more expensive. Only LG seems to make it with any kind of affordability.
LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display. LCDs these days use some form of LED for backlight. It can’t control every pixel’s brightness but it’s the cost-effective alternative.
LED LCDs are super cheap. But the picture doesn’t compare to OLED.
Mini-LED promises to improve the picture to keep LCD competitive with dark blacks, excellent brightness and good contrast, without driving up the cost.
Let’s talk about how all LCDs that use LED for backlight work.
LED or Light emitting Diode shines either from the side or directly behind a liquid crystal display. The liquid crystal layer modulates the light to create the image.
LEDs can be fully bright, some level of dim, or off altogether.
In older LED LCD TVs there’s not much control of the backlight and the liquid crystal layer has to do most of the work of blocking the light. Which isn’t perfect.
Something called Local dimming helps with that. Local dimming lets the TV turn off or dim down just the LEDs behind the dark part of the picture. That gives you better black levels and good contrast because you’re not always relying on the LCD to block the light. The part fo the picture where local dimming is in effect has really good contrast and deep blacks. .
Of course it’s not perfectly precise. With 8 million pixels in a 4K TV and a thousand or fewer LEDs, you don’t have one LED for each pixel. So some light bleeds around the edges and still has to be blocked by the liquid crystal display itself.
Think of it this way. You have a white table with a hat on it in one small part of the picture. If you only have one LED behind that part of the picture you’ll have to have it on for the white table and the LCD will block the part where the hat is meaning the hat looks a little gray.
If you have four LEDs behind that part of the picture, the one closest to the hat can be off while the other three shine. But that’s not perfect. Some of the light from the lens meant for the table will still need to be blocked from the hat meaning you still see a little gray.
If you have 100 LEDs behind that part of the picture you can do a fair approximation of the hat in LEDs and turn that off and leave the ones on behind the table.
And if you have one LED for each pixel you’ll have a nice black hat on a nice bright white table.
The more LEDs you have the more control you have over the picture. And the smaller the LED, the more you can fit in a screen.
Normal LEDs these days are around a millimeter; you can get 500 or so of them in a typical TV. Mini-LEDS are usually 0.2 millimeters or smaller and you can get thousands of them in.
That lets you have more dimming points meaning you have more control of what parts of the screen have light or not.
TCL’s 8-series has more than 25,000 mini-LEDs grouped into 1,000 local dimming zones. A Compare that to a Vivo Quantum X which has 485 local dimming zones. I think you know which one the hat will look better on. (Now Vizio will point out that the Quantum X also uses Quantum dots and if we had a more colorful hat they’d hang in there in other ways. But we’ll leave Quantum dots for another day)
More local dimming zones means less chance for things like blooming, where there’s still light behind a part of the image that should be dark. Less blooming means you can make LEDs brighter without risk to other parts of the image, improving contrast.
So why not just make all LEDs small? Well here was the problem of energy use among others.
The smaller you make an LED, the more power it uses to get the same amount of brightness as it’s larger version. Or at least that’s the way it used to be.
Advances in LED manufacturing have allowed smaller LEDs with the same amount of light as older larger LEDS, while using less energy. Mini-LED’s! They are more power efficient.
So Mini-LED is going to take over right?!
They’re still not as good as OLED. We won’t go fully into OLED here but for comparison here’s its advantages over mini-LED.
You know that problem with needing to fit enough backlights to match the pixels in LED LCD TVs? OLED doesn’t have that. Each OLED pixel is self-emissive, meaning it’s its own light. That’s a lot of control because each pixel has a specific color that lights or not. That allows for deeper blacks better contrast and more even lighting than even micro-LED. But at a cost. And not just higher cost of manufacturing.
OLED doesn’t have the same burn-in problems that Plasma did but over time images can burn into the pixels. And the pixels will lose some brightness as they get used. Not fast but over time you’ll start to notice it.
Mini-LED can offer higher levels of brightness with no risk of burn-in or lowering levels of brightness over time.
MicroLED will eventually surpass mini-LED and OLED. Microp_LED is made of inorganic material that does not decay as fast, having the benefit of mini-LED.
But MicroLED has even smaller LEDs, about 0.1 millimeters or less. That means you really have one LED for every pixel and you don’t need the liquid crystal layer. So you get the deep blacks and good contrast of OLED.
But a 4K micro-LED TV needs 25 million LEDs. But that’s also one of the problems. Right now that’s not cheap to make.
So there you have it. MiniLED is the latest best LCD that gets close to OLED contrast, black levels and brightness at a more affordable cost.
That is to say, I hope you Know a Little More about MiniLED.