In the middle of all the alphabet soup of TV terms like OLED, QLED, HDMI, ARC, and HDR, now you can add another one to the list: Mini-LED. While it is not yet a household term, we are sure it will significantly change the television landscape by offering improved brightness and contrast and without the need for expensive and exotic display technologies (Mini-LED vs QLED).
If this sounds too much like QLED technology to you, you’ve been doing your homework. QLED and mini-LEDs are complementary to each other, and together they could finally prove that OLED isn’t the only way to get the best image quality in the world. Here’s the full Mini-LED vs QLED story.
1. LED: Size Does Matter (Mini-LED vs QLED)
The two types of TV screens: self-emitting screens like OLED and MicroLED, in which each pixel individually emits its brightness and color, and backlit screens like LED and QLED TVs, which require a backlight. Separate provides its light source, while an LCD matrix and color filters take care of color and control brightness.
LED and QLED TVs (virtually a subset of LED TVs) use an LED light source. But all TVs that use this technology are not the same. Inexpensive LED TVs can use only a few LEDs arranged around the edges, hence the name edge-lit TVs, while more expensive TVs use hundreds of LEDs arranged in a grid pattern behind the edge.
LCD matrix. The general rule of thumb here is that the more LEDs you can include in a backlight, the brighter it will get, and the more control you have over that brightness in particular areas of the TV picture.
A TV would have one LED for every pixel on an LCD matrix in a perfect world, but that’s impossible. Its size determines the physical limit to the number of regular LEDs in a given space. The bigger, the less you can use.
2. Mini-LED: a Giant Leap To Go Smaller
This restriction on the number of LED emitters, based on the physical size of each LED, is what makes Mini-LED technology so exciting. Mini-Led breaks the previous size barrier by introducing LEDs that are much smaller than any used so far. We are talking about installing thousands of LEDs in a space that previously could only support hundreds.
A 4K UHD TV has just over 8 million pixels, so mini-LEDs are still significantly more extensive than an individual pixel, but that’s okay – mini-LEDs are much smaller than standard LEDs; you can even see a big difference.
3. It’s About The Light Emitters (Mini-LED vs QLED)
More number of LEDs leads to better brightness, beneficial for HDR, and making the image visible in bright rooms and better darkness.
To achieve a more in-depth, dark black in a specific part of the screen on a backlit television, the kind you expect when watching space scenes, you need to turn off the backlight in that part entirely. If you have several LEDs working, you can control which areas of the screen are dark. This is called full matrix local dimming (FALD).
But even with local dimming, if there is a big difference between the brightest part of the screen and the darkest part, this can lead to blooming, an effect that makes it appear that light is filtering from the brilliant element to the dark—darkest part.
With Mini-LEDs, local dimming becomes much more effective because it increases the number of dimmable zones while decreasing their size, making it easier to isolate dark areas from light ones. Not only does this make the darkest parts of the screen darker, but the contrast created makes the more delicate parts appear even brighter.
We have not seen a Mini-LED TV go as black (and non-blooming) as OLED, but that gap between backlit TVs and broadcast displays like OLED TVs is smaller than ever.
4. Where Does QLED Fit?
QLED, or quantum dot LEDs, uses nanoparticles with a particular property: when light shines on them, they emit their light. When these (QLED) quantum dots are strategically placed between the backlight and the LCD matrix, it improves brightness and color.
Top-of-the-line QLED TVs can deliver picture quality very similar to OLED. Their brightness and vivid colors of QLED is bolder than OLED, but they still can’t match OLED’s perfect blacks.
By turning on a QLED TV with Mini-LED backlighting, you can retain all the brightness and power of a traditional QLED display and get highly granular control over local dimming zones. The QLED has lacked in its competition with OLED.
5. Other Benefits To Mini-LED?
Mini-LED TVs are the same as standard QLED TVs, so the same benefits apply to both: screen sizes can be more extensive, and prices can be lower than televisions. OLED (for now, anyway).
Digital Technology matures, we can expect to see the Mini-LED play a significant role in improving picture quality and lowering the price of LED and QLED TVs. There can also be gains in energy efficiency as a large group of smaller LEDs can achieve the same brightness as larger LEDs, yet they need less energy.
6. Who Are Making Mini-LED TVs?
At the current moment, only TCL makes Mini-LED TVs and made its first release, the eight series TV with Roku TV in 2019. We were impressed but weren’t convinced it was an OLED killer. Your next Mini-LED TV will be the 2020 Series 6 TV. The year 2019 Series 6 already has our vote for the best value in a 4K UHD TV, and we’re excited to see it improve once again with Mini-LED.
These TCL Mini-LED models could launch the company to success. TCL announced its latest Mini-LED version at CES 2020, which it calls the Vidrian Mini-LED. While we haven’t yet reviewed a TV that uses it, TCL claims that Vidrian Mini-LED displays will produce “unmatched levels of contrast, great brightness, and highly stable long-term performance.”
Is it a real question? We can not say for sure, but we know that Sony, LG, and Samsung are working on Mini-LEDs too, so we hope it won’t be much longer before it becomes the primary way LED TVs are backlit.