Apple’s iPad Pro with mini-LED to launch in early 2021

Tiny tech will be a big deal in Apple’s biggest and brightest iPad

Apple iPad Pro
(Image credit: Apple)

The iPad Pro 2021 is coming sooner than expected: according to industry insiders, it’s going to ship in the first quarter of 2021. 

A new report in trade magazine DigiTimes discusses Apple’s display plans for its mobile devices: Chinese firm BOE will make OLED displays for iPhones while Taiwan-based General Interface Solution (GIS) will produce mini-LED panels for the iPad Pro. The article also tells us which iPad Pro is getting the tech: so far the plans are for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro.

This isn’t the first report we’ve seen detailing Apple’s plans for mini-LED iPad Pros; previous reports indicated that production would start at the end of 2020 for a launch in the first half of 2021. But many people assumed that the 2021 iPad Pro with mini-LED display would launch towards the end of that period; it seems that Apple has other ideas.

Mini-LED displays will make iPads better

Mini-LED is a big upgrade for the iPad Pro, which currently uses standard LED display technology in its backlight. Mini-LEDs are much smaller, and that means you can put more of them into the same space. 

Smaller, more densely packed LEDs mean much more control over the display’s lighting, and that means better contrast and better colour reproduction. It looks close to the picture quality of OLED, but it doesn’t suffer to the same extent from the ageing and screen burn that can affect some OLED displays.

Another big advantage of mini-LED displays is that they’re thinner and more power-efficient than traditional LED displays – and if there’s one thing Apple likes, it’s a thing that’s thin and power efficient. 

According to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, mini-LED displays could mean even thinner and lighter iPads in the future – and the tech may be destined for future MacBooks and MacBook Pros too.

Mini-LED is just a stepping stone for iPad Pros

Mini-LED isn’t the only display tech destined for future iPads. In recent weeks we’ve learnt that Apple has asked Samsung and LG to make new, ultra-thin OLED panels for the 2022 iPad Pro.

You may be wondering why Apple can’t just stick OLEDs in its iPad Pros now. The answer is because standard OLEDs don’t fit with Apple’s requirements: it wants a very particular flavour of OLED called Hybrid OLED. Until it can get those panels, mini-LED will do just fine.

Samsung’s flavour of Hybrid OLED is called Ultra Thin OLED while LG prefers Advanced Thin OLED, but while the names differ the underlying tech is essentially the same: by combining flexible film and rigid glass, the panels deliver all the positives of OLED without the thickness and presumably with better energy efficiency too. 

Apple has invested heavily in mini-LED technology, so it’s possible that when the iPad Pros move to Hybrid OLED displays Apple could upgrade the iPad Air to mini-LED; the displays in the current iPad range could then remain as the entry level option. 

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series; her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, was shortlisted for the British Book Awards. When she’s not scribbling, Carrie is the singer in Glaswegian rock band Unquiet Mind (unquietmindmusic).