One of the most exciting bits of tech to break out in 2021 was mini-LED screens, which found their way into some of the best TVs from Samsung and LG, as well as the latest iPad Pro. The image quality it can help produce is a game changer, providing the first real rival to OLED in smaller displays – but all the early devices have been high-priced, as is common with new technologies.
But hopefully that won't have to last long. Digitimes reports (opens in new tab) that Ennostar, one of the key providers of the technology, says that after a slow start to production, it's soon going to be able to churn out mini-LEDs at a higher speed, meaning that prices can drop "in the near future" since supply won't be so tight.
When combined with the continuing drop in LCD prices, devices that use mini-LED could go from being strictly elite to more affordable in the space of a single year, meaning we're likely to see it in more laptops and tablets, as well as lower-priced TVs.
That's incredibly exciting, because mini-LED is just mind-blowing compared to regular LCD screens. As the name implies, it uses much smaller LEDs in the backlight, which means that more of them can be squeezed in. This enables thin devices to have full direct backlighting (instead of edge-lighting), providing much more brightness – that makes them more visible to work on, and enables great HDR performance in video.
But at the same time, the smaller LEDs mean you can have more precise local dimming of the backlight, enabling contrast between light and dark that's much closer to what OLED offers.
The Samsung QN900A 8K TV currently sits as our favourite TV of the year thanks to what it can do with a mini-LED backlight, while the 4K Samsung QN95A and Samsung QN85A both earned five-star reviews too. Digitimes has reported (opens in new tab) that Ennostar is a major supplier for Samsung's mini-LED screens, so its next-gen TVs could definitely benefit from the lower prices.
And I raved about the screen in my iPad Pro 12.9-inch (2021) review, because it really is a major step beyond anything else on the market.
Mini-LED has been around for a few years, with TCL having previously launched TVs it advertised as having a version of the tech inside, and I first encountered it in MSI's Creator 17 laptop at CES 2020, and was absolutely blown away by what it could do even then.
With mini-LED screens reported to be coming to the new MacBook Pros that are expected at the next Apple Event in a few weeks, I hope we're at a tipping point for this awesome tech, which is much better suited to laptops and tablets than OLED because of its lack of burn-in issues.