What Is a Mini-LED TV, and Why Would You Want One?

Illustration of TCL mini-LED backlight.TCL

LED mini screens are coming to the market and their price is affordable. This new technology offers more local dimming zones for deeper blacks and improved contrast. Let’s go to the lingo.

What is the mini-LED?

The mini-LED is a new display technology that promises improved contrast ratios and deeper blacks than LCD panels lit by regular LEDs (light emitting diodes). As the name suggests, mini-LEDs are much smaller than ordinary LEDs.

Diodes smaller than 0.2 mm are generally classified as mini-LEDs. These are used to light an ordinary LCD panel, just like a traditional LED TV would do. The main difference is that many more mini-LEDs are present compared to older TVs.

While mini-LED technology cannot quite match the image quality of an OLED or micro-LED screen, mini-LED models are much cheaper to produce. The larger the panel, the greater the savings. Making large OLED TVs is always tricky and expensive.

How does mini-LED improve on traditional LED TVs?

Most modern LCD models use LEDs for the backlight. When you shine an LED through an LCD panel that shows a black or dark scene, the blacks are washed out. The LCD panel can only do a lot to “block” the LED light shining behind.

To combat this, TV manufacturers have turned to local dimming. By dimming specific LEDs behind the LCD panel, blacks appear deeper because less light interferes with the image.

The problem here is that due to the size of traditional LEDs, you can only install many behind the panel. Vizio 65-inch standard LED lighting PX65-G1 Quantum X The LED TV has 384 local dimming zones, which are essentially individual LEDs.

TCL 8 series 4K mini-LED TVTCL

In comparison, TCL’s comparable size mini-LED 65Q825 The 8 series includes around 1,000 local dimming zones and tens of thousands of micro-LEDs. The result is deeper blacks and less washed-out dark scenes, as the dimmable regions are much smaller and offer much more granular control of the image.

This makes mini-LED technology a big space between traditional LED screens and OLED or micro-LED screens, at a competitive price to start with.

Mini-LED vs Micro-LED: What is the difference?

Micro-LEDs are even smaller than mini-LEDs, each micro-LED being placed in a pixel. Samsung, which has given up on mini-LEDs in favor of micro-LEDs, uses three tiny LEDs per pixel in its current micro-LED displays. This means that each pixel can be turned on or off individually and display a different color of the pixel next to it.

Ultimately, this provides the gold standard in terms of contrast ratio and color control. The downside is that micro-LED screens are still very expensive to produce. A 4K micro-LED TV requires 25 million micro-LEDs, and the manufacturing process is not easy. This means that the technology is not yet viable due to the costs associated with manufacturing.

That could change soon: market research firm IHS Markit predicts a dramatic drop in the cost of manufacturing micro-LED panels, which should lead to around 15.5 million screens shipped each year by 2026 (compared to only 1,000 in 2019). This number includes not only TVs, but smartphones, wearable devices and other devices.

OLED (organic light emitting diode) is a display technology similar to micro-LED in that it allows each pixel to emit its own light. That’s why OLED displays currently offer the deepest blacks and the sharpest color contrast on the consumer market. They are also expensive, but the production price has dropped considerably since their introduction.

RELATED: What are Samsung MicroLED TVs and how are they different from OLED?

Can you buy LED mini TVs today?

TCL was the first manufacturer to market LED mini TVs with its 8 series models in October 2019. 65 ″ small screen (65Q825) debuted at $ 1999 while the 75 ″ larger model (75Q825) started at $ 2,999. Both are available exclusively through Best buy at a discount. At CES 2020, TCL has announced that the mini-LED will also be introduced in its 6 series models.

Although the smaller 65 “does not offer huge savings compared to LG’s comparable size OLED displays, the 75” model represents excellent value considering the cost of large OLED displays. Best Buy’s currently the cheapest comparable OLED screen is a whopping $ 4,300 (on sale) for the 77 ″ LG B9.

TCL seems to be the only company to have marketed screens using this technology so far. The mini-LED is new, so it’s difficult to shop specifically for a mini-LED TV right now. This is evident from the fact that LED mini TVs are currently bundled with the regular LED or QLED labels when shopping online.

If you want a mini LED TV, you will have to use TCL for now or keep an eye out for other companies that are engaging in technology. It is possible that the mini-LED remains a bit of an obscure choice, as companies like Samsung are moving forward with the adoption of micro-LEDs, which could potentially bypass the technology completely (as they have done for OLED).

Should you buy mini-LED, OLED or QLED?

The display technology you choose comes down to a few main factors such as price, panel size, brightness, and overall image quality.

If money is not an object, micro-LED screens are the superior choice. They offer all the advantages of OLED, with a brighter display and no sensitivity to screen burn. Unfortunately, no micro-LED screens are on sale to consumers at this time, and they could still be in about a year.

OLED is the next logical choice. Each pixel of an OLED screen can generate its own light, which means deep blacks, sharp contrast and no “halo” effect as seen on traditional dimming LED TVs. It’s also expensive, but prices continue to drop. OLED panels are available in sizes 55 ″, 65 ″, 77 ″ and 88 ″.

LG 88LG

Mini-LED offers a competitive alternative to OLED, bringing some of the benefits without the cost associated with large panels. Since each pixel does not create its light, the deep blacks and the sharp contrast are not quite comparable to OLED, but they are much better than traditional LEDs. For larger panels, you can save literally thousands of dollars by going the mini-LED route. This should improve further when more models hit the market.

And then there is QLED, where the Q stands for Quantum Dots. It is essentially a film containing small electroluminescent nanoparticles, which also attempts to imitate OLED technology. This is not what is possible with mini-LEDs and OLED, but QLED is capable of producing a brighter image than OLED. They are also much cheaper than OLED displays, especially for large panels, as they are much easier to produce.

Finally, there are straight vanilla LED LCD panels, which are among the cheapest screens on the market. You may notice uneven dimming of the backlight, but the LCD panels can still be bright and vibrant if you’re willing to spend a little more. Our advice (with all screens) is to see them in person before purchasing, so you can compare the pack and draw your own conclusions.

RELATED: QLED explained: what exactly is a “Quantum Dot” TV?

The future is bright (and very dark)

The mini-LED is just one of the many display technologies that find their place on the market. TCL has taken a leap forward with its 8 series, which offers a real alternative to OLED displays at a much more user-friendly price.

In the end, there are some things to look for when buying a TV, but don’t lose sight of the important things: your budget and the desired sign size. And remember: if you are buy a TV mainly to play games, your priorities will be a little different.

RELATED: What to look for when buying a new TV

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