• Nandan V

Upcoming Display Tech - Why you should get hyped for Mini/Micro LED!

We have come a long way in regards to how we consume our favourite content. From manuscripts to the radio, from television to smartphones. Let's explore what lies ahead!


LCD is old tech

LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display, the tech is old but not outdated yet. There are a lot of innovations going on which make LCD prominent.

Structure of an LCD panel. Source: J-Display

The major issue we have with LCD is the inability to get pitch black since the technology requires an external backlight. There are technologies like VA or Vertically Aligned LCD panels that provide this but at the cost of color accuracy. This makes it unsuitable for creative workloads or even content consumption for most people. The display technology used now is called In-Plane Switching or IPS which offers exceptional color accuracy but at the cost of contrast.

To increase contrast, blacks have to become dark and whites have to be bright. Both are hard to achieve without compromising visual quality.

In the above figure, the only thing we aim to alter is the source for the backlight.


So what now?

Since LCD was unsuitable or not in-par to our requirements we turned towards OLED or Organic LED technology. The greatest advantage of OLED is that you can turn off individual pixels giving you the darkest of blacks. Similarly, you can crank it up for the brightest whites.

The drawback for OLED is what's called "burn-in". The individual pixels if left unchanged (like the logo of a TV channel) will render that pixel unresponsive. This is a bigger issue for smartphones with the notification bar up top and on-screen keys.

This is where Mini-LED comes in.


Mini?

Mini-LED is literally the miniature form of conventional LEDs. Their size range for 100 - 200 micrometers. The smaller size and individually addressable LEDs ensure an almost OLED like performance. The LCD panel ensures the best viewing experience without the need to worry about burn-in issues.

Mini LED will reach commercial markets by early 2020. There are rumors surrounding a MacBook Pro with Mini-LED display as early as October, 2019!

Mini-LEDs are more of an in-between stage offering to improve LCD technology.


What about micro?

Micro-LED is the future of display technology. The size of an individual LED in Micro-LED display panels is less than 100 micrometers. Each panel would need around a million LEDs.

Sadly though, due to poor yields, the technology is a bit out of reach with the first device with this tech scheduled for 2020 or early 2021. It will take a couple more years for the technology to trickle down to the consumer market.

Micro-LED offers extraordinary contrast ratios of 1,000,000: 1 whereas a decent LCD panel provides a mere 1,000: 1. Micro-LED panels also have the benefit of being as thin as OLED panels. Since the LED array is used with an LCD panel, you get the benefits of both worlds with the only downside being cost, which will reduce as the technology matures.

Micro-LED is definitely not the future, it is just a step in the right direction.

Holographic displays are getting a lot of attention now (more on that some other time), which will redefine everything. A great time to be alive!


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