Samsung's next wave of TVs will feature mini-LED backlighting on several models, giving its QLED TV lineup a more fierce rival to OLED TVs.
You can expect better backlighting, sharper contrast and better HDR performance. The new mini-LED TVs will be announced in 2021, and will likely be featured in many of Samsung's QLED 4K and 8K sets next year.
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The first batch of mini-LED TVs will be announced in the first half of 2021, according to a report from SamMobile.com.
What is Mini LED?
Not be confused with microLED, which uses multi-color LEDs as individual pixels, mini-LED is a little more basic, using smaller and brighter LED lights to provide the backlighting for LCD panels. Measuring 100 to 200 micrometers wide, mini-LEDs are smaller and more energy efficient than traditional LEDs, allowing for slimmer LCD displays that offer brighter backlight with lower power consumption.
Where traditional LED backlighting uses 30-50 LEDs clustered in several discrete dimmig zones behind an LCD panel, mini-LED can number in the hundreds or thousands for the same screen size, and be used in dozens, even hundreds of dimmable backlighting zones. The improvement to contrast is staggering, with expected contrast ratios of 1,000,000:1, a significant improvement over the 10,000:1 ratios of current TVs.
This refinement to traditional backlit LCD screens also allows the backlight to be more closely tailored to the content on screen, boosting the brightness where it's needed and dimming the backlight for darker areas. Though it does not offer the pixel perfect illumination of self-emitting technologies like OLED, mini LED technology does offer a significant improvement for backlit LCD screens.
This will be an especially important development for Samsung as the company continues to promote its LCD-based QLED TVs in both 4K and 8K resolutions.
The new mini-LED TV models will be unveiled in the first half of 2021 according to recent reports. Whether that means announcements will be made at CES 2021 in January, or during the March and April launch window for the new model year is still unknown. However, additional reports claim that Samsung aims to sell up to 2 million mini-LED TVs in 2021, suggesting that the new technology will have a prominent place in Samsung's QLED lineup.
TCL strikes first with Mini LED
There are already some impressive mini-LED TVs on the market, seen in the recent TCL 6-Series Roku TV (R635) review and last year's TCL 8-Series QLED Roku TV review. Both sets offered excellent backlighting, with boosted HDR capability and better-than-average performance thanks to a combination of mini-LED and QLED displays, and noticeable improvements were made between the first 2019 model and the latest 2020 set.
We expect to see other uses for mini-LEDs in the coming months, as Apple is expected to bring mini-LED to the iPad Pro and MacBook lines. LG is also developing mini-LED TVs for 2021, according to a report from Business Korea.
microLED vs Mini LED
Meanwhile, Samsung is still developing it's microLED display technology, which uses individual micron-scale LEDs as individual pixels, rather than serving as a backlight to a LCD panel. So far, microLED technology has only been seen demonstrated on ultra-large displays, such as Samsung's The Wall, which ranges up to 292 inches to achieve 8K resolution. The Wall is not yet available for consumers, though Samsung has started selling similar displays for commercial use.
Samsung is also pushing toward the development of a new hybrid display technology called QD-OLED, which uses Quantum Dot enhancement to boost the brightness and color range offered by OLED displays while making OLED technology more affordable. We are still a few years out from this new technology showing up on TVs in the home, but it is yet another front in Samsung's battle for display supremacy.
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Brian Westover is currently Lead Analyst, PCs and Hardware at PCMag. Until recently, however, he was Senior Editor at Tom's Guide, where he led the site's TV coverage for several years, reviewing scores of sets and writing about everything from 8K to HDR to HDMI 2.1. He also put his computing knowledge to good use by reviewing many PCs and Mac devices, and also led our router and home networking coverage. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he wrote for TopTenReviews and PCMag.