MicroLED is a technology that helps a display to produce brighter and higher-contrast images that are not possible with other known technologies. Manufacturers claim that the microLED panel format has multiple advantages which include — increased brightness, longer life-span and lower power consumption.
This technology was introduced by Samsung at CES 2018 and the company has eventually released a number of different TV sizes with microLED. However, these TVs are very heavy on the pocket even though they were all aimed at consumers. MicroLED is still a direct rival to OLED and hopefully, the technology will become more affordable in the future to make it a truly viable alternative for consumers. So, let’s take a dive into details about how this technology works and how it can be an apt substitute for OLED.
What is microLED?
As we have discussed earlier, microLED displays are almost like OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) panels that are made up of numerous microscopic LEDs, which self-illuminate per display pixel. The only difference here is that, unlike OLED displays, microLED displays use inorganic materials, which also brings in the advantages of ultra-low black levels, but with higher peak brightness.
Most mainstream LED panels are actually LCD panels with LED-based back or edge lighting. MicroLED panels don’t need separate backlighting which means blacks are darker and whites are brighter without the light bleed that is usually linked with most LED-backlit TVs.
How does microLED work??
MicroLED achieves exactly the same results as OLED as it also has self-illuminating pixels. Just like OLED, each pixel in microLED displays is its own light source which is able to turn on or off as required. The helps in producing better contrast and there is no light bleed on surrounding pixels. So, when you see a black pixel on the screen it means that a pixel has turned off and there’s no light.
How is microLED better than OLED??
Brightness is not only important to determine how good a picture is, but it’s also crucial for HDR effectiveness of content. MicroLED has a contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1 and can illuminate far brighter than OLED displays (which is up to 30 times brighter). However, OLED panels are improving, yet the peak brightness levels in these panels are limited compared to other LED panels like — Samsung’s QLED panels.
This is possible due to the inorganic material (gallium nitride) that is used in microLED displays. This material enables the individual RGB LED sources to go brighter for a longer period. The organic material in OLED panels diminishes if the screen is too bright for too long. On the contrary, inorganic materials have a longer overall lifespan.
Advantages of microLED panels for manufacturers
MicroLED technology is a modular technology where panels are made up of multiple smaller displays, which are then “knitted together” to make a large screen. This means manufacturers can customise the panel according to customer requirements. It is a very flexible solution that allows multiple aspect ratios like — 21:9, 16:9 and others.
You can expect microLED TVs in irregular sizes in the future. Samsung has also mentioned that upscaling and processing will not harm sharper image delivery.
Availability of microLED TVs
Samsung unveiled the 146-inch ‘The Wall’ 4K TV at CES 2018 and followed up with a commercial launch of The Wall Professional – designed for industrial installations. Later, in 2019, Samsung unveiled a 219-inch version and in 2022 the company showed off a 1000-inch 8K 120Hz panel — citing the extent of this technology.
The South Korean tech giant also rolled out a 75-inch 4K version for home consumers, but it came with a huge price tag. The company had plans to announce a new version in 2020-21, but there are no updates on those plans yet.
LG also launched its own 175-inch microLED TV at IFA 2018, but there are no updates about the availability of the TV and the company seems to have switched its total focus to OLED TVs.
The future of microLED panels
MicroLED panels have the potential to compete with OLED panels and even outperform them. Consumers will be able to see the same black levels but with greater brightness, lower power consumption and a longer lifespan.
The biggest drawback of the technology is its manufacturing costs, which is expected to go down in the future as manufacturer investment goes up. It can be a genuine rival to OLED panels once it gets more affordable.