Buying a new television set means coming across different acronyms, such as LED, QLED, OLED, and Mini LED. However, for those who aren’t into TV tech, those acronyms mean very little, as they denote technologies most consumers don’t really understand. This can result in poor product choices, negatively affecting your viewing experience. In this article, we’ll go over the key differences and comparisons in the debate between mini LED vs OLED.
In this article, we’ll discuss Mini LED vs OLED television panels, their key differences, and their respective advantages and disadvantages. While both types of panels are used in various devices, from smartphones and tablets to smartwatches and TVs, we’ll primarily focus on television panels.
Mini LED vs OLED: Side-by-Side Comparison
|Non-organic LED backlight
|Self-emitting organic LED
|Up to 4,000 nits
|Average 1,000 nits
|Up to 1,000,000:1 on
|Depend on the panel type,
but often narrower compared
|Exceptional color reproduction
|Good color reproduction
|1ms response time on
|As low as 0.2ms response time
on high-end models
|Great durability and reliability
|May suffer burn-in as
a result of extreme use
|Depends on several factors;
generally, more affordable
Mini LED vs OLED: What’s the Difference?
Mini LED and OLED both rely on LED (light-emitting diode) technology; the small LED elements of a TV screen light up in order to produce an entire image on the screen. And while both are derivative of LED technology, several differences are worth noting. So, let’s start by comparing the two technologies before we discuss their performance and pricing.
Despite its inception in 1987 by Kodak, OLED was first used for producing television panels by Sony in its 2008 lineup of premium products. The acronym stands for Organic Light-Emitting Diode, and this technology’s main feature is the use of self-emissive diodes.
This means that each pixel (usually containing three diodes) emits its own light when an electrical current passes through it. This eliminates the backlighting previously employed in earlier LCD LED television sets.
Thus, it allows for pixel-level dimming, controlling the brightness of each individual pixel. A pixel that emits light can sit next to a pixel that’s completely off. This illumination control allows OLED screens unparalleled control over black levels and contrast.
Mini LED is a somewhat younger technology invented in 2000 as an advancement of LED LCD backlighting technology. The innovation consists of miniaturizing the LED form factor, allowing a greater number of LEDs to be placed onto an LCD panel. This allows for more precise control of the panel’s backlight, resulting in better image quality than older LCD LEDs.
The first products to feature Mini LED technology came out in 2021. However, most manufacturers refer to their Mini LED lines with proprietary names. For instance, LG refers to its Mini LED TVs as QNED, whereas Samsung refers to its version as Neo QLED.
It’s important to note that Mini LED is based on LCD technology and only refers to the type of backlight being used. Since the technology uses a continuous backlight, many shortcomings of LCD LEDs are still present, like subpar levels of black.
Mini LED technology doesn’t use self-emissive pixel technology. Instead, the light is produced by a dedicated LED backlight panel that illuminates the pixels through an LCD sheet. A dedicated LED backlight allows Mini LED panels to “glow” brighter than OLED panels.
In fact, premium 8K Mini LED panels can output up to 4000 nits (unit of brightness), while OLED screens average around 1000 nits. This advantage is useful when watching HDR content or placing the screen in a well-lit room. In addition, the high brightness levels can overcome the glare caused by sunlight or artificial ambient light.
This makes Mini LED best-suited for mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. The same line of thought applies to television sets in brightly-lit environments. Unfortunately, the brightness of OLED screens pales in comparison, which is why they’re best suited for dimly-lit spaces.
OLED panels are capable of infinite contrast thanks to the self-emitting pixels. When a pixel is completely switched off, it emits no light whatsoever, resulting in a true black color. In addition, the newer OLED panels, such as LG’s OLED EX and Samsung’s QD-OLED, can achieve higher brightness than typical OLED.
Admittedly, even the newer generations of OLED aren’t as bright as Mini LED. But the higher levels of brightness, paired with perfect black, provide an unparalleled contrast. However, that’s not the case with Mini LEDs. While the higher number of smaller LEDs allows for better illumination control, Mini LED screens still suffer from the blooming effect.
The blooming effect—smeared image resulting from a very bright element besides a dark one—prevents perfect blacks on Mini LED. This inherent flaw of LCD screens is present here, especially if the screen has a lower Mini LED count.
As stated above, the very name of the technology Mini LED only denotes the type of backlight used in a TV. In simple terms, Mini LED TVs are the most recent iteration of LCD panels with an improved backlight and reduced blooming effects.
However, the light still shined through various liquid crystal cells, carrying the same inherent drawbacks. This includes loss of color control when viewing the panel off-axis. Still, the viewing angles are better than with standard LCD LED panels.
It’s important to note that the performance of viewing angles also depends on the type of panel being used. Different manufacturers will use different panels on different models. As a result, the Mini LED TVs don’t offer the same viewing angle performance as OLED.
IPS (in-plane switching) panels typically have the best and most consistent viewing angles (178°), with better color performance. VA panels, also known as Vertical Alignment panels, offer better contrast than IPS, but the viewing angles aren’t as wide as on IPS panels.
That said, one shouldn’t dismiss a particular TV model just because it uses a VA panel. Manufacturers employ different methods disguised as proprietary tech to increase the viewing angles of VA panels. This offers better color performance and contrast at wider angles, but their performance still can’t match IPS displays.
Honestly, both OLED and Mini LED would work fine if the viewers were facing the screen head-on. However, having multiple viewers also implies viewing the screen from certain angles, and OLED offers a more consistent performance.
Color reproduction mostly depends on the TV’s processing, but brightness also plays a crucial role. Unfortunately, the somewhat limited brightness associated with OLED panels often means that the color performance can’t really match that of an LED LCD screen.
Being able to output higher brightness levels means that Mini LED screens depict a wider and more accurate color range. With that said, OLED screens are getting brighter with each new iteration. As a result, many modern devices, especially mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, feature OLED screens capable of outputting 1000 nits.
And while QD-OLED has better brightness performance than typical OLED, models featuring this tech are pretty pricey. On top of that, they still can’t measure up to the color performance of LCD LED and, by extension, Mini LED. So, Mini LED is a clear winner in color reproduction.
Though there’s a clear connection between response time and gaming performance, the number of milliseconds isn’t the only viable metric. Therefore, when discussing gaming performance, one must pay attention to latency and response time.
The former refers to a time gap between the video output and a viewable TV image. Latency results from several factors, many of which have little to do with panel type, image processing, and refresh rates.
Although it is somewhat circumstantial, LCDs — often used in gaming monitors rather than necessary TVs — are now the fastest screens in terms of latency. Response time is the time it takes for pixels to change from one color to the next. OLED has a clear advantage regarding response time thanks to pixel-level dimming.
However, Mini LED still has to rely on LCD polarization to change colors, which is slower than the color change on OLED. As a result, OLED screens offer better gaming performance due to faster response times and higher refresh rates.
As previously stated, Mini LED is an advancement in LCD LED technology, which has proven reliable and durable. However, this doesn’t apply to OLED screens. The pixels in an OLED screen are made up of small red, green, and blue (RGB) organic LEDs.
Unfortunately, the blue LED degrades faster than red and green, which can shift the color balance of the affected pixels. The degradation process tends to happen faster when a permanent image is shown on the screen.
The result—referred to as “burn-in”— is a permanent discoloration of affected areas. This can be mitigated in various ways, and manufacturers implement various anti-burn-in measures.
Admittedly, burn-in isn’t something an end user should concern themselves with, as it doesn’t happen with normal use. Considering the facts mentioned above, Mini LED screens are much more reliable and durable than organic LED technology.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a clear-cut winner regarding price since it depends on several different metrics. This includes screen size, the overall quality of the device they’re mounted to, and much more.
However, as a general rule, OLED is by far the priciest option, which is why it’s mostly used in premium options. Still, Mini LED implementations are more complex than LCD LED’s previous iteration, making them the priciest so far.
Some industry analysts believe that Mini LEDs are so complex to manufacture that the end price is only 10% cheaper than the current OLED displays. Given the innate differences between the two technologies, it’s questionable whether that 10% is worth it in the long run. We’ll call this a draw.
Mini LED vs OLED: 3 Must-Know Facts
- Despite being marketed as a breakthrough technology, Mini LED is actually an advancement in the scale of backlight LEDs on an LCD LED backlight panel.
- The organic compounds used in OLED displays are incredibly thin and flexible. So if we swap the display glass for plastic, we get flexible OLED screens that can fold—enter entire lines of foldable smartphones.
- Mini LED uses non-organic LEDs, which have an incredibly long lifespan. Typical LED technology has a life span of up to 25,000 hours (at least). This translates to approximately two years and nine months of continuous use, at the very least.
Mini LED vs OLED: Which One Is Best?
OLED is a superior technology with negligible drawbacks, but Mini LED clearly wins in the brightness, color, and price segments. So, ultimately, the question of which one is better comes down to personal needs and preferences.
If you’re gaming or watching movies on your TV in a dimly-lit environment, OLED screens are a better choice. However, if you’re a fan of HDR viewing experience in a brightly-lit room, Mini LED excels in those areas.
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