TV technologies change rapidly, and staying on top of them is difficult – there are too many things to follow, from panels to projectors and everything in between. But out of all those technologies, the one you should be keeping your eyes peeled for is mini-LED, especially if you’re getting a higher-end model and want the best there is. Forget about old projectors for a high-quality experience – mini-LED is where it should be!
So, for those of you who are looking for prime quality, what is a mini-LED TV? It’s a TV technology that ensures you get the best possible contrast ratio and aims to improve picture quality. Let’s take a look at how traditional models work, why mini-LED is different, and things to note when buying your first mini-LED TV!
What Is a Mini-LED TV?
In order to better understand what mini-LED is and why it’s so good, let’s first take a look at how regular TV technologies work and then discuss the difference. The LCD screen that contains the pixels is, by itself, rather dark, which is why it needs a backlight to produce the image. An LED screen is an LCD screen with an LED (light emitting diode) backlight placed behind the screen. This kind of backlight is much more efficient than the cathode lamps that were used previously and is also a lot smaller, which results in a thin TV screen.
There are three main ways of getting an LED backlight: full-array, edge-lit, and direct-lit.
Value-oriented TVs opt for an edge-lit panel. This means that you have LED series placed at the screen’s edges, and depending on the model itself, they can be around the screen, just at the sides, or just at the top and bottom. This allows for a thin screen, but not without a few issues. The area that is in the middle between the LEDs doesn’t get as much lighting as the edges do, an issue known as clouding or flashlighting. It’s something that you can see during very dark scenes. To add to this, an edge-lit display doesn’t have particularly good local dimming, so your mileage with HDR may vary.
Then we’ve got direct-lit TVs, which many models still use. You have LEDs directly behind the screen, but there aren’t too many. While the distribution is usually well-thought-out, the number of LEDs means you can’t get good local dimming. Also, they can’t be individually controlled, so matching the luminosity might be a problem.
Last but not least, we have full-array LEDs, which is what most of today’s premium models have, and some midrange ones as well. Like direct-lit LEDs, you have evenly distributed LED series behind the screen. But unlike direct-LED panels, you have a lot more diodes to work with, which produces a much more uniform backlight. Also, this kind of LED setup allows for local dimming, which is the TV turning on and off, or dimming certain areas of the LED panel. This way, the HDR experience is a lot better, and the contrast is significantly improved over all other options.
Now, the problem that mini-LED aims to solve is the size of the LEDs themselves. Traditional LEDs aren’t all that big, but mini-LED ones are significantly smaller. And while on one hand, you need a lot lighter lights to illuminate the panel than you’d need with regular LEDs, you also get much finer control over the zones and an overall brighter image. The result is improved contrast and a much better HDR experience.
A thing to note is that OLED panels are still better in terms of contrast because they can turn off the individual pixels and get absolutely black blacks. However, when you consider that OLED panels are still extremely expensive, the fact that mini-LED gets you very close at a fraction of the price, makes these panels a great choice.
Is Micro-LED the same as Mini-LED TVs?
No. Even though they both have the same goal of improving the quality for consumers – there’s a difference between the two. With mini-LEDs, you have an evolution of the current LED technology, but you still need an LCD panel to create the actual image.
Micro-LED is a technology that’s still not that well developed, and while you have a few TVs that use it, they’re insanely expensive to manufacture and sell. This is because the LEDs themselves create the image, rather than needing an LCD panel, and you essentially have an LED for each pixel. The picture you’re looking at is composed of LEDs that are individually addressable, making the technology more similar to OLED than mini-LED.
And if you’re wondering why they’re so expensive when there are simply more and smaller LEDs, it’s because making an LED smaller, while making sure it maintains the performance, is a lot more difficult than it sounds. When you shrink an LED, you also significantly decrease the total amount of light it can produce. Sure, you could just push them harder, but the TV will not just consume more electricity, but it will also need to dissipate a lot more heat. With millions of such LEDs next to each other, that’s not a scenario you want. The solution is to increase efficiency, but then you have another problem – pitch size.
Pitch size is the gap between every two pixels, and decreasing it is a massive challenge. There are limitations to the size of the circuitry and all the other elements, which results in a minimum limit on how small a TV using this technology can be. Anything under 100 inches is considered very impressive.
The conclusion is that no, micro-LED is not the same as a mini-LED TV. It’s better, but the current technology is out of reach for consumers due to engineering limitations which make it incredibly expensive to manufacture. If you’re in the market for a premium TV and don’t want to pay too much, mini-LED is where you want to be. Here’s a short buying guide to help you choose, as well as an excellent suggestion for a mini-LED TV!
Buying Your First Mini-LED TV
Aside from the panel technology itself, there are a few things you’ll need to keep an eye out for when buying a mini-LED TV.
The first one is the resolution. At the moment, you can get mini-LED TVs at various resolutions, but 4K is where you want to be. Full HD is getting old, and 8K is still too expensive for many, especially if you’re after a mini-LED panel. 4K is just right, and most modern content providers will offer you quite a lot of content in 4K.
The second one is quality. Mini-LED panels by themselves have great quality, but there are a few things that you could get as “extras” that will make sure you’ve got an even better TV viewing experience. The first one is HDR – a high dynamic range means that you get much better colors, especially in the brightest and darkest parts of what you’re watching. This requires great contrast, which is why mini-LED is just perfect for such a situation. If you want to take this further, get a TV with HDR10+ and a quantum dot panel – these can get incredibly bright, and have some of the most vivid colors you can get. Oh, and Dolby Vision isn’t a bad idea either.
Then, consider the smart functionality. If you want a great user experience, Google and Android TV are where you want to be. And a good TV will do a lot more than just give you compatibility with apps like YouTube, Netflix, and Stan – it’s also going to offer voice commands and an integrated AI system. This combination makes controlling your TV a breeze, even if you don’t really feel like getting up and looking for the remote.
Last but not least, make sure the audio is good. Of course, you can always add one of TCL’s soundbars and make it even better, but Dolby Atmos is a solid indicator that the TV you’re looking at has good audio.
And of course, if this all sounds like something you could get behind, we’ve got the perfect solution for you – TCL’s C825 TV, available in both 55” and 65” sizes.
This mini-LED TV comes with a quantum dot QLED panel at a 4K resolution and all the features you could ever want from a premium TV, except for the price. You get HDR10+ and a Wide Color Gamut, as well as both Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos. Not only do you have impeccable colors and a beautiful experience with any content you want to enjoy, but the audio quality is incredibly good for a TV this slim too.
You also get plenty of smart features too, with Google’s Android TV taking care of all your content needs thanks to support for apps like Amazon Prime, Stan, YouTube, and Netflix. And there’s AI-IN, and integrated voice controls with both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
All of this, and the quality of the mini-LED panel itself makes the C825 the perfect choice for anyone looking for a great high-end TV with all the bells and whistles, and we hope that explaining what is a mini-LED TV is enough to make you want (and buy) one!