In the battle of OLED vs LCD panel, the latter has a new ace up its sleeve called Mini LED. Yea it’s a hot thing right now in the TV display realm. TCL was the first to adopt the Mini LED in its 8-series TVs back in the fall of 2019. Later, we saw the tech on the brand’s 6-series TVs too. Now it was only in the recently concluded CES 2021, that we witnessed an interest spurt from the LGs and Samsungs of the world.
So, as the number of Mini LED options in the TV space increase, this will be the ultimate list you should check out before making a purchase decision. But before we get to the brass tacks, here is a quick rundown of the Mini LED tech and its benefits.
What is Mini LED?
The LCD TVs have primarily two components — There is the backlight from small light-emitting diodes (LED bulbs, so to speak) and a liquid crystal layer (LCD panel, and thus the name). Now unlike self-emissive OLEDs, the LCD TVs are transmissive. The crystal panel upfront selectively blocks the backlight in certain zones corresponding to the on-screen visual requirement. But since the diodes cannot light or dim individually on their own, this isn’t an ideal granular control over the light. So, you see those halo glow or blooming around bright spots in dark scenes. Also, the blacks wouldn’t be pitch black either and the frames will appear dark-gray instead.
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Now, if you had more LEDs and local dimming zones, you would’ve had finer control over the light representation on the screen. Enter Mini LEDs, which as the name suggests, are even tinier diodes. How small? Well, for context, LEDs smaller than 0.2 or 0.1 millimeters are considered mini-LEDs. And note if they get close to 0.01-millimeters, then that’s Micro LED territory (which is a different play altogether).
Now, due to their smaller size, more of them can be crammed together and arranged in a larger number of zones. For instance, TCL’s 8-Series mini-LED boast over 25,000 mini-LEDs grouped in 1,000 zones. The mini LEDs, thus offer greater control over the light reproduction and the end result is far appeasing with a wider contrast ratio, higher peak brightness, deeper blacks, and also better colors. It also counters the unwelcome artifacts mentioned above. Besides, they are a relatively affordable (especially once they become mainstream) long-lasting (no burn-in risk) alternative to OLED TVs. Or at least a stopgap solution till the microLED tech is ready for mass-production.
So, to summarize here are the merits and demerits of Mini LED displays:
Advantages of Mini LED TVs
- More dimming zones
- Rich contrast ratio
- Higher brightness
- Deeper blacks
- Better color reproduction
- No burn-in risk
- Power efficiency gains, especially as the technology improves
And when it comes to the disadvantages of Mini LED TVs, at present there are production capacity and cost concerns, especially compared against traditional LCD. But, in time this too won’t be a problem. With the increase in dimming zones, the TV manufacturer has to tune the algorithms too. And finally, even with all these done, blacks won’t still be on par with what you get from OLEDs. So, there’s that.
Since we have covered whats and whys of mini-LEDs, let’s now browse the best TVs brandishing the feature.
List of best Mini LED TVs
1. TCL 8-series (Q825) and 6-series (R635)
TCL 8-series was the first to march mini LED tech to the market. It came with 25,000 diodes and “highly precise” 1000 local dimming zones offering a “smooth, uniform and bright illumination”. This is out in a 65-inch and 75-inch model with 4K resolution. It supports Dolby Vision, HDR10, and HLG HDR formats.
There is a 15+15W speaker output tuned by Dolby Atmos. The connectivity options include 4 HDMI (1 ARC), 1 USB 2.0, 1 ethernet, 1 RF input, 1 digital, and 1 headphone jack. The software is Roku with Google Assistant, Alexa, and Roku Voice.
There is also the TCL 6-series which comes in a 55-inch variant too. Other things in the mix are 4 HDMI (1 eARC), up to 120Hz Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), and an 8+8W hybrid sound setup.
2. TCL 4K Mini-LED TV C825
At CES 2021, TCL showcased its second-gen mini LED TV codenamed C825. It features QLED 4K, Dolby Vision HDR imaging technology, Imax Enhanced, Dolby Vision IQ, 120Hz MEMC, 120Hz low reverse display, 4-way HDMI 2.1 port, VRR, ALLM, eARC, WiFi 6, and a 4MP webcam.
But, the main highlight of the show was —
TCL X925 OD Zero TV
Just pioneering mini LED wasn’t enough for TCL as it showcased an advanced tech christened ODZero at CES 2021. It not only reduced the size of diodes further and packed more of them on the backlight panel, but also decreased “the optical distance (OD) between the Mini-LED backlight layer and the LCD display layer (diffuser plate) to as little as zero millimeters”. Hence the moniker. The company has utilized micro-meter mini-LED active-matrix backlighting (again, not to be confused with micro-LED).
Due to the new design achievement, TCL claims the TV is slimmer with more local dimming zones, higher peak brightness, and better backlight uniformity. These will be shipping with Google TV OS. At the moment, the company hasn’t released any official picture of the X925 model.
3. LG QNED MiniLED 99 Series
LG, for a change from its OLED offerings, announced the Quantum Nanocell LED TV abbreviated QNED at CES 2021. The backlighting is min-LED based with “up to almost 30,000 tiny LEDs that produce incredible peak brightness and a contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1 when paired with up to 2,500 dimming zones and advanced local dimming zones”. The company claims an “excellent HDR image quality with outstanding contrast and blacks, a wide color gamut and incredible color accuracy”.
The TVs will also flaunt up to 120Hz refresh rate, 4K (Ultra-HD) and 8K resolutions, and sizes ranging up to 86-inches. LG will be releasing 10 models wielding this new display tech.
4. Samsung QN900A, QN800A, QN95A, QN90A, QN85A Neo QLED
Samsung announced the Neo QLED mini LED TVs ahead of CES 2021. The mini LED size has been shrunk to 1/40 the height of a conventional LED. Now, these diodes are arranged like a matrix in thin microlayers. The new design ensures “ultra-fine and precise control of the densely packed LEDs, preventing blooming”. It also “increases the luminance scale to 12-bit with 4096 steps”, which should result in better contrast, HDR experience, and screen uniformity. Samsung is also employing “Neo Quantum Processor” and its 16 different neural networks for upscaling content quality.
Among other things, the Neo QLED also features a convenient new cable management system, more immersive sound, Dex and PC on TV, Google Duo, a solar-driven remote, 4K/120fps gaming, and a bunch of other gaming goodies.
ALSO READ: LG QNED VS Samsung Neo QLED Mini LED TVs
5. Hisense U90G and U9G
Hisense is offering the 8K 75″ model codenamed U90G and 4K models in 65″ and 75″ with model number U9G. The company says its FALD (Full Array Local Dimming) TVs are capable of achieving much brighter visuals while hitting darker blacks and deeper contrasts.
The rest of the repertoire also consists of features like IMAX Enhanced, Dolby Atmos HDR, Dolby Vision, DCI-P3, HDR10+, 8K/4K AI upscaling, TUV Care+ low blue light certification, HDMI 2.1 with eARC, VRR, ALLM, AMD Freesync, and Android TV OS.
Best mini-LED TVs to buy in 2021
- TCL 8-series (Q825) and 6-series (R635)
- TCL 4K Mini-LED TV C825
- TCL X925 OD Zero TV
- LG QNED MiniLED 99 Series
- Samsung QN900A, QN800A, QN95A, QN90A, QN85A Neo QLED
- Hisense U90G and U9G
We will be updating this list with more options as and when they launch. Also, as the tech becomes more mainstream, the early adopter tax will wear off. So, take a look at this list, when you plan on buying a new mini-LED TV for your home.