It’s that time of year again folks, and it’s the time of year when we pit two of the latest display technologies against each other to see which offers the best combination of visual performance and value. In this article, we’ll take a deeper look at the intricate differences that separate Mini LED and OLED displays — two high-performance display technologies that can be found in the best TVs and gaming monitors.
Mini LED is the latest kid in the world of display technology. It is billed as the most complete LCD technology to date, benefiting from decades of development and advancement. Despite the name, Mini LED is still LCD panel technology – the LED part indicates the backlight technology used.
By contrast, OLED uses a composite fiber layer where the screen requires no backlighting at all – the pixels operate independently at the lowest level. Thanks to the nature of OLED technology, the screens you use can display perfect blacks, infinite contrast ratio, and exceptional HDR performance.
All told, Mini LED vs OLED is an interesting comparison and raises many questions. We’ll try to answer as many questions as possible in this guide, comparing all the essential differences that separate the two leading display technologies.
What is OLED?
OLED, or organic light-emitting diode, is a display technology used in televisions, monitors, phones, and tablets. Unlike traditional LED panel technology, OLED features a layer of carbon film that is placed inside the screen before the glass screen.
OLED panels have the ability to self-light at the pixel level, which means they do not require an external light source to operate. This is the main difference that separates OLED from LED, as the latter requires an external light source to illuminate the pixels.
With pixel-level lighting, OLED panels deliver stunning image quality, color, and HDR performance. Even better, thanks to their ability to light independently, OLED panels don’t suffer from annoying boom or backlight bleeding issues either.
What is Mini LED?
Mini LED technology is an improved version of your traditional LED panel, which features a similar (but more advanced) backlight system. Unlike OLED, Mini LED displays require a backlight to operate – however, thanks to the improved local dimming features, image quality, contrast, and HDR performance, Mini LED panels are much greater than traditional LED’s.
The official description of the Mini LED is a diode no larger than 0.2 mm in size – however, whether this is true across all Mini LED products is yet to be determined. Regardless, the general rule of thumb for Mini LED technology is that the smaller the better – certainly in terms of contrast ratio and HDR performance.
By offering smaller diodes than regular LED panels, Mini LED displays have greater control over contrast ratio, peak luminance, and HDR. Furthermore, by being able to increase the local dimming areas of the backlight, you will find that blinking and other annoying screen artifacts are less noticeable.
Mini LED vs. OLED: Specifications
Below are two top-notch displays that use Mini LED and OLED technologies. We’ll quickly review some of the specifications, advantages and disadvantages of each:
LG C2 OLED Series
42, 48, 55, 65, 77, 83
New Game Enhancer Features
Excellent gaming performance
Samsung New QLED QN900A
LED Mini LCD Display (Zones 1344 – 2340)
Color accuracy and vibrancy are improved
Aside from panel and backlight technologies, there isn’t a great deal that separates Mini LED and OLED displays. Of course, there are some performance differences, but we’ll go over those differences in the article.
Mini LED vs. OLED: Lighting
One of the main factors that help differentiate Mini LED from OLED displays is the physical nature in which the pixels are lit.
Let’s start with Mini LED. Unfortunately, this panel technology still requires the use of a large backlight to illuminate its pixels. However, thanks to the Mini LED technology design, the backlight is divided into thousands of local dimming zones – providing better control over contrast and brightness.
Local dimming zones are sections of your LED backlight that can be adjusted independently. So, a TV or monitor with 16 local dimming zones will be able to adjust the brightness in 16 unique divisions (all of the same size).
New Mini LED TVs offer thousands of local dimming zones that can be independently adjusted for a more realistic and flawless visual experience.
In contrast, OLED panels can illuminate down to a single pixel. Unlike Mini LED, OLED technology does not require a backlight to function. Instead, OLED uses an organic layer that self-lumines when an electric current is passed through it.
If you want to put that into perspective, you can think of a 4K OLED display as having more than eight million local dimming zones – while the Mini LED has around 3,000 (at best).
Mini LED vs. OLED: Brightness
Brightness, or peak luminance, is a very important feature of any screen. Unfortunately, OLED screens don’t actually get that bright — LG’s C1 series only delivered around 400 nits of brightness during our in-depth review. The manufacturers behind OLED say that peak brightness isn’t a big deal for OLED panels because they can theoretically display perfect blacks and an unlimited contrast ratio – and rightly so. However, when it comes to HDR performance and daytime viewing, you want a certain level of brightness for an amazing visual experience.
In contrast, Mini LED displays provide very good peak brightness as they have a huge CCFT backlight that leads through the screen. Although this comes along with its own set of annoying artifacts, the benefits it brings when viewing content in brighter conditions is undeniable.
Fortunately, it’s not all bleak for OLED – 2022 presents new OLED technologies that are set to solve this problem. It looks like LG’s Evo OLED panel will show a 30% increase in peak luminance over the original LG WOLED display. Samsung and Sony will also implement the latest QD-OLED technology in 2022 which is supposed to offer similar benefits. QD-OLED will be a hybrid display technology that combines the advantages of Quantum Dot and OLED – what more do you want?
Mini LED vs. OLED: Gaming Performance
First of all, when we refer to gaming performance, we’re referring to performance specifications such as refresh rates, response times, and input lag – most of which are not directly affected by the type of board used. However, Mini LED and OLED technologies offer unique advantages and disadvantages when it comes to gaming.
One of the big benefits that OLED displays bring is pixel response time. Pixel response time has a direct impact on the clarity of fast-moving images and noticeable noise. OLED technology offers tremendous advantages in this department when compared to a small LED where pixels are controlled by electric currents – delivering response times of less than 1ms when using a traditional G2G (gray-to-gray) transition.
Unfortunately, LED TVs aren’t the fastest kids of the bunch, especially models not designed specifically for gaming. However, the latest gaming Mini LED TVs (and Mini LED displays) feature high refresh rates (120Hz) and acceptable response times (1-4ms) – not to mention variable refresh rate technologies for added visual smoothness.
In terms of gaming, I’d probably give the theoretical point to OLED technology – however, it’s getting close, and LED technology is getting more advanced in this department.
Mini LED vs. OLED: Colors
While OLED technology has been the preeminent performer for color accuracy over the years, LED panel technology has improved recently with the arrival of Quantum Dot technology.
Quantum Dot (or QD for short) is a color-enhancing technology that is placed on top of traditional LED backlighting to increase the color depth, contrast, and overall clarity of your image. While not all LED panels have Quantum Dot technology, those that do work on par with OLED displays.
There are similar technologies on the market today, including LG’s NanoCell, which has similar performance-enhancing features.
Mini LED vs. OLED: Longevity
When it comes to high-cost products like TVs and monitors, longevity is a big consideration. In our comparison of Mini LED Vs OLED, there is only one winner in this section.
Since the Mini LED is an efficient extension of the LCD panel, there is no real issue with its longevity. This type of painting is often credited for its durability and image quality over time – and leaves no concerns regarding image deterioration.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about OLED screens. As we’ve already defied, the ‘O’ in OLED stands for organic which is a real longevity issue. Over time, the pixels used by OLED panels begin to degrade much faster than a conventional LED LCD panel. This comes in the form of both low color accuracy and permanent burn – a feature that sees a ghostly image display on your screen even if it’s showing something completely different.
However, the latest OLED kits come with burn-proof features which basically eliminate any chance of that happening. However, the organic layer used by OLED panels will forever be notorious for its longevity issues.
OLED panel manufacturers are confronted with this with the average user buying stats, saying that most people will upgrade before the pixels start to degrade on their OLED TV.
While this is a fair point, it does not fill me with confidence in the reliability of these monitors.
Mini LED vs. OLED: Price
At the time of writing, it’s been a very close battle regarding the price of Mini LED and OLED displays – especially with older OLED variants now being priced lower. However, on average, OLED TVs and monitors are still more expensive than Mini LED alternatives.
But that doesn’t add value to the question, and for some, value is a huge factor. When you think about everything on paper, OLED TVs are the better options – and when you consider the slight difference in some model prices, you’d definitely choose OLED over Mini LED.
However, Mini LED models are much more expensive than traditional LCD panels, which means they are less attractive than OLED at the moment.