Buying a TV should be easy. Fortunately, we live in a time when the vast majority of flat screens (even the cheapest ones) look reasonably good. They have a resolution, image quality, brightness, and contrast that were almost unthinkable a decade ago. But, in stores, the consumer can have the feeling of having been wrecked in an ocean of acronyms and specifications: OLED, QLED, LED, 4K, 8K, HDR, HDR10, HDR10 +, Dolby Vision, the list is long. The bad news is that this year will have to add a few more. The good news is that we will have screens that will look much better. The CES fair in Las Vegas is usually the event in which most brands launch their big bets on image for the next 12 months and although this year the appointment is virtual, it leaves several promising announcements.
The main advancement for televisions this year has to do with backlighting. The vast majority of displays require powerful white light on the panel, usually behind or to the sides of a liquid crystal matrix, to brighten the image. This lighting has long come from LED lights. The number and its configuration vary but in more expensive televisions it is usually larger and is arranged in a matrix behind the image because this allows certain areas to be “turned off”, for example in dark scenes, and thus achieve a higher level of contrast.
From now on we are going to hear about Mini LEDs frequently, which is an evolution of this system using LEDs of smaller size and which number in the thousands instead of hundreds. From the outset, this makes it possible to better control the brightness level in different areas of the image, because it is possible to be more precise when defining which areas should be “off”.
These screens, therefore, will come even closer in contrast and image quality to televisions with an OLED panel, in which each pixel emits its own light, and therefore can be turned off when it has to show a black image. This is useful because although the models have dropped in price, OLED is still a complex and expensive technology to manufacture compared to its alternatives and presents other problems such as lower longevity.
TVs with Mini LED technology will have various names, depending on who makes them. Samsung, for example, has baptized its new Neo QLED line, an evolution of the current QLEDs, which will continue to be on sale.
LG, which until now was one of the manufacturers that had more seriously opted for OLED, will also have a family of screens with this technology as a complement to its catalog, which it has dubbed QNED. The Q, in both cases, refers to the use of what is known as “quantum dots”, which is a material that replaces various types of filters and layers in a conventional LCD television panel and allows more accurate reproduction of colors. It is a technology that many manufacturers (especially Samsung), have used in recent years in their high-end and mid-high-end flat screens.
These models, which will be available in the usual TV sizes and will hit the market in the coming months, will also incorporate several features designed to take advantage of the new generation of consoles, such as support for 120 Hz refresh rates and low latency.
Of course, all will support standards such as HDR10, 10+, or Dolby Vision, which is a specific HDR format. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, and it is information that is sent to the television along with the conventional video image that specifies specific brightness and color values for each scene. On compatible televisions, this makes the image appear more vivid and brighter, and with a wider range of colors.
You may also hear about Micro LED in the context of TV screens in the coming months. Logic will lead you to think that it is the same technology only with even smaller LEDs, but no. Micro LED and Mini LED don’t have much to do with each other.
MicroLED is a technology being developed for large screens that use tiny blue, red and green colored LEDs to generate the final image. This same technology, broadly speaking, is what is used in many large screens in stadiums and concert halls. The difference is that the LEDs are now small enough that the final display is an acceptable size for a home.
We are talking here, in any case, of screens of quite a size. Even with the smallest LEDs that Sony or Samsung has been able to make, no screen smaller than 75 inches offers 4K resolution. Keep in mind that to display a 4K image you need almost 25 million LED, 8 million for each color component.
Samsung and Sony, in fact, focus more on screens larger than 100 inches. It is still a very expensive technology, although with some benefits. The most important is that it is modular. The screens are installed as a matrix of panels with dimensions of about 80 x 40 cm. This means that the screens are not limited to classic formats such as 16: 9 or 21: 9, but can be built vertically or with shapes that adapt to the available wall surface. As each pixel emits its own light, the contrast is comparable to that of an OLED television. Samsung hopes to sell a model from its Micro LED range, dubbed The Wall, which until now was only available in South Korea this year. With a size of 110 inches and 4K resolution, this screen will cost approximately 128,000 euros to change. The company expects to launch 99 and 88-inch models this year as well, but again, we are talking about very high prices.