One of the major trends in computing over the past decade has been a dramatic improvement in monitors and overall display technology. While companies continue to push resolution, especially in TVs, there’s been far more attention paid to other aspects of image quality. Apple is reportedly working on a number of devices with mini-LED displays. This rumor comes from the usual source of Ming-Chi Kuo, along with statements that Apple doesn’t expect its mini-LED commercialization to be impacted by Covid-19 (coronavirus).
The product research and development for mini LED remain unaffected by the COVID-19. The visibility for commercialization has even exceeded the expectations in our previous report.
The trend for Apple’s development and promotion of mini LED are more identifiable in five years. We predict that Apple is currently developing six mini-LED-support products (vs. the previous report of only two products), including a 12.9-inch iPad Pro, a 27-inch iMac Pro in 4Q20, a 14.1-inch MacBook Pro (upgraded from 13.3-inch), a 16-inch MacBook Pro, a 10.2-inch iPad, and a 7.9-inch iPad mini in 2020.
So what’s the advantage of mini-LED? First of all, we need to distinguish between mini-LED and microLED. Mini-LEDs are miniaturized versions of conventional LEDs. A TV with dozens to hundreds of standard LEDs might be equipped with thousands of mini-LEDs instead. This allows for far better control over local dimming and improves contrast overall. Mini-LED TVs are said to rival OLEDs for color quality with superior longevity and a lower manufacturing cost. They’re also easier to build.
It would make sense for Apple to be chasing better panel quality. Ever since it debuted “Retina” displays on the iPhone 4, Apple has cultivated a reputation for high-quality displays. This isn’t to say that the opinion is universal — millions of people prefer the look of Samsung’s OLED calibration compared with Apple LCDs or OLEDs — but image quality is a place where Apple has a reputation.
As for microLEDs, they’re an entirely different animal. If a mini-LED is basically a smaller LED, a microLED is a microscopic LED. Like OLEDs, they emit light directly and offer an infinite contrast ratio. MicroLEDs don’t suffer from screen burn-in, they can display brighter whites than OLED, and they’re more power-efficient. Given all of these advantages, you’re probably anticipating the next bit: They’re also quite hard to manufacture. MicroLEDs are an area of active research for a number of companies but we haven’t seen much in the way of commercialized products yet. Don’t look for them as a near-term alternative to technology already on the market.
These new systems might give Apple a way to refresh its laptop line with new hardware without acknowledging its own keyboard issues. Deploying new laptops with gorgeous panels by the end of 2020 would give the press something else to talk about. Rumors of a refresh for the iMac Pro are also interesting, since we haven’t seen that system bumped since 2017. AMD’s Navi 2.0 should be in-market by then, along with Tiger Lake CPUs from Intel and the Ryzen Mobile 4000 family, plus whatever new improvements AMD introduces with Zen 3.
I’ll be curious to see what kind of display improvements Apple introduces, since the market generally follows the Cupertino company. I may not be interested in paying Apple prices, but I definitely value improved visual fidelity.
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