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Report: Future Apple PCs to Use ‘Quasi’ Mini-LED Backlights

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According to DigiTimes’ sources, Apple will adopt “quasi” mini-LED backlight technology for displays in future iMacs, MacBooks and iPads. Mini-LED backlighting technology is thought to bring wider color gamut and higher contrast ratio than regular LED backlights, as well as support high dynamic range (HDR) and local backlight dimming.

Apple Adopting Mini-LED Backlights

According to today's report, which cited  Kuo Ming-chi, an analyst at TF International Securities, the new 31.6-inch iMac that will come out in Q2 or Q3 of this year with a a backlight unit comprised of 500 LED chips, each 600 microns in size. Japan-based Nichia will reportedly provide Apple with the chips.  

However, according to unnamed "industry sources," these aren’t mini-LEDs exactly because the chip size they're using is much larger than that of the standard mini-LEDs. However, with Apple buying so many of these chips, mini-LED vendors will have an opportunity to improve the cost and yield of the standard mini-LEDs more quickly. 

The report also said Apple also intends to release a 10-12-inch iPad using up to 10,000 mini-LED chips from Epistar by Q1 2021. LG will reportedly make the iPad’s display, while Radiant Opto-Electronics will make the backlight unit. 

A 15-17-inch Macbook Pro using the mini-LED-like backlight unit was also planned for this year, but may not arrive until the first half of 2021 now.

Mini-LED, Yet Another Upgrade to Good Ol' LCD

The standard LCD display has kept evolving over the years, and mini-LEDs offer yet another upgrade path by making them a little more like OLED displays. OLED displays use one LED per pixel, which gives some important advantages, such as being able to completely turn off a black pixel instead of lowering the light behind it. This makes OLED displays both more efficient and more color accurate.

Mini-LED backlighting allows LCDs to have many more LEDs than usual behind the whole display, which means more efficient backlighting, more accurate blacks and better contrast overall. Mini-LED displays still fall behind OLED ones in these metrics but may have other advantages, such as a lack of burn-in. They are also expected to arrive earlier in the mainstream market than micro-LED (even smaller than mini-LED), which could have comparable performance to OLED. 

Mini-LEDs are not very common in today's PC displays, so if Apple is indeed planning this, it should garner some attention. During the CES 2019 tech show in Las Vegas this January, Asus showed off a mini-LED display of its own, the ProArt PA32UCX. However, that display will target creative professionals, while the reported mini-LED Apple line will seemingly span a larger market.