TV display technology has come a long way since the days of Cathode Ray Tubes. While that technology lasted a long while, it has now become a distant memory. Flat screen display technologies have taken over the world and thank god for them. It seems hard to imagine a life with TVs that used to be almost as thick as they were wide. Today’s LED TVs provide great picture quality along with fantastic sound. As a bonus, the technology is always evolving and improving to make itself even better. Today, we take a look at what Micro LED display technology is and how it will affect you in the future
The last major evolution in the world of TV displays was the invention of OLED displays. OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode. These displays while sounding similar to LED displays are a completely different class of displays. While LED TVs are transmissive in nature, OLED displays are what are called an emissive display technology. Don’t worry if that doesnt make sense at first glance.
What is means is that LED TVs rely on LEDs to act as a source of light. This light is then transformed using various filters and screens into the final image that you see on your screen. Now, since individual LEDs are much larger than the size of an individual pixel on-screen, the image you see on screen is not precisely the image that was meant to be produced. Another drawback of LED TVs is that since they are a transmissive technology, none of the individual LEDs can be turned off and no part of the screen can be made completely dark. This makes it impossible to have a perfect black pixel on screen. This can be troublesome for images which are intended to be completely dark – the shot of a night sky perhaps.
OLED TVs on the other hand are an emissive technology. This implies that the light produced by the OLEDs directly creates the final picture that you see on the screen. OLEDs are much smaller than LEDs so you can have a much more precise rendering of the final image on-screen. Also, since each LED in the display contributes directly into making the final picture on-screen, any of the individual OLEDs can be turned off when required. Due to this property, an OLED screen can achieve perfect blacks on screen. Since contrast ratio is measured as the ratio of light and dark on screen, an OLED TV has a contrast ratio of infinity.
With their superior picture quality, OLEDs have been gradually gaining market share at the expense of LED TVs. But LED TV manufacturers have been quietly innovating on the core LED TV technoloy for a while now. The result is Micro LED TVs which are raising quite a storm among consumers and critics alike.
What is Micro LED TV and how is different from LED TVs?
So what exactly is a Micro LED? As the name suggests, a Micro LED display is made up of extremely tiny individual LEDs. So how is this different from conventional LEDs? For starters, micro LEDs are an emissive technology, similar to OLEDs. One of the drawbacks of OLED TVs is that their LEDs are made of organic materials. Organic materials start to die off over a period of time, which makes their lifespans limited. Micro LEDs however provide the advantage of being an emissive technology while also having the advantage of being an inorganic material. This bypasses the problems of having any chemicals with a fixed shelf life.
What makes the Micro LED an emissive technology is its size. The initial application of Micro LED was for smaller displays like mobile phones and smart watches, where being small really makes a difference. Currently, OLED screens are dominating these smaller displays. Advancement in robotics technology has enabled the rise of the Micro LED technology. Micro LEDs are literally tiny LEDs which are manufactured individually and then packed into making the larger display panel. Due to the size of these LEDs, precise robotics is the only way how the displays can be assembled reliably.
The challenge with having millions of tiny LEDs that are manufactured individually is that each one needs to be calibrated to deliver the same level of brightness and have the same color calibrations as well. Of course, this is not to mention the challenge of developing robotics precise enough to assmeble the individual LEDs themselves.
Is Micro LED better than OLED?
The first thing to keep in mind when comparing OLED display technology with Micro LED is that Micro LED is probably 5 years away from being commercially viable. That is manufacturers like Samsung need to figure out the manufacturing process for Micro LEDs to make them cost effective to produce and to be able to compete with OLED displays. That being said, in their current form Micro LEDs have their distinct advantages (and disadvantages) over OLED when it comes to purely comparing the technology.
Among the advantages, as we have mentioned already Micro LEDs can have a longer lifespan as compared to OLED displays since they are not composed of organic compunds which decay over time. The second advantage that Micro LEDs have is that they are exceedingly power efficient. You might have noticed that the super bright AMOLED display on your mobile phone eats up a lot of battery even as it looks fantastic. Well Micro LEDs are slightly different. They manage to convert a large part of their light into the final display image leading to lesser transmission loss which consequently leads to better battery life.
While OLED displays are thinner than LED TVs, Micro LEDs promise to be even thinner than OLEDs. This will enable a large variety of products to be designed. Think Folding phones and rolled up display monitors coming your way in the future.
With all of these advantages under its belt, Micro LED promises to be a formidable competitor to OLED displays, as long as they can get their manufacturing processes in place.
Which companies manufacture Micro LED TVs?
Apple and Samsung are the two big names which have shown an interest in Micro LED technology. In 2014, Apple purchased a company called LuxVue which was widely regarded as a leader in Micro LED technology. Today, it is reported that Apple is working furiously towards adapting the Micro LED screen to their devices. While there has been no official announcement, industry analysts believe that it will be a few years before we see an iPhone with a Micro LED screen.
Meanwhile, Samsung has been publicly trumpeting the virtues of Micro LED technology. They have created a buzz with the display of The Wall, their current concept rendering of a Micro LED TV. The Wall is a modular Micro LED TV display that is composed of individual smaller blocks of Micro LED display panels.
This technology can be used to produce massive screens which can be used for digital signage as well as massive home TVs. The cost of The Wall is still prohibitively expensive. Still, this effort is the first commercial application of Micro LED technology and shows what can be achieved with this new exciting technology.
When will Micro LED TVs be available?
As per insiders and industry, it could be up to 5 years before you can get your hands on an affordable Micro LED TV for your home.