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Thursday, 16 December 2021

What is MicroLED? The TV technology to take on OLED explained

Samsung introduced its MicroLED modular TV technology during CES in 2018. Since then, it has released a number of different TV sizes using the tech, but they been extraordinarily expensive and out of reach for most - indeed, the initial implementations haven't been aimed at consumers.

Still, MicroLED is being proclaimed a direct rival to OLED and, hopefully, the price will come down to a more sensible consumer level in the future to make it a truly viable alternative.

So just what is the technology being championed by Samsung all about and why are AV purists getting excited about it? Let us explain all.

What is MicroLED?

As the name implies, MicroLED displays comprise several microscopic LEDs, which self-illuminate per display pixel - just like an OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) panel does, only Micro LED uses inorganic material. This brings the benefit of ultra-low black levels, again just like OLED, but with higher peak brightness.

"But I already have an LED set," we hear you say. You probably do. But it's actually an LCD panel with LED-based back or edge illumination. MicroLED doesn't require this separate backlighting, which means darker blacks and brighter whites are possible, while negating the light bleed typically associated with current LED-backlit tellies.

There are plenty of manufacturers producing OLED TVs these days, including LG, Panasonic, Philips and Sony, but Samsung has always abstained - even though it makes its own AMOLED panels for mobile devices. With it venturing into MicroLED, however, we don't foresee the Korean company will ever make large-scale OLED panels; it's all about MicroLED from here on out.

How does MicroLED work?

MicroLED has some similarities to OLED. With OLED, each pixel is its own light source, being able to turn on or off as required, providing incredible contrast and no light bleed on surrounding pixels. If an OLED pixel is off, then it is black. It's not just a darker shade of black, it's off and there's no light. MicroLED achieves exactly the same results as it also has self-illuminating pixels.

However, while OLED panels are improving, their peak brightness levels are limited compared to current LED (especially Samsung's QLED panels). Brightness not only determines how good a picture is, but it's a major factor in the effectiveness of HDR (High Dynamic Range) content. MicroLED can illuminate far brighter than OLED, with a contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1. That's up to 30 times brighter than comparable OLED TVs.

This is thanks to the inorganic material used (gallium nitride), which enables the individual RGB LED sources to go brighter - and for longer. If an OLED panel is too bright for too long, its organic material diminishes. That's not as big an issue with inorganic material, which has a longer overall lifespan. 

When can I get a MicroLED TV? 

Samsung unveiled its first MicroLED TV at CES 2018 - the 146-inch "The Wall" 4K TV. This was followed by a commercial launch of The Wall Professional - designed for industrial installations.

Samsung then produced a 75-inch 4K version for home consumers, hitting the sweet spot for many home cinema fans, albeit at considerable cost. It was hoping to announce a new version in late 2020, early 2021 - but those plans have since been put on ice, with no 2022 consumer set expected.

LG also previewed its own 175-inch MicroLED TV at IFA 2018 - but there's no word on whether you'll ever be able to buy it, as that company has seemingly switched its focus almost entirely back to OLED.

What's this modular stuff about?

MicroLED is a modular technology - meaning panels are made up of a series of smaller ones, "knitted together" to make one larger whole. That also means you can have creative customisation, able to install a MicroLED TV to suit the customer requirements, whether that's 21:9, 16:9 or whatever - it's a very flexible solution. That means you can have a MicroLED TV in sizes that are irregular, with Samsung saying that upscaling and processing will make sure the delivery of the images remain sharp.

The reason Samsung originally showed off The Wall at CES was simply to show off what it can do. That set, at 146-inches, was massive. But a year later, in 2019, Samsung showed off a 219-inch version. By 2021 the company was showing off a 1000-inch 8K 120Hz panel - it's quite astounding what's possible.

Is MicroLED it the future?

On the face of it, MicroLED has the potential to take on and outperform OLED. The same black levels but with greater brightness, lower power consumption and longer life-span is all hugely appealing to home cinema enthusiasts.

The problem, we suspect, is manufacturing costs. But, as manufacturer investment goes up, who knows, MicroLED could be a genuine rival to OLED. Better even. It's very impressive indeed - it just needs to be more affordable.

Source : https://www.pocket-lint.com/tv/news/samsung/143311-what-is-microled-the-tv-technology-to-take-on-oled-explained

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