For the past few years, OLED panels from LG have been dominating the high end of the TV market, with very few competitors managing to challenge LG’s performance. The deep blacks, high contrast levels, and incredibly wide viewing angles have set the standard for the industry.
Today, we have several competing technologies that give OLED a run for its money. One of those is Mini LED, a new technology found in panels from most major manufacturers, including Samsung, LG, TCL, and more.
As you’re about to see in our Mini LED vs OLED comparison, the two technologies are pretty close, but OLED still has the edge.
Mini LED vs OLED: An introduction
Mini LED is an improvement on the current LCD technology. Panels labeled as Mini LED still have an LED backlight, but each individual LED diode is significantly smaller, allowing for more diodes on a single panel.
Compared to traditional LED TVs, Mini LED provides better color accuracy, higher contrast levels, deeper blacks, and various other benefits.
Mini LED pros
- High brightness levels
- Deeper blacks compared to traditional LCD TVs
- Slightly less expensive than OLED
- Available in various sizes, from several manufacturers
Mini LED cons
- Narrow viewing angles compared to OLED
- Still not close to OLED when it comes to color precision
OLED is a panel technology patented by LG Display that uses an innovative approach to deliver a highly accurate, nuanced image. OLED TVs don’t have a backlight – instead, each individual pixel emits its own light. In other words, OLED panels essentially have millions of mini individually controlled diodes (pixels), which allows for incredible control and contrast levels.
Currently, OLED panels are only produced by LG, but the company sells them to brands like Sony, Vizio, Philips, and others.
- An unmatched black range
- Incredible color accuracy
- Wider viewing angles
- Lighter, more flexible
- Lower brightness levels, especially in daylight conditions
- Susceptible to burn-in
Mini LED Technology: What is it?
Mini LED isn’t an entirely new concept – the panel design is similar to regular LCD TVs, with an important twist. By introducing thousands of mini LED diodes, Mini LED panels are trying to do what OLED does, which is to achieve control when it comes to color accuracy and black levels.
Unlike OLED, though, Mini LED can be found in both LG’s and Samsung’s product offering: Samsung calls it Neo QLED, while LG calls it QNED Mini LED.
How does Mini LED work?
Mini LED panels use an LED backlight, not unlike those found in regular LCD TVs. The big difference in performance comes from the refined diodes and increased control.
The “Mini” in “Mini LED” refers to the size of the diodes. Fitting smaller, individually controlled diodes on the panel helps improve color accuracy, contrast, and blacks.
For example, a solid QLED TV will have around 1,000 LEDs with around 300 dimming zones. Modern Mini LED TVs can have up to 2,000 individual dimming zones, greatly improving performance across the board.
However, since Mini LED TVs still have a backlight, some light bleeding is inevitable – this is one area where OLED will outperform LCD TVs by design.
Advantages of Mini LED over other technologies
Compared to regular LCDs, Mini LED has various advantages, most of which we have already covered. More diodes translate to more precision and control, resulting in better color accuracy, more pronounced blacks, and a higher contrast ratio.
When faced against OLED, Mini LED delivers higher brightness levels and better performance in daylight conditions due to its powerful backlight. Content will often look more vibrant and dynamic on a Mini LED TV compared to an OLED, although this is not as prominent in dark rooms.
Disadvantages of Mini LED compared to other technologies
The presence of a backlight has some significant, familiar downsides.
There will always be some light bleeding present in an LCD TV, even in the most expensive Mini LEDs. For example, when you’re watching a credit sequence on an LCD TV, you’ll notice the white letters are glowing and turning the surrounding black screen into a light grey. The same happens when a light object is in a dark scene in a movie (a car driving through the night).
The LED backlight also doesn’t help with viewing angles and color accuracy.
OLED Technology: What is it?
OLED is an innovative panel technology from LG Display – it’s the highest standard on the market at the moment and an entirely reinventive approach.
It stands for Organic Light-Emitting Diode, which refers to the millions of pixels incorporated into every display, each emitting its own light. These individually controlled pixels act like tiny LED diodes that can emit different colors independently of each other, leading to increased color precision and deeper blacks.
How does OLED work?
OLED doesn’t have a backlight – instead, each pixel can be turned on and off individually. This means that you can have two pixels next to each other, one shining brightly and the other completely turned off.
In terms of performance, this translates to excellent color accuracy, wide viewing angles, and zero light bleeding.
As mentioned, the “O” in “OLED” stands for “Organic,” meaning that these pixels are organic matter. Just like all organic matter, they decay over time – so it’s expected that an OLED TV will suffer reduced performance after a long period (over a decade, according to LG).
Advantages of OLED over other technologies
In a lot of ways, OLED is revolutionary. It solved a lot of problems that regular LED panels have been troubled with for years.
Because it doesn’t have a backlight, OLED offers an unmatched black range and color separation. In a dark room (say, for movie nights), OLED is by far the most impressive panel technology available. We all remember the incredibly dark Game of Thrones episode and the backlash it received for being barely watchable, right? In a dimmed room on an OLED TV, this would likely be an amazing viewing experience.
OLED also excels with wide viewing angles and more efficient power consumption (again, no backlight).
Disadvantages of OLED compared to other technologies
The lack of a backlight hurts OLED in some other areas.
Most notably, many OLED models lack the brightness that most LCD TVs have. This can be an issue in bright daylight conditions. Low brightness can also seemingly take away a lot of the color vibrancy and contrast, disguising a lot of the impressive visuals that OLED offers.
OLED TVs are also susceptible to burn-in: visible marks that get etched into your display and stay there, regardless of what you’re watching. This is sometimes the case with TV station logos or other objects that stay in the same spot on the screen for a long time.
Mini LED vs OLED: Which is better?
|Brand(s)||Samsung, LG, TCL, Hisense, Vizio||LG, Sony, Vizio, Philips, Hisense|
|Market segment||High-end to premium||Premium|
|Technology used||An LED backlight with smaller diodes and more dimming zones||Millions of individually-lit pixels, no backlight|
|Contrast ratio||Above 1,000,000:1||Technically infinite|
|Brightness levels||Very high||Improved with newer models, but still an issue|
|Black levels||Deep, more nuanced black range||Unmatched black range|
|Viewing angle||Generally wider than standard LCD TVs||Incredibly wide|
|Perfect viewing conditions||Any, but better in daylight conditions||Dark, dimmed rooms|
|Product variety||Available from various brands, including both Samsung and LG||Produced by LG but distributed by other brands as well|
Now, let’s briefly go through each of the most significant categories and get deeper into our Mini LED vs OLED comparison.
Obviously, Mini LED is at a big advantage here, offering higher brightness levels across the board. However, higher brightness doesn’t necessarily translate to more impressive performance, other than in broad daylight conditions.
Both LG and Sony – the biggest OLED names right now – promise to reduce the gap and offer more brightness with their newer models. Whether they deliver remains to be seen, so, for now, Mini LED is the clear winner in this category.
Speed and response
Most people look at latency or lag as the key metric when it comes to response. If you’re a gamer, you’re likely familiar with lag: it refers to the delay between the output of data from a device (like a console) and an image on the screen.
LCD panels are typically faster than OLED, and most gaming monitors are LCDs.
However, OLED has a much superior response time since updating the image on a Mini LED panel is a longer process.
Overall, the response rate and speed of Mini LED and OLED TVs are pretty close, and you’ll likely have to compare them by model.
OLED used to dominate this category, but the advances in Micro LED technology have made up a lot of ground.
OLED still offers an unmatched contrast ratio which performs incredibly well in dimmed rooms. However, the lack of brightness hurts OLED when it comes to vibrancy and color saturation, especially in well-lit environments.
On the other hand, high-end Mini LED TVs can offer extreme brightness levels that produce well-saturated colors – something that’s still impossible from OLED.
It’s a draw in this category until either Mini LED or OLED makes a big move.
This is one category where we have a clear winner: in OLED panels, the pixels generate the light themselves, which results in perfect viewing angles regardless of the model. So the people sitting on the sides will have a very similar experience to those sitting in front of an OLED TV.
Although Mini LED is an impressive new technology, it has some of the same built-in limitations as regular LCD TVs, including color issues when viewing the screen off-axis.
Lifespan and reliability
Mini LED and OLED are both premium technologies that can be considered tried, tested, and reliable.
However, we give the edge to Mini LED in this category for one simple reason: the underlying technology behind these panels has been present for a long time. Fitting more diodes on the panel results in a great performance, but the entire process is essentially the same as regular LCDs.
OLED introduced a completely new panel technology and, with it, a new set of problems. One of those problems we already mentioned – burn-in is specific to OLED panels and, although it rarely occurs, it’s something most OLED users dread.
OLED TVs also have a predefined shelf life due to their organic pixels. You can start seeing some issues after around five years with heavy use.
Future technology advances for Mini LED
Mini LED is a relatively young technology, and we can still expect a lot of developments to address some of its shortcomings.
The sheer amount of diodes placed on the backlight of a Mini LED TV allows for deep blacks and local dimming we’re not used to seeing from an LCD. We should expect more progress in this area, as well as widening the gap when it comes to brightness.
Mini LED TVs are still a lot thicker than OLED, which is another thing we might see addressed, although the technology itself will limit the progress here. An LED backlight simply requires more room.
Future technology advances for OLED
OLED will definitely be addressing the brightness issue.
Apple is already adopting Mini LED displays whose brightness can reach 1,600 nits, while specific Samsung Neo QLED models can go up to 2,000. Compare this to the Sony A90J OLED that barely reached 1,300 nits (and only sustained it for seconds), and the discrepancy is clear.
The price discrepancy is still present: OLED TVs are more expensive than most of their competitors when adjusted for size and features. Bringing the production costs down might be a priority for OLED manufacturers, as the progress in the Mini LED space will only further jeopardize OLED’s current market share.
Looking across the entire range of OLED and Mini LED TVs, it’s clear that Mini LED has a significant price advantage.
Entry-level Mini LED models like the TCL 55” 6-Series TCL start from around $900. Even some impressive Neo QLED models from Samsung can be found at around $1,500.
On the other hand, finding a good OLED TV under $1,500 is not easy. You’ll likely have to spend slightly above $1,500 to get a solid OLED TV like the 65’’ LG C1.
Mini LED vs OLED: The conclusion
OLED has set the standard for modern high-end TVs, but the industry rose to the occasion and started shipping products that come pretty close to what OLED does with its self-emitting pixels.
Everything that Mini LED can do is enough to impress: the color vibrancy, brightness, and black levels are at the top of the current industry. The viewing angles and increased power consumption are only significant concerns.
OLED is still the better choice if you consider yourself a tech nerd or a cinephile. Its performance in dark environments and amazing viewing angles are still unmatched, and that’s unlikely to change for the foreseeable future.
However, with the latest advances in Mini LED technology (and new models yet to hit the market), it’s debatable whether OLED’s performance boost will justify a significant additional cost.