Mini LED: What it Means for Apple and MacBooks and iPads

by

Apple is planning to introduce mini-LED displays across much of its product lineup, adding the technology to the Mac notebooks and iPads. Mini-LED displays will bring some useful technology improvements to Apple's products, as outlined in our guide below.

13inchmacbookpro20203

What is Mini-LED?

LCD panels used by Apple use LEDs, or light-emitting diodes inside for backlighting purposes to light up the display. Mini-LEDs, as the name suggests, are smaller diodes that are less than 0.2mm.

A device like a TV features an LCD panel with LEDs for backlighting, with the panel used to control where light is displayed on the screen. Depending on what's on the display, the LEDs are lit up fully or dimmed down for dark scenes. Apple's MacBook models currently use a strip of LEDs at the bottom, while the new Pro Display XDR uses multiple LEDs, 576 to be exact. A mini-LED display will be somewhat similar to the Pro Display XDR, but with more LEDs.

Compared to a traditional LCD that uses multiple LEDs, a panel light with mini-LEDs uses many more LEDs, which means there are more total dimming zones to work with. A traditional display might use hundreds of LEDs, but a mini-LED display could have more than a thousand. Apple, in fact, is said to be exploring mini-LED displays that use 10,000 LEDs, each one below 200 microns.

Mini-LED Improvements

Because there are more LEDs and more dimming zones, mini-LED displays can offer deeper, darker blacks, brighter brights, richer colors, and better contrast because there's more control over what's displayed on the screen with so many LEDs.

Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has also said that Apple's transition to mini-LED will allow for thinner and lighter product designs that offer a lot of the same benefits as OLED. Mini-LEDs are close to the deep blacks and better HDR provided by OLED, but without the burn-in or degradation issues.

LED-backlit LCDs are much more power efficient than the cold cathode fluorescent lighting used for LCD panels in the past, and mini-LED LCDs will have additional power efficiency gains.

Mini-LED vs. Micro-LED vs. OLED

Though the names are similar, there are notable differences between micro-LED and mini-LED displays. Mini-LED is the same as LED backlighting that's used today but with many more LEDs for more dimming zones, while micro-LED is similar to OLED with self-emissive pixels that can each be independently lit.

Apple is working on micro-LED technology as well, but mini-LED will come first in iPads and Macs because micro-LED technology is so expensive right now.

OLED stands for organic light-emitting diode, and in an OLED display, every pixel or subpixel lights up individually in a specific color or switches as power is applied or turned off, allowing for the deepest blacks and the best contrast. micro-LED is similar, but it is made from an inorganic material that does not decay as fast as OLED.

OLED is superior to mini-LED technology because it produces more even lighting with no pixel groups involved, but micro-LED is believed to be superior to OLED because it can offer higher levels of brightness and there are no issues that can lead to screen burn in or drops in brightness over time.

Apple uses OLED displays in its iPhones, but OLED is also a technology that has so far proven to be too expensive to be used for the larger displays of Macs and iPads. Apple may be planning to skip OLED all together in its Macs and iPads, going from mini-LED technology to micro-LED eventually.

Micro-LED is the future technology to look forward to, but mini-LED is the technology that Apple is ready to debut in the near future.

Products Expected to Get Mini-LED Displays

Apple is working on multiple iPads and MacBooks that use mini-LED technology, according to Apple analyst ‌Ming-Chi Kuo‌. Here's where we can expect to see mini-LED technology deployed in the next year or two:

Based on rumors, it sounds like Apple's ultimate plan is to transition much of its iPad and Mac lineup to mini-LED display technology. The MacBook Pro lineup, the iPad Pro, and the iMac Pro could be some of the first products to get mini-LED displays.

When to Expect Mini-LED Technology

The first mini-LED products were expected at the end of 2020, but with the global health crisis, Apple's plans are up in the air. Kuo recently said that we may not see any mini-LED devices until 2021, with mass production to kick off in the third quarter of 2020 and final assembly to take place in the first quarter of 2021.

There have been other rumors from DigiTimes that still suggest a 2020 release for some mini-LED products, so we'll just have to wait and see how the rumors pan out in the coming months. Right now, we're looking at either late 2020 or early 2021 for the first mini-LED devices.

Guide Feedback

Have a question about Apple's transition to mini-LED, know of something we left out, or want to offer feedback? Send us an email here.

Related Articles

16 inch MBP Mini Led

Mini-LED M1 MacBook Pro and Mini-LED iPad Pro Models Coming First Half of 2021

Monday November 30, 2020 2:24 am PST by
Apple is widely reported to be embracing mini-LED display backlighting technology for some products next year, and a new report today by DigiTimes has named several of Apple's partners in the supply chain that are expected to benefit from the switch. According to the report, Apple is set to launch its first mini-LED iPad Pro in the first quarter of 2021 and mass produce mini-LED MacBook Pro...
iPad Pro Mini LED Article

Kuo: Mini-LED iPad and AirPods 3 Coming First Half of 2021

Friday November 13, 2020 3:49 am PST by
Apple intends to launch an iPad with a mini-LED display and AirPods 3 with a design signature similar to AirPods Pro in the first half of next year, according to TFI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a research note to investors, seen by MacRumors, Kuo's latest predictions relate to the fortunes of Taiwanese manufacturer Career Technology, which is expected to be a key partner in the...
iPad Pro Mini LED

iPad Pro With Mini-LED Display Expected to Launch in First Quarter of 2021

Wednesday November 4, 2020 6:48 am PST by
Korea's ETNews today reports that LG will supply Apple with Mini-LED displays for new iPad models set to launch in the first quarter of 2021. The report, highlighted by Patently Apple, claims that LG will likely begin mass production of the displays at the end of this year. Mini-LED backlighting provides many of the same benefits as OLED displays, including higher brightness, improved...
iPad Pro Mini LED Article

DigiTimes: 12.9-inch Mini-LED iPad Pro Arriving Early 2021, Mini-LED MacBook Coming Later

Tuesday September 29, 2020 5:18 am PDT by
Apple will launch a 12.9-inch mini LED-backlit iPad Pro in early 2021 and a mini LED-backlit MacBook in the second-half of next year, according to DigiTimes. The Taiwan-based industry publication claims Epistar will supply the over-10,000 mini LEDs used in each iPad Pro tablet. Meanwhile, Apple is expected to recruit Osram Opto as another supplier of mini LEDs for use in a new "high-end"...
iPad Pro Mini LED Article

Kuo: Mini-LED Displays to Debut in Apple's Next iPad Pro

Wednesday September 23, 2020 12:45 am PDT by
Following his report earlier this week indicating that Apple will be accelerating adoption of mini-LED displays in its iPad and Mac notebook lineups thanks to better than expected development from potential secondary supplier Sanan Optoelectronics, analyst Ming-Chi has released a new report today sharing a bit more perspective on the mini-LED display market as it relates to Apple. Kuo says...
16 inch MBP Mini Led

Kuo: Apple to Accelerate Adoption of Mini-LED Displays in iPad and Mac Notebook Lineups

Sunday September 20, 2020 11:00 pm PDT by
Increased competition among Apple's suppliers for mini-LED display chips will accelerate the company's adoption of the advanced technology in its iPad and MacBook lineups, according to a new research note from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo seen by MacRumors. Kuo says that while Epistar had been predicted to be the exclusive supplier of mini-LED chips for Apple products in 2021, Sanan Optoelectronics...
macbook pro 13 inch

14-Inch MacBook Pro With Mini-LED Display Expected to Enter Production in 2021

Wednesday July 8, 2020 8:51 am PDT by
Apple suppliers will begin competing to win manufacturing orders for new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with Mini-LED displays in the first quarter of 2021, according to Taiwanese research firm TrendForce. Rumors of a 14-inch MacBook Pro have surfaced since Apple replaced the 15-inch MacBook Pro with a new 16-inch model last year. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has previously said that...
ipad pro 2020 display

iPad Pro With Mini-LED Display Reportedly in Trial Production, Late 2020 Launch Possible But 2021 More Likely

Monday June 22, 2020 7:22 am PDT by
Apple's rumored 12.9-inch iPad Pro with a Mini-LED display has entered trial production, according to Korean website The Elec. The report claims that LG will supply the Mini-LED panels for the device, while Foxconn will be tasked with final assembly. Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has previously said that Mini-LED technology will allow for thinner and lighter product designs, while offering many ...
iPad Pro 5G and Mini LED feature

iPad Pro With A14X Chip, 5G, and Mini-LED Display Expected in First Half of 2021

Wednesday June 3, 2020 7:22 am PDT by
Apple plans to launch new iPad Pro models with an A14X chip, 5G connectivity, and a Mini-LED display in the first or second quarter of 2021, according to the increasingly reliable Twitter account L0vetodream. The leaker claims that the new iPad Pro models will be equipped with Qualcomm's Snapdragon X55 modem, which supports both mmWave and sub-6GHz. mmWave is a set of 5G frequencies that...
microled

Report: Apple Investing $330 Million in Taiwanese Factory Where MicroLED Display Development Will Be 'Top Priority'

Monday June 1, 2020 2:39 am PDT by
Apple is reportedly weighing up a $330 million investment in a Taiwanese factory to manufacture both LED and MicroLED displays for future iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, and other devices. According to Taiwan Sourcing Service Provider (CENS), Apple is teaming up on the new factory with LED producer Epistar and LCD panel maker AU Optronics. Apple is teaming up on the new factory with Epistar,...
16 inch macbook pro apple

16-Inch MacBook Pro, iPad Pro, and iMac Pro With Mini-LED Displays Again Rumored to Launch in 2021

Tuesday May 26, 2020 6:30 am PDT by
Apple plans to release several higher-end devices with Mini-LED displays in 2021, including a new 12.9-inch iPad Pro in the first quarter, a new 16-inch MacBook Pro in the second quarter, and a new 27-inch iMac in the second half of the year, according to Jeff Pu, an analyst at Chinese research firm GF Securities. This timeframe lines up with one shared by analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who recently...
mac ipad pro side by side

Apple Reportedly Investing Over $300M in New Taiwanese Factory to Produce Mini-LED and Micro-LED Displays

Monday May 11, 2020 6:33 am PDT by
Apple plans to invest around NT$10 billion (US$334 million) towards the opening of a new factory at the Hsinchu Science Park in Taiwan, according to a Chinese report in the Economic Daily News. English coverage is available at Focus Taiwan. The report claims that Apple will use the factory to produce Mini-LED and Micro-LED displays for future devices, in partnership with Taiwan-based...
14 16 inch MBP Comparison

Kuo: Apple's Mini-LED Product Roadmap May Have Been Pushed Back to 2021

Thursday May 7, 2020 4:36 am PDT by
Apple's development of mini-LED display based hardware has not been significantly affected by the global health crisis but it may have delayed adoption of the technology in the short-term, according to Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a research note with TF International Securities today, seen by MacRumors, Kuo said mini-LED chip, panel, assembly, and terminal assembly are expected to begin...
mac ipad pro side by side

DigiTimes: Apple to Launch 12.9-Inch iPad Pro and MacBooks With Mini-LED Displays by End of 2020

Thursday March 5, 2020 5:46 am PST by
Apple plans to launch a 12.9-inch iPad Pro and multiple notebook models with Mini-LED backlit displays by the end of 2020, according to industry sources cited by Taiwanese publication DigiTimes. This lines up with information shared earlier this week by analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who said Apple is developing six products with Mini-LED displays for release by the end of 2021, including new...
16inchmacbookpromain

Supply Chain Reports Back Rumors of MacBook Pro and iPad Pro With Mini-LED Displays in 2020

Tuesday December 3, 2019 12:29 pm PST by
Yesterday, in a research note shared with MacRumors, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said that Apple is planning four to six products with mini-LED displays over the next two to three years, including a 12.9-inch iPad Pro with an A14X chip in the third quarter of 2020 and a refreshed 16-inch MacBook Pro in the fourth quarter of 2020. Kuo said LG Display and Taiwanese manufacturer GIS will be the most...
ipad pro and macbook pro

Apple Supplier Epistar Says Clients Are Working on Mini-LED Products Amid Rumors of Mini-LED iPad and MacBook

Thursday October 3, 2019 7:19 am PDT by
Epistar president Chin-Yung Fan said his company's clients are developing notebooks, tablets, smartphones, and monitors with Mini-LED backlighting systems, which will naturally boost demand for Mini-LEDs in the second half of 2020, according to Taiwanese industry publication DigiTimes. Epistar is an Apple supplier, leading to the possibility that the iPhone maker is one of the unnamed clients...
iphone x display

Apple Recently Visited With Taiwanese Makers of Thinner and Brighter MicroLED and MiniLED Displays

Thursday August 30, 2018 7:13 am PDT by
Apple representatives attended the Touch Taiwan display industry convention in Taipei this week, holding private meetings with Taiwanese display makers AU Optronics and Epistar, according to the Economic Daily News. The report claims Apple held the meetings to learn more about each company's development of next-generation display technologies MicroLED and MiniLED, suitable for future...