Why Your Next TV May Have Mini LEDs
This new backlight technology may help boost brightness and improve contrast in LCD TVs from Hisense, LG, Samsung, Sony, and TCL
Keeping up with TV tech isn’t always easy. Every year, shoppers are confronted with new terms and features promising impressive improvements, many of which don’t live up to the hype.
But one technology we’re actually excited about—the use of Mini LEDs in backlights—can really make a difference in how some higher-end LCD/LED TVs look and perform.
Televisions with backlights made up of Mini LEDs are said to deliver improved brightness, contrast, and black levels. The technology started appearing two years ago, but you can now find it in TVs from such brands as Hisense, LG, Samsung, Sony, and TCL.
Mini LEDs Improve Local Dimming
Mini LEDs in the backlight take the idea of local dimming much further. By shrinking the size of the LEDs, companies can use more of them packed together into the same area, so these sets can boast thousands of Mini LEDs behind the LCD panel. These are divided into dimmable zones, but because the LEDs are so small, there can be a lot of them—say, a thousand zones, instead of the dozens typically found in even the best LCD sets up until now. And they can be controlled more precisely to help improve contrast and black levels and reduce halos.
And by increasing the dynamic range of the TV—the difference between the brightest whites and deepest blacks—Mini LEDs can also help boost a TV’s HDR (high dynamic range) performance. That means you’ll be able to see all the detail in a darkly shadowed scene.
Combine all of this and Mini LED sets could perform more like OLEDs, while retaining some traditional benefits of LCDs, such as better brightness and a wider choice of brands and screen sizes.
The concept isn’t entirely new. We tested the first Mini LED model, a flagship 8-Series TV from TCL, in 2019. Right now, our current TV ratings include Mini LED TVs from LG (QNED models), Samsung (Neo QLED sets), Sony (X95K model), and TCL (6-series). Hisense will also have Mini LED backlights in its U8H sets this year.
Consumer Reports has been impressed with the Mini LED models we’ve tested, says Claudio Ciacci, who heads TV testing at CR. “We’ve seen Mini LEDs can make an improvement in the local dimming feature, with better control of black levels and dark scenes, and significantly reduced haloing effects,” he says. In fact, the sets we’ve tested have done well in our ratings, with top-notch HDR performance.
Here are a few of the models we’ve tested that include Mini LED backlights: