MicroLED is an emerging next-generation display technology for use in television screens and mobile consumer electronic devices. Samsung first demonstrated a 146-inch prototype called The Wall during the 2018 Consumer Electronic Shows. Apple Inc. announced in February 2018 that it began developing capabilities to produce this display technology for use in its mobile devices such as the Apple Watch. In 2019, Sony began selling microLED video walls.
Pros: Advantages and Applications of MicroLED Display Technology
Several industry analysts and technology enthusiasts believe that microLED would become a next-generation technology that could compete head-on against or totally replace IPS LCD and OLED display technologies.
But what exactly is microLED? For starters, it involves using microscopic light-emitting diodes or LEDs and fitting them into a single pixel. Earlier prototypes have demonstrated three microscopic LEDs per pixel. The fact that display panel uses LEDs means that does not require LED backlighting unlike LCD technologies. LEDs are self-emissive.
Nevertheless, one of the primary selling points and thus, advantages of this technology is that it has the positive characteristics of OLED minus the drawbacks associated with shorter lifespan due to screen burn-in and limited luminosity.
Take note that OLEDs and even QLED displays are self-emissive displays. Light comes directly from the individual organic LEDs unlike LCDs that require LED backlighting for colors produced by individual pixels to become visible. The same is true for microLED.
Individual LEDs in both OLED and microLED display panels can be turned on and off. Both display technologies are capable of producing deep blacks and thus, have a wider contrast ratio than panels based on LCD technology.
Because each pixel can be controlled individually, they can display a completely different color to the one next to it, thereby offering better color control, more accurate image representation, and possibly better refresh rates than LCDs.
MicroLEDs also have key advantages over OLED displays. One is that the degradation rate if each pixel is almost uniform. On the other hand, organic LEDs are prone to degradation due to water exposure and moisture. Blue organic LEDs also have a shorter lifespan than red and green organic LEDs.
The technology has better brightness. OLEDs have an inherent peak brightness of up to 1000 nits. Meanwhile, microLED prototypes have demonstrated general brightness of 4000 nits, and it can peak further to 10000 nits with better engineering.
It is also worth noting that this emerging display technology can support thin and bezel-less display screens with perfect viewing angle similar to OLED. It also supports modularization. These characteristics make it a viable candidate for use both mobile devices and large TVs and outdoor displays.
Cons: Disadvantages and Challenges of MicroLED Display Technology
Manufacturing current presents the primary challenges in mass-producing and commercializing microLEDs. As an example, shrinking LEDs naturally result in a diminished amount of light they can produce. Driving them harder can increase their brightness but doing so means consuming more electricity and dissipating more heat.
Another issue is the need to address the gaps or pitch size between microscopic LEDs and the pixels. It is essential to highlight the fact that circuitry and other components can only get so small. The current conventions in circuit design and engineering do not support fully the production of microLEDs of varied sizes.
Producing microscopic LEDs and associated components in large volumes is also an issue. Manufacturers need to ensure that there is no variation in brightness and that assembling them is in perfect alignment. As an illustration, take note that producing a microLED display with a 4K resolution would require 25 million microscopic LEDs.
It would take several years before the display technology becomes available in the market. Most televisions are still based on IPS LCD technology while premium TVs and mobile devices sport OLED panels. There is also an emerging market for QLED display panels from Samsung.
Summary of the Pros and Cons
The following are the advantages of microLED display technology:
- It is a self-emissive display that does not require backlighting, thus producing a considerably even brightness across the screen.
- Pixels can be turned on and off individually to produce deep blacks and wider contrast ratio similar to OLED display panels.
- Better color control, more accurate image representation, and possibly better refresh rate because each pixel can be controlled individually.
- General brightness is around 4000 nits, but future iterations can produce a brightness of up to 10000 nits through better engineering.
- Has a longer lifespan than OLEDs or in other words, it does not suffer from screen burns due to different degradation rates of pixels.
- It can support thin panels, thin to zero bezels with wide viewing angles, and modularization to make it a universally applicable display tech.
The following are the disadvantages of microLED display technology
- There are manufacturing challenges needed to overcome to commercialize and produce microLEDs for the mass market.
- Costs remain high due to the manufacturing challenges, thus making LCD and OLED technologies more economical.
- There is also a need to resolve the issue related to pitch size and the introduction of new conventions in circuit design and engineering.
- Consistency in producing millions of microscopic LEDs and assembling them in a single display panel should also be addressed.