According to TrendForce (WitsView)’s latest report New Display Technology Cost Analysis, some manufacturers have focused on the development of Mini LED, expecting it to become a transitional product before Micro LED is ready for mass production. The architecture of Mini LED is similar to that of current LED backlight in LCD displays, so no major change in the design is needed. However, Mini LED is bound to face the direct competition from OLED in the sector of consumer electronics such as smartphones and TV. For the short term, large-size TV and high-end IT products will be the segments where Mini LED has the chance to compete with OLED.
Comparable to OLED in color saturation and cost
In TV market, OLED color patterning technique is not mature yet, while the material utilization rate of current evaporation process is only 20 to 30%. In fact, if evaporation is used to make full-color TV, the problems will be low yield rate and material utilization rate. Therefore, WOLED is the main technique used currently, which consists of yellow/green and blue light-emitting units to emit white light, then color filters are used to present full color. This architecture still has advantages in contrast and thickness, however, Mini LED with QD film backlight may achieve the same level of color saturation as WOLED does.
Taking 65-inch UHD OLED TV panel as an example, the production cost is probably between 950 and 1,000 US dollars. As for a 65-inch UHD with Mini LED backlight, which uses 30,000 to 40,000 LEDs, the production cost is between 900 to 1,000 US dollars. Since power consumption is not a priority issue for television, and the cost of Mini LED is actually similar with that of OLED, Mini LED does have an opportunity in the market. Recently, first-tier makers such as Samsung Electronics and LGE have demonstrated related products or announced that they plan to launch large-size Mini LED TVs and commercial display.
Mini LED may target at high-end IT products if costs are not a priority for vendors
WitsView notes that, when the costs are not a priority for vendors, Mini LED has higher chance to be adopted. Current devices using Mini LED include the 10.1-inch automotive display released by Innolux at the CES 2018, the 27-inch LCD gaming monitor, 15.6-inch notebook and 2-inch VR devices launched by AUO recently, etc. It can be seen that the Mini LED technology has more opportunities in niche markets, where the prices for products are high.
Inevitably, IT products are used for word processing from time to time, so the problem of burn-in caused by long-lasting static images remains an issue for OLED. In 2016, adoption in smartphone is priority for Samsung's OLED panel production capacity, which makes Samsung lose the opportunity to enter IT market. In recent years, with the increasing size and revenue of gaming market, IT product vendors are eager to launch gaming products with high-margin and high added value. In addition, HDR standards have been applied to PC monitors recently, and local dimming of Mini LED has fully demonstrated HDR. Therefore, high-end IT products will be one of the several segments where Mini LED has the chance to compete with OLED from the same starting point.