OLED vs miniLED – two imaging techniques compared

This article will explain the comparison between OLED vs miniLED – two imaging techniques compared in depth so you can understand the concept better.
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At the top of the TV offering, two technologies compete for the crown: OLED and miniLED. We think it is high time to compare the two so that you can make a smart choice when you bring a new TV into your home.

OLED vs miniLED: Technology

OLED and miniLED can both deliver very good images in terms of image quality. But to better understand where the differences come from, it is good to know how the two technologies differ from each other.

OLED is an “emissive” image technology. This means that the OLED screen, and more precisely each pixel, itself gives light. Each pixel can be turned on or off independently of surrounding pixels. When it is off, a pixel is also perfectly black. Read our extensive background article on OLED technology if you want to know more, for example if you want to know why current OLED TVs sometimes use the term WOLED.

MiniLED is not a new screen technology in itself. It is an improvement of the existing LCD TVs. How correct? LCD is a “transmissive” imaging technology. This means that the LCD screen does not emit light itself, but allows the light from an underlying light source (the backlight) to pass through. Long ago, that backlight consisted of tube lamps (the classic LCD TV), and was later replaced by white LEDs (hence the name LED TV). Those LEDs are replaced in miniLED TVs by very small LEDs. This has advantages for local dimming technology and for the design. After all, the tiny LEDs make very thin TVs possible.

If you want to know more, read this background article about miniLED technology . Or read here how LCD technology works exactly.

Finally, don’t confuse miniLED technology with microLED . The latter is really a new imaging technique, but it will be several years before we see it appear in the living room at normal prices.

OLED vs miniLED: Contrast

One of the main differences between the two technologies is the contrast, the ratio between the brightest and darkest value the screen can display. OLED TVs deliver almost perfect contrast. An OLED pixel that is turned off is perfectly black, even if the pixel next to it still glows. This allows intense contrast within the image.

That is different with LCD TVs. An LCD pixel can never perfectly block the light from the backlight and therefore has a much lower contrast (approximately from 3,000:1 for a VA panel to 1,000:1 on an IPS panel). To improve that, one can use global dimming, or even better local dimming. The more zones have a backlight, the better the result. That is important for several things. A small light accent such as a star on a pitch black background is a difficult task for local dimming. If you dim the relevant zone too much, the star will lose its intensity. If you don’t dim that zone enough, the black will turn dark gray. Or another example, a relatively bright large object against a dark background forces one or more zones to be fairly bright, while surrounding zones remain dark. Because of that difference, you may be able to see zone boundaries in the image. The solution is clear: you want as many zones as possible for dimming as closely as possible. Of course you are limited by the number of LEDs in the backlight. And miniLED TVs use so many LEDs that you can provide a lot of zones. Where classic LED TVs were often limited to 100 zones, miniLED TVs can provide 500 to more than 1,000 or even 2,000 zones. That is a big step forward and in some cases brings it close to OLED, although OLED remains the undisputed leader for contrast.

Contrast is important for anything you watch, but maybe just a little more for film and some games than for sports (which is mostly called bright images). The ambient light also plays an important role. If you watch a lot in subdued light or darkening, good black reproduction is very important, since it makes it easier to see the difference between deep black and dark gray. With a lot of ambient light, your eyes are less sensitive to this and the display of deep black is slightly less important.

OLED vs miniLED: Brightness

OLED does deliver perfect contrast, but in terms of brightness it still has to leave the crown to miniLED. OLED screens can provide up to about 600-700 nits on a 10% window. On a completely white image, that falls back to about 140 nits. Some models do better. The LG G1 , Sony A90J , Philips OLED936 and Panasonic JZW2004 use improved panels, achieving 800-900 nits on a 10% window and 160-170 nits on a full white field.

But that is still substantially less than a miniLED TV. The Samsung QN95A , for example, delivers 1500-1600 nits on a 10% window and 750 nits on a full white field.

As with contrast, brightness is important for almost everything, but slightly more so for sports than for movies and games (depending on your game, of course). But even more, the ambient light is also very important here. If you watch a lot during the day or in a lot of light, good brightness is important. If you look a lot in dimmed light, that difference will be less important.

OLED vs miniLED: Burn-in

Whether we like to hear that or not, it remains something that you have to take into account with OLED. Recent models use a lot of techniques to prevent burn-in, and according to manufacturers it is very rare in normal use, but it is impossible to rule it out. What you should especially avoid is showing static images for a long time. We then think of a TV that is constantly on a news channel that shows a fixed ticker tape at the bottom of the screen. Or games whose HUD or interface doesn’t change. Never switch off your TV completely (via the socket or a switch), but leave it in standby so that it can perform maintenance in the background. You can read exactly what the risks are in our article about burn -in .

MiniLED TVs (and all other LCD TVs) are insensitive to burn-in. So if you really can’t live with the limited risk, then you better opt for a miniLED TV.

OLED vs miniLED: Viewing angle

Anyone who is not perfectly straight in front of an LCD TV will almost certainly notice that the contrast drops sharply (often because the black value rises sharply), and that the colors are somewhat duller (due to a falling gamma value). That is an intrinsic problem with LCD technology. Although the type of LCD panel can make a difference. VA panels have very good contrast, but very poor viewing angles. IPS panels have to make do with less contrast, but then have a better viewing angle.

However, OLED TVs have the best viewing angle. It is not perfect, but it is considerably better than all LCD models. Contrast is preserved almost perfectly, just like the gamma value. OLED screens can have a slight color shift, but the impact is generally limited.

Whether viewing angle is important to you, of course, depends on the setup of the TV, and from where you are watching exactly. For example, if you have an L-shaped seat, you will almost certainly have places that are not right in front of the screen.

OLED vs miniLED: Color

In this area, the differences are rather small, although they do exist. For SDR content, both are capable of delivering near-perfect color reproduction. There is a difference for HDR images, although that is strictly speaking only to a limited extent due to the colors. MiniLED TVs almost all use quantum dot technology for color reproduction. As a result, both miniLED TVs and OLED TVs achieve a color range somewhere between 90-95% DCI-P3. That is more than enough for a good HDR display. But because miniLED TVs can achieve higher brightness, they have greater color volume . MiniLED TVs are therefore somewhat better in very bright, colorful images.

OLED vs miniLED: Motion sharpness

This is especially important for games and sports because you want a razor-sharp representation of the action there, even when the camera moves quickly over the image or when objects or people zoom through the image. With film it is slightly less critical, many people prefer the somewhat softer look of 24fps. Motion sharpness depends on the speed at which images are refreshed (refresh rate), but also on the response time of each pixel.

With OLED, that response time is less than 1 ms and most OLED TVs have a 120Hz panel. This combination ensures razor-sharp images. Please note, some entry-level OLEDs such as the LG A1 use a 60Hz panel, so they do lose some motion sharpness.

The LCD panel of a miniLED TV often has a response time of 10ms and even at 120Hz refresh rates, this results in a somewhat blurrier display. Both OLED and miniLED can use Black Frame Insertion to make the image even sharper.

In practice, as long as they both use a 120Hz panel, the difference between the two isn’t that big. But those who absolutely want the sharpest image should opt for OLED.

The price and screen size

OLED is now no longer only available in 55 and 65 inch formats. With the introduction of 48, 77 and 83 inches, you now have about as much choice within OLED as within the miniLED models.

It is no longer a foregone conclusion that OLED is more expensive than miniLED. A quick tour of the retail prices shows that the LG OLED models are below the price of the top miniLED models. So be sure to make a good price comparison and keep an eye out for discount promotions, which can often mean a substantial discount.