OLED is great, but where are all the Mini LED laptops?

A woman uses a laptop in a hammock on the beach.
Increase / Working outdoors like this isn’t as easy with an OLED laptop with limited brightness.

Maria Korneeva/Getty

If I could have any type of display panel in my laptop, it would be Mini LED.

Of course, OLED is best at delivering deep blacks and high contrast, but Mini LED is a strong substitute. The blooming potential is still there, but it’s not a big deal on a small laptop screen. Meanwhile, there’s no risk of burn-in, and I’ll likely get better full-screen brightness when I want to take the laptop outside. In addition, the battery life of Mini LED screens is superior to that of OLED panels.

For the things I do most often on my laptop—working on Word documents and spreadsheets, reading, editing photos, and streaming video—the highest contrast ratio is optional. I’d settle for second best if it meant other benefits.

But among consumer-class laptops, Mini LED is mostly nowhere to be found. You should look to more expensive GPU-equipped machines for creative workers or PC gamers. Premium laptops that rely on discrete graphics, such as the Dell XPS, Lenovo Yoga, and HP Specter series, all offer OLED top-end SKUs, LCD-LED lower-end SKUs, and no Mini LED in between.

Why is it virtually impossible to find a modern Mini LED laptop even as Mini LED desktop monitors get cheaper? We reached out to the laptop’s OEM to find out.

Economies of scale

Unsurprisingly, the main reason companies won’t make the Mini LED laptops of my dreams is that they wouldn’t be as profitable as OLED machines. OLED computer monitors and TVs are still more expensive than Mini LED alternatives, but economies of scale mean that OLED laptop panels are cheaper and more widely available than Mini LED screens.

When I asked Dell about the lack of Mini LED in its XPS lineup, a representative told me that the company chose OLED over Mini LED because it had “the best image quality,” but the representative also pointed to economics:

Currently, the economy of scale allows for more OLED panels to choose from, whereas the currently available Mini LED panels are relatively small. We’re monitoring technology trends, but for now you’ll see more OLED across our overall portfolio.

Acer has some of the lowest-end OLED laptops available; The Swift 3 costs $900 as of this writing. The vendor has shifted Mini LED to “high-end gaming” and is using OLED for “high-end products aimed at consumers and/or customers who want a high-end system” because “diversification of components helps streamline inventory allocation,” the spokesperson said.

“Mini LED is more expensive because it lacks the economies of scale that OLED has because it’s a more mature technology,” said an Acer spokesperson, noting that the biggest hurdle the company sees in adopting Mini LED laptops is price.

Chicken or eggs

But Mini LED laptop panel prices won’t drop until demand grows enough to justify an increase in production, availability, and choice. Meanwhile, OLED has become widespread in electronics, with the technology appearing in smartphones, TVs, smartwatches, consoles like the Nintendo Switch, and even computer peripherals (Mini LEDs have also found their way into keyboards). OLED is also a popular name with more demand than Mini LED. All of this adds up to a classic chicken-or-the-egg situation.

An Acer spokesperson said that “both OLED and Mini LED produce high-quality TV-grade images with excellent color accuracy and contrast ratio,” but the company has found that people looking for “high-end gaming” laptops are “less cost-sensitive and more spec-focused.” Acer also said that brightness is a key factor for such users, noting the Mini LED’s superior brightness potential compared to OLED. The company told me it’s seeing “similar” demand for Mini LED laptops among creators, consumers and small and medium-sized businesses. Creators and gamers aren’t the only users who can benefit from Mini LED’s improved contrast and brightness, but this tech-savvy demographic is likely to be aware of Mini LED’s benefits.

Lenovo has found that the biggest obstacle to the adoption of Mini LED laptops is “education”. A spokesperson for Asus, which makes Mini LED gaming laptops, agreed that “consumers and the media” need to experience and support the technology to increase its adoption in laptops. “Customers generally get panel education in the TV market, and Mini LED is not that common in the home theater today,” said a Lenovo spokesperson.

Lenovo will launch its first Mini LED laptops in May. It pushes the Slim Pro 9i series as powerhouses with RTX 40-series laptop GPUs, Intel H-series CPUs, and a $1,700 starting price.

#OLED #great #Mini #LED #laptops

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