MicroLED technology is a next-generation emissive display technology that promises highly efficient and bright displays that offer superior image quality with infinite contrast and a wide color gamut.
MicroLED can be applied to displays of many kinds - from small displays for smartwatches and AR devices to large-area TV displays.
Tiled MicroLED TV displays
One unique feature of microLED technology is the ability to create seamless large-area displays made from small display tiles. This unique feature is interesting because it can creates extremely large displays in which the cost grows linearly with display size, unlike standard LCD and OLED TV displays which grows exponentially more expensive as display grows.
The Wall by Samsung
Several companies developed such tiled display technology, including Sony, Samsung, Konka, LG and others. Tiled large-area microLED TVs are available on the market today, but prices are very expensive and these are highly premium devices. Are you looking to buy such a TV? Check out our 2021 MicroLED TV buying guide.
One interesting thing to note is that while most so-called microLED TVs are indeed emissive displays, the actual LED chips inside these TVs are not always miicroLEDs, but sometimes actually mini-LEDs (this is true for example in Samsung's TVs, at least for the first-gen models).
Consumer MicroLED TVs
Companies are also developing consumer-grade MicroLED TVs. These will be produced on standard TFT glass substrates, in a similar fashion to OLEDs and LCDs. Producing such consumer MicroLED displays at competitive prices is a huge challenge due to the extreme number of microLED chips - a 4K TV requires almost 25 million individual microLED chips - and these need to be produced on a wafer and transferred to the final TV substrate.
It will likely take many years before consumer MicroLED TVs at affordable prices can be produced. In 2021 we posted a buying guide for microLED TVs.
The latest MicroLED TV news:
DSCC estimates that the microLED display market will reach $1.4 billion by 2028, led by TVs and wearables. Other applications will include AR glasses and automotive displays (these do not appear in the graph below).
DSCC believes that MicroLED displays will offer superior performance, but its high price will keep it from being a mainstream technology in the near future. The first microLED smartwatch will launch in 2024, but it will target the high-end of the market and volumes will remain low.
Yole Intelligence has published its latest microLED market report, in which it sees commercial microLED production starting in 2-3 years, following several delays. In 5-10 years, adoption will increase.
In its base scenario, Yole sees microLED panel sales reaching $1.5 billion in 2019 and $2.2 billion in 2020, with almost 90% coming from wearables and AR/VR/MR microdisplays. The rest of the panels will be used in TV applications. If you want to hear more about Yole's microLED market insights, you are welcome to join the MicroLED-Connect online event later this month.
Samsung, Sony, LG and others are producing commercial microLED panels, mostly for ultra-premium, signage and commercial applications. The ultra-large size displays are made from small microLED modules, seamlessly tiled together.
MicroLED technology makes it possible to connect two tiles in a way that retains exactly the same pixel pitch even at the tile connection (this is something that is challenging to do with OLED or LCD displays). When the displays are active, it is indeed very difficult to spot the seam. When the display is completely black however, this is not the case.
During the company's latest conference call, AU Optronics made some interesting remarks on its microLED project. First of all, the company intends to continue investing in micro-LED technologies going forward. That's not a surprise. Second, the company re-iterated its plans to mass produce microLED smartwatch displays by the end of 2023.
AUO also says it plans to apply microLED displays to an "increasing number of high end TV and automotive display products". AUO will increase its microLED display range and make it commercially available to more products and applications. As far as we know, this is the first time that AUO discusses microLED TVs.
North Carolina State University’s James B. Hunt Jr. Library installed a large curved Sony Crystal LED microLED display, to replace several video walls that were previously used.
The Sony microLED display was installed in a space known as the iPearl Immersion Theater. The display has a resolution of 4000 x 1620, and it’s approximately 6 x 2.5 meter in size. The display works as a digital exhibit space for student, faculty and community projects, so viewers will see student and faculty work, community project results, and special events information.
Just Video Wall, a system integrator that focuses entirely on microLED displays, has launched a MicroLED TV design tool that aims to make the MicroLED quoting process easier.
The company says that their patent-pending design tool enables custom display professionals to enter the MicroLED space by starting with the project parameters, not the product lines or individual specs. The system presents the best range of possible options, based on a questionnaire derived from years of experience in installation and application.
Visionox demonstrated a new microLED display prototype, a 58-inch tiled display, made from a matrix of 16 modules (each 14.5" in size). The display offers a 10-bit color depth, 240Hz refresh rate, and an ultra-high contrast.
Visionox says that the new display uses 25 um microLED chips, and utilizes China's first dedicated microLED driver IC and a TFT backplane (likely LTPS). From the image we have, it seems as if there are much more than 16 modules, and the seams are quite visible, this seems to be an early-stage display prototype.
Sony launches a new Crystal LED display, the VERONA, purpose-built to meet the needs of virtual production applications. Sony says that these new displays is tailored for filmmakers, bringing new levels of quality and efficiency to in-camera VFX applications.
For the VERONA, Sony developed new anti-reflection surface coating, which also enabled deeper blacks. Sony says that this innovative technology significantly reduces the difference in contrast between the image projected on the LED display and the actor(s) performing in front of it on set – blending virtual and real in a natural way, reducing time and cost required for post-shooting adjustments. VERONA displays also offer high brightness (1,500 nits), and a wide color gamut (97% DCI-P3). Most importantly the VERONA uses high performance LED drivers that support refresh rates up to 7,650Hz (!) to drastically reduce scanline artifacts on the camera.
LG Electronics launched a new MicroLED TV, the 118-inch 4K 120Hz LG MAGNIT (0.6 mm pixel pitch), targeting residential applications. Interestingly the brightenss is quite low, only 250 nits. The TV costs $237,000 - this is a highly expensive screen obviously targeting the top of the luxury TV market.
The 118-inch TV is based on LG's webOS smart TV platform, and is powered by LG's Alpha 9 AI processor. It offers HDR10 and HDR10 Pro compatibility, AirPlay 2 and Miracast support, and integrated 50-watt speakers.
During the IFA 2023 tradeshow, China-based Konka is showing a 59" tiled microLED TV prototype screen. This is the smallest microLED TV shown to date - since Sony showed the world's first microLED display back in 2012.
It seems as if this display is an early-stage prototype. According to reports, the resolution is poor, the contrast is very low and the seam between the tiles is clearly visible. This is clearly not ready for commercialization. You can see the display in the video below, and indeed the seams are visible. The display is made by 16x9 modules, and it uses a PCB backplane.