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How MacBook Pro’s mini-LED screen might improve Windows laptops

Published Aug 16th, 2021 7:31AM EDT
MacBook Pro Mini-LED
Image: Apple Inc.

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The 2021 MacBook Pro refresh that Apple has planned for the fall will deliver a major redesign. It’ll also introduce a feature unseen previously on laptops. The new MacBooks will have a flatter overall design and will bring back MagSafe charging and a few of the traditional ports that Apple removed a few years ago. The 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models will feature the next-gen M1X processor, but the most important upgrade concerns the screen. Apple will introduce its first mini-LED laptops this year, with both devices reportedly featuring the same display tech. An Apple insider claims that the MacBooks with mini-LED displays will drive mini-LED display adoption. This will pressure other notebook vendors to embrace the technology.

Apple introduced its first mini-LED display for portable devices earlier this year. That’s the 12.9-inch iPad Pro that’s already available in stores and online. The tablet wasn’t immediately available in stores after the spring event, as Apple reportedly ran into mini-LED display manufacturing issues. The same production yields might impact the MacBook Pro line. That could explain the rumored launch delay.

Rumors claimed Apple would unveil the MacBook Pro at WWDC 2021, but that did not happen. Apple, however, mentioned the “M1X MacBook Pro” in its YouTube settings, suggesting the new laptops might have been on the cards for the press event.

MacBook Pro driving mini-LED screen adoption

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo wrote in a note to investors that MacRumors saw that the mini-LED MacBooks would push the entire industry forward. More suppliers will manufacture mini-LED parts, and more laptop vendors will be inclined to offer their customers the same technology:

We believe that MacBooks, not iPads, mainly drive mini-LED panel shipments. MacBook shipments have not grown much in the past few years. However, we expect MacBook shipments to grow significantly by 20% YoY, or more in 2021 and 2022, due to the adoption of mini-LED panels, Apple Silicon, and all-new designs.

Kuo said that Apple is “actively looking for second suppliers of key mini-LED components.” If the new MacBook Pro models receive positive feedback, Windows laptop vendors and their suppliers will inevitably move to the technology.

Micro-LED is the next major display upgrade

Apple is also looking beyond the MacBook Pro mini-LED future when it comes to display technology. Kuo says that micro-LED screens will follow starting with 2023, as production costs improve:

We predict that the production cost of micro-LED will improve significantly starting in 2023–2024, so it will likely be a market focus from 2023 onwards. We believe Apple is developing micro-LED technology, but the production schedule is not yet confirmed.

The names might be similar, but there’s a notable difference between the two technologies. The mini-LED screens are similar to the LED backlight available in current MacBook models. With mini-LED, Apple uses more backlights for more dimming zones. The micro-LED panels would let Apple turn the independent pixels on and off. The micro-LED technology would resemble OLED panels.

Separately, Apple is also looking at OLED screens from Samsung for future MacBook Pro and iPad generations. The colorful MacBook Air refresh expected next year should also deliver a mini-LED screen.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.