Following the praise lavished on Apple’s new MacBook Pro lineup featuring Liquid Retina XDR mini-LED displays, industry watchers are now betting on rivals sitting up, taking notice and following suit, increasingly incorporating either OLED or mini-LED displays in their own notebooks. This can only be a good thing, as the 270m notebook market lags deplorably behind the 50% adoption rate of OLED in the 1.35b smartphone market and the 8 million of the 20 million TV panels 50” and greater. Samsung Electronics, Asus, Dell, and HP have all begun to increase OLED adoption.
Not content to sit on its laurels, Apple is said to be developing OLED displays for at least one MacBook Pro model as well as for its high-end tablets. Its benchmarks? 2,000 nits peak brightness and a five-year lifespan, which, according to analysts, will necessitate dual stack OLED and an LTPO backplane. However, contradicting reports of only a few weeks ago, Apple’s plans to launch an OLED MacBook Pro as early as 2025 appear to have been postponed, a major stumbling block being the added cost of the double stack tandem structure required to increase brightness and longevity. The latter is considered a prerequisite, as owners typically hold onto their laptops longer than cellphones, which currently employ a single stack structure; the former, because to satisfy 90% of the population, a peak brightness of ∼3,000 cd/m2 is needed for HDR content – a figure that present-day laptops can only dream of. A thin-film transistor (TFT) to support fast electron movement along with low-temperature polycrystalline oxide (LTPO) will also drive up costs. Samsung Display currently supplies the LTPO TFT OLED panels used in Apple’s iPhone 13 Pro models.
Unsurprisingly, in the reviews we’ve seen, Apple’s Liquid Retina XDR display has taken something of a back seat to the excitement generated by the blazing fast, energy efficient M1 Pro and M1 Max chips and a bold new chassis design that extends to its interior, which can be appreciated by specialists and non-specialists alike – and it remains to be seen whether positive feedback encourages other manufacturers to adopt mini-LED. We say unsurprisingly, because next to no reviewers create HDR content, so quite naturally, they are as interested in its possibilities as we are in mining cryptocurrency. Because of its prohibitive costs, no production timetable has as yet been finalized for Apple’s microLED.
While Apple currently holds the title for the best laptop display of 2021, that honor is very likely to be hotly contested in the coming months, as the battle between manufacturers heats up in the laptop computer space just as it has in the home television market. Asus has announced that all future notebooks will either have OLED displays or an OLED option and Samsung is on track to ship 10m OLED notebooks in 2022 – but tens of millions of battery-hogging 500-nit OLED laptops with shiny, mirror-like surfaces whose default setting is SDR when not running off the mains that die after four hours of use hardly constitute a threat to Apple’s dominance. Regardless of peak brightness, one thing reviewers and consumers still fail to understand is that PQ HDR, unlike SDR, is an absolute standard, and in order to appreciate HDR imagery, ambient light levels need to be strictly controlled.