Next-Gen MacBook Air, iPad Mini To Drive Mini-LED Display Revolution To Lower Price Points

MacBook Air
Apple has already embraced mini LED technology on its 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which touts what the company calls a Liquid Retina XDR display. Portions of the screen can get as bright as 1,600 nits (full-screen brightness checks in at 1,000 nits). Looking ahead, Apple has plans of expanding mini LED displays to more products, including the MacBook Air and iPad mini.

Mini LED technology is exactly what it sounds like—it uses much smaller LEDs than a conventional LED display. This in turn allows for many more dimming zones as part of the full array backlight configuration, to ultimately provide brighter images with less of a halo effect (where light spills out from an object or subject), and deeper black levels.

This is not the same as micro LED, which ditches the backlight and is poised to really give OLED a run for its money. But in the meantime, mini LED is one heck of a stopgap solution, if you want to call it that. And it is going to show up on more Apple products.

In a note investors, prominent Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says a new MacBook Air with a 13.3-inch mini LED display will be unveiled around the middle of next year. So the size will be the same as the current generation MacBook Air with a custom M1 processor inside, but the display will be a different type (and of course there will be other hardware changes, likely including an M2 processor).

Meanwhile, industry sources who spoke with Digitimes say Apple is also planning to upgrade its iPad mini with a mini LED display, and it will happen in the more immediate future.

"LED backlight unit (BLU) maker Radiant Opto-Electronics is expected to begin shipments for miniLED BLUs for use in new iPad mini in August 2021 as well as those for use in 14- and 16-inch MacBook Pro in August-September," the sources said.

In the past, Kuo had actually predicted Apple would ship an iPad mini with a mini LED display in 2020, but that never happened. It seems like it will only be a matter of time, though.

This is good news from a broader perspective. Expanding the reach of mini LED technology into less expensive product categories means more consumers will potentially benefit. It could also have a ripple effect, with other companies more aggressively pursuing mini LED tech.

We'll have to wait and see what price points ultimately emerge, but looking at Apple's current-gen iPad mini lineup, pricing ranges from $399 (64GB, Wi-Fi only) to $679 (256GB, Wi-Fi + cellular). The 12.9-inch iPad Pro, meanwhile, ranges from $1,099 (128GB, Wi-Fi only) to $2,399 (2TB, Wi-Fi + cellular).