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First look at Sony's next-gen miniLED LCD TV technology – updated

04 Jan 2024 | Rasmus Larsen |

Sony is not announcing new TVs at CES 2024 but the company gave FlatpanelsHD a unique preview of its next-generation miniLED technology planned for an upcoming flagship LCD TV.
Update: Article has been updated with two videos, shot by FlatpanelsHD, of Sony's new miniLED LCD technology.
With TCL moving to 5000 miniLED dimming zones in its latest LCD TVs, Sony is gearing up to counter with upgraded miniLED LCD technology aimed at improving picture quality and reducing power consumption. During an event last year in Tokyo, Japan, attended by FlatpanelsHD, Sony's display engineers showcased and discussed the technology for the first time. Unfortunately, we are not yet able to share information on the actual product or sizes. However, we can share some video of the new technology, information and thoughts ahead of the official announcement. While Sony did not specifically say that it is coming in 2024, there were enough indications that we fully expect it to happen this year.

Sony's next-gen miniLED LCD tech

Sony's display engineers argued that effective local dimming, miniLED or otherwise, in an LCD TV is primarily determined by 3 components:
  1. The TV processor, responsible for dividing the input signal into LCD and LED backlight data (sometimes referred to as the "dimming algorithm").
  2. The driver, tasked with converting the LED backlight data into analog signals.
  3. The (mini)LED backlight, which transforms the electrical signal into visible light (then regulated for light/color levels by the LCD panel).
Sony believes it masters these disciplines better than any other, even if its LCD TVs do not always have the highest number of dimming zones among TV makers. In 2024, Sony will transition to a new 22-bit miniLED driver (10-bit current + 12-bit PWM, while the LCD panel remains 10-bit). The company claims that this driver is the world's smallest, enabling the incorporation of more dimming zones. The 2024 miniLED LCD TV will feature more dimming zones and while Sony is not disclosing the exact number of zones, it did say that each TV size will have more zones than the equivalent Z9D/ZD9, which significantly raised the standard for local dimming back in 2016. Of course, there have been advancements in the field since then.

2024 Sony miniLED LCD

Sony's 2024 miniLED LCD technology revealed. Read on. Photo: FlatpanelsHD

Sony compared its 2024 prototype to last year's X95L miniLED LCD model, saying that the 2024 model is 1.5x brighter as of the Tokyo demo but the final result will depend on tweaks. Despite this, overall power consumption is reduced by 10-15%, and in Eco mode there is a 30% reduction (2023's X95L is rated as G on EU's energy label, but Sony aims for a better energy class this year). This efficiency improvements are attributed to the new LED driver, which regulates the miniLED zones for every picture frame. As for the official name of the 2024 flagship TV, it is anyone's guess at this point (perhaps Z95M? Or X95M?).

Two demonstrations

In Tokyo, Sony had two demonstrations of its 2024 miniLED LCD technology. The first demo had one half of the LCD panel removed, revealing the effect of the miniLED zone dimming backlight on the exposed section – something Sony had never publicly demonstrated before. We were not allowed to film this part of the demo. In this first demo, Sony's 2024 TV was compared to one of Samsung's flagship miniLED LCD models ("Neo QLED") – also with one half of the LCD panel removed – and a significant difference was observed in bright scenes. While the majority of Samsung's miniLED dimming zones were running at full steam in this very bright scene, Sony's miniLED zones carefully and gradually intensified and dimmed in sync with the picture content, which should translate to better light control in the picture you see at home.

Sony X95K miniLED LCD

Sony X95K from 2022 (right). Blooming around bright objects is one of the downsides of miniLED zone dimming. Blooming can be reduced by increasing the number of zones. Photo: FlatpanelsHD

In the second demo, Sony's 2024 TV was compared to Sony X95L (2023 miniLED LCD) and Sony A80L (2023 WOLED). For part of the demo, the former two were showing only the effects of miniLED zone dimming (without displaying a picture from the LCD panel), while the OLED TV displayed the actual content for reference. In other words, we saw the many miniLED zones in isolation dim and boost. Here, the higher resolution of the miniLED system in the 2024 model allowed us for the first time in the raw zone dimming system to discern some luminance details from the actual picture (shown on the OLED TV for reference) due to the increased number of zones. For example, a bright white centered Sony logo on a black background appeared simply as a white blob on 2023's X95L, but was somewhat legible when shown with the 2024 model's (TV in the center in the video) raw miniLED zone dimming. Envision an LCD TV with, for example, 3000 dimming zones. In this example, the resolution of the miniLED backlight would be around 40x74 (= 2,960 zones), far lower than the resolution of the 4K LCD panel (3,840x2,160 = 8,294,400) in front of it, but high enough to reproduce at least some luminance detail in its raw form and help to reduce blooming – or halos – in the actual picture you see. Check out these two video demonstrations that FlatpanelsHD shot during the demo in Tokyo:
Left: Sony X95L (2023) showing its miniLED zone dimming. Center: 2024 miniLED LCD tech (prototype) showing its miniLED zone dimming. Right: Sony A80L OLED showing the picture content for reference. Video: FlatpanelsHD
2024 Sony miniLED LCD tech (prototype) showing its miniLED zone dimming on one half of the screen. Video: FlatpanelsHD
For another part of the demo, we looked at real picture content, mainly bright scenes or high-contrast scenes in HDR, displayed on all three TVs. The 2024 prototype delivered a significantly improved picture compared to 2023's X95L, and exceeded the A80L OLED in very bright scenes. Also read: Exposed: How a 5000-zone miniLED backlight works (TCL X955) We also witnessed the impact on power consumption, demonstrated with a power meter connected to each of the three Sony TVs. This was done, in part, to reveal that the reduced power consumption of the 2024 model did not compromise the effectiveness of the miniLED backlight. By the way, if it makes the cut, Sony will announce a very cool related feature in 2024.

A big leap for Sony miniLED LCD

The demos focused on the advancement in miniLED zone dimming, making it difficult to assess the final picture quality with mixed content. Nevertheless, our observations during the relatively brief demo were promising, suggesting a significant leap forward for Sony miniLED LCD. However, we are not convinced that the technology will tip the balance of power or approach the performance of the best OLED TVs on the market, such as Sony's own A95L QD-OLED. Also read: Review: Sony A95L (QD-OLED) FlatpanelsHD will later have the opportunity to see the final product and bring you all the details about the new TV that we expect to be a 2024 miniLED LCD flagship model from Sony, while last year's A95L QD-OLED will carry over into 2024.

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