Apple currently uses high-quality LCD screens for its MacBooks. That isn’t expected to change this year, but what we do anticipate is a switch to mini-LED backlighting – a technology currently used in Apple’s expensive Pro Display XDR as well as the latest 12.9-inch iPad Pro.
2021 MacBook Pro displays
We’ve previously explained that mini-LED uses more than a thousand tiny individual LEDs for the backlighting.
At the most sophisticated end of the scale, there is one mini-LED per pixel, allowing increased brightness, deeper blacks, and improved power efficiency.
So what are micro-LEDs? They are an order of magnitude smaller than the mini variant and are as tiny as 1/100th the size of a traditional LED backlight in an LCD display. They go further with the benefits that mini-LED has over standard LED-powered LCD displays and can provide over 30x greater brightness compared to OLED.
Future MacBook Pro displays
Further ahead, however, we’re expecting to see Apple switch to OLED for both iPad and MacBook screens.
In addition to the 14-inch 90Hz OLED panels, ASUS’s Zenbook and Vivobook Pro models feature Samsung Display’s industry-first high resolution 4K OLEDs in larger 16-inch panels.
The company has so far named five customers for its laptop OLED panels, including its own consumer electronics division. ASUS, Lenovo, Dell, HP, and Samsung Electronics. Apple does not generally allow suppliers to comment on unannounced products, but a future generation of these displays is likely destined for OLED MacBooks too.
MacBook Pro models currently use LCD displays with a 60Hz refresh rate, so the potential move to OLED and 90Hz would be significant. OLED benefits include higher brightness, improved contrast, deeper blacks, and more, while a 90Hz refresh rate would result in smoother appearing content while watching videos, gaming, and scrolling text. In the meantime, rumors suggest Apple will soon release redesigned 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with LCD displays, but with mini-LED backlighting, which offers many of the same advantages as OLED. Given that large OLED displays are expensive to manufacture, perhaps Apple will eventually offer both mini-LED and OLED versions of the MacBook Pro, with the latter technology reserved for higher-priced configurations.
Apple already uses OLED displays for the Apple Watch and several iPhone models, including the entire iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 lineups. Samsung is reportedly the exclusive supplier of OLED displays for the iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max.