What is NanoLED and why should you care?

Another display tech on the horizon, this one promising big things for a wide range of devices

NanoLED is the name picked by display tech firm Nanosys in order to define quantum dot screens with no need for backlighting at all. (Image: Nanosys)

It seems like a situation going back to a bet placed somewhere, at some point, between a few choice individuals after one too many drinks. “Hey, why not put out as many similar acronyms as we possibly can for different display technologies, just to see when people stop getting confused and start getting angry, shall we? How many will we manage before that happens? Three, five, seven? Bets?” So here we are: we have LED, OLED, QLED, QNED, QD-OLED, MiniLED, MicroLED and now… NanoLED. Whoever said “Definitely more than seven!” apparently won because, well, even journalists feel justifiably angry about all this — let alone consumers trying to just pick a TV they’ll like!

So what is NanoLED and how does it differ from other similar technologies present or future? First of all: it has nothing to do with LG’s NanoCell tech found in many of its LED/LCD models or the NanoLED layer Philips used in some of its OLED TVs a few years back. The term NanoLED was used a few weeks ago at DisplayWeek 2021 Business Conference in a Nanosys paper to describe an emissive display that works with quantum dots but needs no backlight, as every pixel is self-lit like on OLED displays. NanoLED panels can get much brighter than OLED panels though (up to 50 times as much as this year’s OLED TVs!), while still delivering perfect black levels, as well as a wider color gamut and far wider viewing angles than today’s LED/LCD panels.

An early Nanosys prototype showing off how quantum dots can not just brighten up the colors of an image but also bring out detail otherwise absent from the displayed content. (Image: Nanosys)

The only other display technology that can make those promises is MicroLED, of course, which offers an individually controlled LED for every pixel of the screen. But televisions based on MicroLED are mind-blowingly expensive and analysts do not expect them to reach mainstream market prices in less than five to six years (others claim that it will be almost a decade before that happens). This is probably NanoLED’s most important advantage as a future display tech: it is much cheaper to produce than MicroLED (cheaper than what OLED are expected to cost in 2022 even!), also allowing for scalable manufacturing depending on a supplier’s needs and client list.

That’s great! So that means that we’ll have NanoLED TVs soon? Well… no. While the elements of the quantum dots responsible for the green and red percentages of displayed colors are working as intended, the blue element is not, so enough progress has to be made during the next two years before the first fully operational NanoLED panels are manufactured. That is why Nanosys is not expecting commercially available NanoLED televisions before 2025. When they do appear, NanoLED TVs will not be exorbitantly priced — but they will have to be able to offer what they promise first.

This is what the Quantum Dot evolution roadmap looked like a few years back. The endgame, point 4, is NanoLED. (Image: Nanosys)

It’s worth noting that BOE (one of the largest TV panel manufacturers in the world right now) and Sharp have already shown working NanoLED prototypes: a 55-inch 4K TV and a 6-inch screen to be used in mobile devices respectively. According to Nanosys executives, NanoLED screens will be extremely thin and energy-efficient because of their simpler structure, so they’ll be used in different kinds of products. That is obviously good news in more ways than one, as many product categories definitely seem to be held back by the display tech they have to use today. Bring it on, 2025!


Kostas Farkonas

Veteran reporter with over 30 years of industry experience in various media, focusing on consumer tech, entertainment and digital culture. No, he will not fix your PC (again).

Veteran reporter with over 30 years of industry experience in various media, focusing on consumer tech, entertainment and digital culture. No, he will not fix your PC (again).




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