Promising more dimming zones and better HDR

MSI is showing off its Creator 17 laptop at CES 2020, which it says is the “world’s very first” laptop to feature a Mini LED display. By using much smaller LEDs as a backlight, the laptop’s 17-inch 4K display can dim and brighten with much more accuracy than LCD displays with a traditional LED backlight. CNET reports that Mini LED screens typically use LEDs that are smaller than 2mm in size.

The technology should be especially helpful for displaying HDR content, which benefits from a sharp level of contrast between light and dark areas of an image. The technology means that the display has 240 local dimming zones, according to MSI, which is a lot considering its 17-inch size. For comparison, Apple’s 6K $6,000 XDR display has 576 dimming zones, but it’s almost double the size at 32 inches.

MSI’s Creator 17 is the ‘world’s very first’ Mini LED laptop

MSI also boasts that the Creator 17’s screen can display 100 percent of the DCI-P3 color gamut, and can get as bright as 1000 nits, which is considered a good maximum for delivering decent HDR performance. MSI says the Creator 17 is the only laptop to achieve this brightness, although HP’s Dragonfly from last year would beg to disagree.

The 17-inch screen has 240 local dimming zones

Mini LED might offer more dimming zones than regular LED LCD displays, but it’s important to note that it’s not the same as MicroLED, the new — and so far ultra-expensive — display technology that Samsung has been developing. The LEDs in a Mini LED display are only responsible for backlighting the LCD layer, whereas with MicroLED they replace it entirely. MicroLED aims to offer a similar level of performance to OLED, without the brightness limitations or problems with burn-in — the latter of which is a particular problem for laptops.

It’s also worth noting that a Mini LED backlight by itself is no guarantee of screen quality. Just look at Rtings review of the Mini LED-equipped TCL 8-series Q825 from last year, which CNET notes was the first Mini LED TV on the market. While Rtings said that the local dimming was decent overall, it criticized the local dimming algorithm controlling the LEDs, which could crush details in dark scenes and was distracting in other moments.

MSI is yet to announce a release date or pricing details for the Creator 17, and nor do we have much of an idea of its internal specifications at this time.