I tested 3 years of mini-LED gaming laptops, and I was shocked by the results

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Three Asus laptops group up connected a counter.Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

The displays connected gaming laptops person travel a agelong measurement complete nan past fewer years. Well, that’s nan easy point to opportunity erstwhile you look astatine nan specs we person today. A fewer years ago, astir laptops shipped pinch basal IPS panels, which sometimes stood retired pinch a peculiarly accelerated refresh rate. Now, you’ll commonly find mini-LED and OLED options, each pinch speedy refresh rates, debased consequence times, and exceptional HDR.

But really acold person laptop displays really come? I’ve been testing 3 laptops from nan past 3 years, each outfitted pinch a mini-LED display, to comparison what we person coming pinch what was disposable conscionable a fewer years ago. By nan numbers, not overmuch has changed, but erstwhile it comes down to really utilizing these displays, it’s clear that mini-LED has travel a agelong measurement successful a short time.

Three years of mini-LED laptops

An HDR demo readying connected 3 laptops astatine nan aforesaid time.Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Let’s talk astir nan laptops. All 3 travel from Asus: a 2024 Scar 18, a 2023 Scar 16, and a 2022 Flow X16. They are different sizes and person very different specs, but capacity isn’t what’s important here. What’s important is that each 3 laptops travel pinch a 1600p, mini-LED display, and they each autumn nether Asus ROG Nebula HDR branding. They each look great, and if you didn’t person them broadside by broadside to compare, that’s astir apt wherever you’d stop.

At first glance, nan 2022 Flow X16 is really nan astir impressive, chiefly owed to nan truth that it’s nan only show pinch a glossy coating. The deficiency of a matte coating makes it feel for illustration it has much brightness and contrast. But that emotion ends erstwhile you spot immoderate existent content. Playing done immoderate HDR demos, nan 2024 Scar 18 not only looked acold brighter, but nan colors besides looked measurement much vibrant. You don’t person to do immoderate testing to observe that quality pinch nan naked eye.

In position of specs, there’s really only 1 things that produces that difference: dimming zones. With mini-LED, nan thought is that you tin cram successful much LED zones to locally power brightness, getting closer to what you spot connected sheet tech for illustration OLED. The much zones nan better, giving you much granular power of brightness crossed nan entirety of nan display. From a precocious level, nan number of zones is nan astir important jump we’ve seen successful mini-LED gaming laptops complete nan 3 years.

Zone count matters, but not really you mightiness assume.

The 2022 Flow X16 has 512 zones, while nan 2023 Scar 16 doubles that to 1,024 zones. The 2024 Scar 18 is moreover higher astatine 2,304 zones. If you spell and look up what section dimming zones do, you’ll apt spot nan problem of “blooming” is what much zones tin thief overcome. Each lighting area covers a definite number of pixels, and if thing doesn’t fresh neatly wrong those boundaries, you’ll spot immoderate ray spilling retired wherever it shouldn’t — this is besides known arsenic blooming. A higher area count minimizes this effect truthful you (hopefully) don’t announcement it. In theory, that is.

But arsenic I recovered retired successful my testing, that accepted contented didn’t play retired really I expected it would. It’s not that nan area count doesn’t matter — it’s that nan consequence of “more zones” produced a acold different extremity effect than I would person assumed. Blooming conscionable isn’t a problem here, proving yet again really a linear, specs-focused measurement of reasoning tin misguide buying decisions.

By nan numbers

Three mini-LED laptops playing an HDR demo.Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Why nary blooming effect? I expected to spot a gradual betterment successful deficiency of blooming, but for illustration truthful galore numbers connected spec sheets, that progression isn’t truthful simple. As it turns out, pinch screens this small, and pinch specified a precocious starting area count, each 3 displays already grip nan problem really well. It’s very difficult to spot immoderate blooming betwixt nan 3 displays, moreover broadside by side. In a unsighted test, it would beryllium wholly intolerable to show nan difference.

So, while blooming wasn’t a problem, nan summation successful dimming zones does create a tangible, observable summation successful HDR performance. The 3 displays handled brightness successful acold different ways, again owed to nan drastic quality successful nan magnitude of zones. The 2022 Flow X16 seemed to deed a definite wall, where, successful bid to support immoderate semblance of color, nan brightness dropped. The surface wasn’t dimming itself down overall, but it gave that impression.

Let maine supply an example. I took a webpage successful HDR pinch a YouTube video and slid my rodent cursor from nan achromatic YouTube page complete to a achromatic video, and nan cursor went from a cleanable achromatic to a somewhat muted gray. With nan area count and wide little brightness, it was arsenic if nan 2022 show was limiting nan brightness output successful a high-contrast script to trim nan effect of blooming.

That effect vanished connected nan 2023 display, arsenic good arsenic connected nan 2024 display. Across each 3 displays, nan biggest point I noticed was really nan equilibrium of colour and brightness interacted. Both nan 2022 and 2023 models felt for illustration they deed that wall, turning whites to grey and limiting nan output of nan show to support color. The 2024 exemplary didn’t, arsenic it was offered searing brightness nary matter what contented was connected screen.

An HDR demo playing connected 3 mini-LED laptops.Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Interestingly, that quality successful really nan displays grip brightness and colour didn’t ever play retired successful nan nonsubjective testing. For colour coverage, they’re fundamentally even. The 2022 and 2023 displays deed 100% of DCI-P3, and 90% and 89% of AdobeRGB, respectively, while nan 2024 exemplary clocked successful astatine 99% of DCI-P3 and 89% of AdobeRGB. Color accuracy was very akin arsenic well. The 2022 exemplary clocked successful astatine 1.2, nan 2023 astatine 1.1, and nan 2024 besides astatine 1.2.

That didn’t astonishment me. What was really shocking was really adjacent nan brightness was. In HDR for a 1% window, nan 2022 exemplary managed 1,024 nits, nan 2023 exemplary managed 936 nits, and nan 2024 exemplary deed 1,178 nits. Sure, nan 2024 exemplary is nan brightest, but nan level of brightness I saw looking astatine nan displays surely seemed overmuch higher than nan quality of astir 150 nits.

By nonsubjective metrics, these 3 displays aren’t that different. They person almost identical colour sum and accuracy, and very akin brightness and opposition results. The acquisition couldn’t beryllium much different, though, which is what has been truthful enlightening astir comparing these displays broadside by side. Nowhere other was this much evident than erstwhile comparing really nan screens grip gaming.

A alteration successful experience

I booted up nan aforesaid segment successful Cyberpunk 2077, and initially adjusted each 3 to identical HDR settings. This resulted successful immoderate very “off” visuals, however, truthful I went to tweak nan HDR settings until each show looked bully to springiness each a adjacent shake.

As mentioned, I instantly noticed nan deficiency of bloom crossed each 3 displays. But successful highly analyzable scenes, that area count really started to make a difference.

A Cyberpunk 2077 segment compared connected 2 different mini-LED laptops.Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Between nan 2023 (right) and 2024 exemplary (left), you tin spot really nan area wrapped successful protector is overmuch darker connected nan 2024 model. By nan numbers, each 3 displays are tin of coagulated achromatic levels, but nan higher area count connected nan 2024 allows nan show to modulation to areas pinch little brightness a batch much gracefully.

A segment successful Cyberpunk 2077 compared connected 2 mini-LED laptops.Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

It’s a akin communicative pinch highlights. You tin spot nan occurrence reflecting crossed nan thoroughfare successful nan changeable above, but nan 2024 exemplary has measurement much depth. Again, it’s those zones astatine work. More localized power of nan brightness allows for a batch much accuracy erstwhile dealing pinch highly analyzable lighting situations. The wide opposition of these displays is similar, but those smaller regions of localized opposition couldn’t beryllium much different.

Once again, nan 2024 was brighter, too. The metrics are akin erstwhile you’re looking astatine highest brightness for a fixed window, but nan 2024 exemplary tin grip very agleam and very acheronian areas successful adjacent proximity overmuch better. In granular scenes, nan 2023 and 2022 models look to limit nan wide brightness to trim nan effect of bloom, making nan brightness little awesome and nan colors little vibrant.

It’s easy to look astatine mini-LED invention complete nan past fewer years and presume that thing for illustration blooming is nan improvement. The higher area count is nan captious facet improving these displays, but that count doesn’t explicate nan quality erstwhile really utilizing nan displays. Setting them up broadside by side, you tin spot really acold mini-LED has travel — and contempt what nan nonsubjective metrics say, really nan visuals are improved arsenic a result.

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