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Virtual Pixel COB LED Display:IS Direct View LED Screens Better than MIP LED?

by | Mar 15, 2024 | Blogs | 0 comments

In 2023, the small-pitch LED market experienced three major shifts:

  • The rapid emergence and adoption of MIP technology, which resulted in a more than tenfold increase in new product volume; 
  • COB technology accelerated price reductions, which resulted in a 150% increase in sales volume due to a price drop of nearly half; 
  • Many LED display manufacturers focus on “virtual pixel” technology.

What are virtual pixels in LED displays?

Virtual Pixel

Real pixel means that the number of physical pixel points on the display and the actual number of pixel points displayed are in a 1:1 relationship, and the display can only display image information for as many points as there are actual points on the display.

Virtual pixel means that the number of physical pixels on the display and the actual number of pixels displayed is 1:N (N=2, 4) relationship, it can display the image pixels than the actual pixels of the display screen 2 times or 4 times more. That is to say, the resolution of virtual pixel LED display is 2 times or 4 times of real pixel LED display.

Virtual pixel can be divided into: software virtual and hardware virtual according to the virtual control mode; according to the multiplier relationship is divided into: 2 times virtual and 4 times virtual, according to the row of lights on a module is divided into: 1R1G1B virtual and 2R1G1GB virtual.

The virtual pixel technology obtains higher resolution and clearer visual effect with lower cost. For customers pursuing high-resolution, high-definition and cost-effective LED display, purchasing virtual pixel display is also a high-quality program.

What is the biggest obstacle hindering the development of small-pitch LED screens?

Although these shifts may represent “independent technological advancements” and progress trends, the LED display industry people view them as “different aspects” of the same issue, each reflecting a different choice for future industry architecture.

The main obstacle to the widespread adoption and development of small-pitch LED products is “cost price”. Especially for micro-pitch products, a hundred-inch display area can cost several hundred thousand, which is not commensurate with the display value it brings.

The industry acknowledges that “small pitch technologies have reached extreme levels, such as p0.4 and p0.3, but the market is struggling to see such products widely applied due to the cost issue: the cost of direct LED display is almost geometrically related to ‘pixel density'”. This issue drives the three major market shifts in 2023:

For example, the main significance of MIP technology is to reduce the difficulty of mass transfer, effectively inherit the surface-mount technology, lower the precision requirements of PCBs, and fully utilize the new micro-LED technology to reduce the manufacturing cost of small-pitch LEDs. 

The biggest advantage of MIP is its low difficulty and cost. Virtual pixel technology significantly reduces costs by drastically reducing the number of physical LED pixels for the same logical pixel density. The more than 150% increase in COB product volume in 2023 was also dependent on a price reduction of almost half.

“Addressing cost” not only promotes the rapid popularization and market expansion of existing mature applications, but also encourages potential applications such as all-in-one products to truly take off and explore new scene richness. 

In addition, leveraging China’s early development, technological leadership and industrial chain advantages in small-pitch LED displays to reduce costs can further consolidate its position in the international market and exert “dimensional pressure” on other regions trying to catch up.

Thus, the LED direct display industry has a clear consensus and resolute action to further reduce costs. 

  • The rapid adoption of MIP technolog
  • the accelerated price reduction of COB technology
  • the market approach of virtual pixels 

They are all specific manifestations of this consensus.

Are COB and virtual pixel technology powerful tools?

For MIP technology, the main proponents are “micro LED upstream wafer and packaging companies” and “downstream terminal brands”. Among them, the most committed are packaging companies and second-tier downstream terminal brands that have not mastered their COB or mass transfer technologies.

“If the future of small-pitch LEDs is dominated by COB, then in today’s context where mainstream brands are building their COB production lines, the market for packaging companies will ‘increasingly shrink’. 

At the same time, the “capability gap” between first-tier companies with their own COB lines and second-tier companies will widen. Developing mass transfer and COB technology from midstream and embracing the micro-LED display era is a “calculation” by leading brands, which explains their high regard for COB.

MIP technology breaks the trend of COB technology “monopolizing the midstream packaging segment of the industry chain” and gives midstream packaging companies a competitive edge. It provides a way for second- and third-tier brands to mass-produce micro-LED products without or with less reliance on mass-transfer processes.

Therefore, the competitive relationship between MIP and COB is not only about different packaging structures, but also about different future.

Competition in LED display virtual technology

In 2023, virtual pixel technology will enter the competition with MIP and COB. Virtual pixel technology is implemented on two levels: 

  • physically, through new sub-pixel arrays such as Samsung’s famous “diamond array” for OLEDs;
  • software, through virtual pixel rendering algorithms. 

The impact of the former on final display effects and cost competitiveness is a primary contradiction.

Large LED display companies seeking unique virtual pixel technology designs must master “new array” techniques and processes at the sub-pixel level. If they have mastered COB and mass-transfer technologies and manufacturing processes, changing sub-pixel arrays is not a “difficult” task. 

However, if MIP and surface mount technologies are used, it could lead to a different scenario – either adopting sub-pixel MIP packaging, increasing the complexity of terminal integration contrary to the low cost, mature process expectations and almost no commercial value, or adopting non-standard RGB sub-pixel structures in MIP packaging. 

Such packaging specifications would hardly meet the benefit of “one MIP packaging specification, adaptable to multiple pitch indicators for terminal screens”, essentially reverting to an “IMD” (Integrated Mounting Device) multi-in-one packaging structure, such as NationStar’s MIP-IMD series products.

Thus, at least for now, virtual pixel technology is more compatible with COB technology and more advantageous for brands that have mastered COB packaging. In fact, most of the brands that launched small-pitch LED products with virtual pixel technology in 2023 used COB packaging.

In 2023, Unilumin Technology launched two virtual pixel products, UMiniP 0.93 and 1.2, and announced that virtual pixel technology would be applied to a wide range of products from P0.9 to P3.1. 

Leyard Optoelectronic claimed that its unique Micro LED Pixel Engine display technology, which increases chip cost by only one-third (G sub-pixel), results in a fourfold improvement in resolution. This technology has been applied to Leyard’s DS series, YS series and other micro LED display products based on COB technology. 

Shenzhen MTC recently introduced its Micro LED TV virtual pixel products,covering virtual pixel unit products from P0.62 to P1.87:

  • 108-inch 4K (virtual pixel P0.62)
  • 135-inch 4K (virtual pixel P0.78)
  • 162-inch 4K (virtual pixel P0.93) Micro LED TVs

At the end of 2023, AOC also launched a COB virtual pixel LED integrated machine product. XIDA Electronics stated that the COB dynamic pixel technology using dynamic pixel + mini size reduction will significantly reduce the total chip cost.

Overall, the deployment of virtual pixel + COB technology is faster than that of virtual pixel MIP-IMD technology. In addition, adopting virtual pixel MIP-IMD technology may mean giving up the advantage of one MIP specification corresponding to multiple terminal pitch specifications (theoretically, MIP-IMD is difficult to be considered as an independent device, and from a product structure perspective, it is more similar to a miniaturized COB product). This makes the combination of virtual pixel + COB more imaginative in 2024 and potentially the most attractive option for the market.

Is Virtual pixel + COB a low-cost choice?

COB LED display price

Virtual pixel + COB as a “low-cost weapon” raises the question: “Whoever offers the low-cost solution in the small-pitch LED market can lead the industry to further popularization!” In this regard, the “physical cost advantage” of virtual pixels has already become quite apparent.

There is a persistent concern in the industry that “the clarity of logical pixels will always fall short of physical pixels”. This calls into question the real-world market performance of virtual pixel technology, and also poses a significant test to the pricing logic of virtual pixel products. This applies equally to traditional COB (chip-on-board) with virtual pixel technology and miniaturized COB technologies such as MIP-IMD (micro LED integrated matrix display).

Especially at the beginning of the year, the market witnessed another price reduction of Nationstar’s GT series 1010 products, which helped bring down the price of P1.25 modules to 9998 yuan per square meter. This move effectively broke the lower price limit of traditional products and has implications for the future pricing of products combining various technologies such as COB, MIP, IMD and virtual pixels, creating a stronger “bottom-end pull”.

Leading LED Screen Manufacturer Talks About LED Virtual Technology

Unilumin Technology:

 In the era of ultra-high-definition displays, 4K/8K resolutions inevitably face the problems of rising costs and exponentially increasing difficulties in manufacturing processes. At the same time, emphasizes the increase in physical pixel density beyond the limits of human visual resolution, especially at predictable viewing distances such as one foot for smartphone screens, 2-4 meters for TV screens, and 5-10 meters for screens in command and control centers, lose the “value of visual clarity”. Balancing these factors, it is more appropriate to develop products based on actual effects, which is why virtual pixel technology is becoming widely popular.

In addition, virtual pixel technology has great potential in the field of LED direct display, and its application in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) is becoming increasingly evident. It is expected that in the next 3-5 years, China’s VR/AR industry market size will maintain a high annual growth rate of 30%-40%. By 2026, it is expected that several backbone enterprises and industry clusters with strong international competitiveness will be formed.

Therefore, we have reason to believe that virtual pixel technology will have a profound impact on the development of the LED display industry and the entire VR and AR industry. Unilumin has already launched two virtual pixel products, U Mini P 0.93/1.2, which are expected to be widely applied in the market in the future.

Leyard Optoelectronics: 

Leyard Optoelectronics was the first in the LED display industry to propose the pixel engine technology, which was introduced to the entire industry on July 20, 2020, together with the introduction of the P0.6 pixel engine COB product. Over the past three years, Leyard has continuously optimized its pixel engine technology, achieving breakthroughs in display effects through continuous algorithm optimization. 

Leyard’s pixel engine technology has been applied to commercial and consumer displays. In addition, Leyard was the first in China to file patents for RGBG rectangular array and RGB triangular array. Through more than four years of technical development, Leyard has consolidated its innovative edge in pixel engine technology and laid a solid foundation for its long-term development.

DOITVISION: 

cob led displays
doitvision cob led displays

As LED direct display technology advances into the new era of 4K/8K, the emergence of virtual pixel technology will have a profound impact on the industry, significantly improving the quality and cost-effectiveness of LED displays. This technology excels in the micro-pitch range of P0.1-P2, offering unprecedented visual enjoyment and commercial value. 

The LED direct display industry is developing in two major directions: first, to meet the demand for ultra-high-definition displays, products are pursuing smaller pixel pitches, such as 4K/8K resolution all-in-one displays and micro LED direct display TVs with pixel pitches of P0.4 and below. In addition, there is a demand for higher-resolution display systems in large engineering displays such as virtual simulation and industrial design applications. 

Virtual pixel technology, with its unique advantages, achieves a multiple increase in visual clarity without a significant increase in cost. This innovation not only injects new vitality into the LED display industry, but is also expected to be a key force in promoting the popularization of high-quality displays. As technology advances and market demand grows, virtual pixel technology will play an increasingly important role in the field of direct view LED displays.

Conclusion:

Doitvision believes that against the industry backdrop of traditional products voluntarily lowering prices, emerging technologies focusing on cost reduction, and the market’s urgent need for lower costs to drive the growth of new demand scenarios.

In 2024, there will undoubtedly be another “big year for price cuts” in the LED direct display market, especially in the small-pitch LED display. In this context, it remains to be seen whether COB combined with virtual pixels can truly deliver the dual benefits of “supply chain value and cost control” for leading brands and whether virtual pixels can become a powerful cost-reduction tool.

About the Author

Kris Liang

Kris Liang

Founder/LED display expert

Kiris Liang is the founder of Doitvision. 12 + years in LED visual industry. Full passion of LED, product designer & chief salesman. Looking for teammate of technical/ marketing / sales.

Connecting people relative with LED displays.

Email: kris@doitvision.net