LED vs. LCD TVs explained: What’s the difference?

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Shopping for a new TV (especially if you haven’t done truthful successful a fewer years) tin beryllium a clang people successful 3 to four-letter acronyms. From income level value tags to online marketing, Samsung, LG, Sony, TCL, Hisense, and each TV brand nether nan sun is each astir nan tech verbiage — QLED, OLED, mini-LED, QD-OLED, UHD, HD (these are conscionable a fistful of nan go-to selections). But each 1 of these acronyms stands for thing important, which successful astir cases is nan benignant of image exertion nan TV is utilizing to springiness you things for illustration mesmerizing brightness, rich | colors, and awesome achromatic levels. 

But arsenic products proceed to evolve, there’s 1 group of TV acronyms that whitethorn not get nan benignant of magnifying solid attraction it erstwhile commanded, moreover though it’s surely still applicable erstwhile it comes to really your TV is illuminated, and that’s LED and LCD. Even though astir TVs are really LEDs these days, LCDs are decidedly still around, and it pays to cognize nan quality betwixt some of these lighting technologies. Thus, we’ve put together this useful explainer to thief you determine which is better, arsenic good arsenic nan similarities and differences betwixt some show types. 

LED and LCD: Together forever

The LG OLED C9 successful a surviving room.LG

Despite having a different acronym, LED TV is conscionable a circumstantial type of LCD TV, which uses a liquid crystal show (LCD) sheet to power wherever ray is displayed connected your screen. These panels are typically composed of 2 sheets of polarizing worldly pinch a liquid crystal solution betwixt them. When an electrical existent passes done nan liquid, it causes nan crystals to align, truthful that ray tin (or can’t) walk through. Think of it arsenic a shutter, either allowing ray to walk done aliases blocking it out.

Since some LED and LCD TVs are based astir LCD technology, nan mobility remains: What is nan difference? Actually, it’s astir what nan quality was. Older LCD TVs utilized cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFLs) to supply lighting, whereas LED LCD TVs usage an array of smaller, much businesslike light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to illuminate nan screen.

Since nan exertion is better, each LCD TVs now usage LED lights and are colloquially considered LED TVs. For those interested, we’ll spell deeper into backlighting below, aliases you tin move onto nan Local Dimming section.


Samsung N900C 8K Neo QLEDDouglas Murray / Digital Trends

Three basal illumination forms person been utilized successful LCD TVs: CCFL backlighting, full-array LED backlighting, and LED separator lighting. Each of these illumination technologies is different successful important ways. Let’s excavation into each:

CCFL backlighting

CCFL backlighting is an older, now-abandoned shape of show exertion successful which a bid of acold cathode lamps beryllium crossed nan wrong of nan TV down nan LCD. The lights illuminate nan crystals reasonably evenly, which intends each regions of nan image will person akin brightness levels. This affects immoderate aspects of image quality, which we talk successful much item below. Since CCFLs are larger than LED arrays, CCFL-based LCD TVs are thicker than LED-backlit LCD TVs.

Full-array backlighting

Full-array backlighting swaps nan outdated CCFLs for an array of LEDs spanning nan backmost of nan screen, pinch zones of LEDs that tin beryllium lit aliases dimmed successful a process called section dimming. Fully backlit LED TVs are 1 of nan astir communal types of LED lighting utilized successful TVs today, pinch brands for illustration Samsung, Sony, and TCL implementing this tech into galore of their midtier and premium sets, including QLEDs and QD-OLEDS (more connected these TV types later). This is because afloat backlighting arrays are capable to present powerful brightness levels that tin beryllium very precisely controlled pinch features for illustration section dimming, resulting successful a last image that is some vibrant and well-balanced successful position of colors and contrast.

Nowadays, you’ll besides spot TV companies utilizing thing called mini-LED lighting. These are overmuch smaller light-emitting diodes that tin present amended wide brightness and amended colors and opposition done section dimming, simply because much diodes tin beryllium packed into nan full lighting array.

Edge lighting

Another shape of LCD surface illumination is LED separator lighting. As nan sanction implies, edge-lit TVs person LEDs on nan edges of nan screen. There are a fewer different configurations, including LEDs on conscionable nan bottom, LEDs connected nan apical and bottom, LEDs on nan near and correct sides, and LEDs on each 4 parts of nan frame. These different configurations consequence successful image value differences, but nan wide brightness capabilities still transcend what CCFL LCD TVs could achieve. While location are immoderate drawbacks to separator lighting compared to full-array displays (especially successful position of section dimming), TV manufacturers person gotten really bully astatine making edge-lit TVs that usage features for illustration image upscaling to make an edge-lit show look and execute for illustration a full-array screen. Plus, edge-lit TVs are mostly cheaper than afloat backlit TVs!

What is section dimming?

Local dimming is simply a characteristic of LED LCD TVs wherein nan LED ray root down nan LCD is dimmed and illuminated to lucifer what nan TV’s awesome root demands. LCDs can’t wholly forestall ray from passing through, moreover during acheronian scenes, truthful dimming nan ray root itself immunodeficiency successful creating deeper blacks and much awesome opposition successful nan picture. This is accomplished by selectively dimming nan LEDs erstwhile that peculiar portion of nan image — aliases region — is intended to beryllium dark.

An illustration of section dimming connected a Vizio TV.Digital Trends

Local dimming helps LED-LCD TVs much intimately lucifer nan value of modern OLED displays, which characteristic amended opposition levels by their quality — thing CCFL LCD TVs couldn’t do. The value of section dimming varies depending connected which type of backlighting your LCD uses, really galore individual zones of dimming are employed, and nan value of nan processing.

TVs pinch full-array backlighting person nan astir meticulous section dimming and truthful thin to connection nan champion contrast. Since an array of LEDs spans nan full backmost of nan LCD screen, regions tin mostly beryllium dimmed pinch much finesse than connected edge-lit TVs, and brightness tends to beryllium azygous crossed nan full screen. Hisense’s awesome U7H TVs are awesome examples of comparatively affordable models that usage full-array backlighting pinch section dimming.

Because separator lighting employs LEDs positioned connected nan separator aliases edges of nan show to task ray crossed nan full LCD screen, (as opposed to coming from straight down it), it tin consequence successful very subtle blocks aliases bands of lighter pixels wrong aliases astir areas that should beryllium dark. The section dimming of edge-lit TVs tin sometimes consequence successful immoderate murkiness successful acheronian areas compared pinch full-array LED TVs. It should besides beryllium noted that not each edge-lit TVs connection section dimming, which is why it is not uncommon to spot glowing strips of ray astatine nan edges of a TV and little brightness toward nan halfway of nan screen.


An African scenery connected nan LG C2 OLED.

When shopping astir for a TV these days, you’ll still spot LED and LCD acronyms tossed astir a bit, but 2 of nan much communal keywords you’ll find astatine Best Buy and connected Amazon is OLED and QLED. Oh, and now there’s besides QD-OLED to contend with!

An OLED display uses a sheet of pixel-sized integrated compounds that respond to electricity. Since each mini pixel (millions of which are coming successful modern displays) tin beryllium turned connected aliases disconnected individually, OLED displays are called “self-emissive” displays, which intends they require nary backlighting astatine all. These kinds of TVs, made celebrated by LG, connection incredibly heavy opposition levels and amended per-pixel accuracy than immoderate different image tech connected nan market. And because they don’t require a abstracted ray source, OLED displays are besides amazingly bladed — often conscionable a fewer millimeters.

Then location are nan QLED TVs — deliberation of them arsenic a benignant of supercharged LED TV –that were made celebrated by companies for illustration Samsung, TCL, and Hisense. Unlike OLED displays, QLED is not an “emissive” show exertion (actual LED lights still illuminate QLED pixels from behind). However, QLEDs characteristic an updated illumination exertion complete regular LED-LCDs successful nan shape of quantum dots (the “Q” successful QLED), which thief to springiness a large boost to an LED TV’s colour saturation and brightness capabilities. When mixed pinch features for illustration section dimming, galore QLED TVs tin moreover rival nan rich | colors and inky achromatic levels erstwhile only delivered by OLED TVs.

With each these warring image types, it’s a shame that TV manufacturers won’t travel together to create a premium TV that combines nan champion parts of a QLED pinch nan champion parts of an OLED. Actually, that’s a point now, and this caller acronym and image tech is called QD-OLED. A four-layered attack to flagship image quality, QD-OLEDs harvester an LED backlight pinch quantum dots (just for illustration a QLED), connected apical of an LCD matrix pinch a colour select to nutrient a vibrant image with a ton of colour and opposition item (just for illustration an OLED).

Right now, Samsung and Sony are nan 2 QD-OLED kingpins, but we expect to spot this revolutionary image tech implemented connected much and much TVs arsenic clip goes on.

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