LED vs. LCD Televisions: Which is better?

If you have been thinking of cashing in on the January sales and buying a new television then you’ve probably come across the terms LED and LCD, but what do they mean, how are they different and which one is best?

Really it all boils down to which one you prefer and can afford, but to offer you some guidance, we are going to explain what LED and LCD mean and how they relate to televisions.

First of all, let’s clarify the terms LED and LCD:

  • LED – light emitting diodes
  • LCD – liquid crystal display

An LED TV is also an LCD TV

LED Televisions and LCD Televisions are the same, they just use a different method of backlighting. Both Televisions use a liquid crystal display (LCD) panel to regulate how the light is displayed on the screen. The panels are two layers of polarized glass with liquid crystals in-between them that either allow light through or block it.

The crystals themselves do not produce light, they merely block it, the light comes from the back of the TV, hence backlighting.

With an LCD TV, the backlight produced is by cold cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFL’s), and on an LED TV it is from the more efficient light emitting diodes (LED).

Two different types of LED Lighting

To make matters even more confusing, there are two types of LED lighting:

  • Full Array
  • Edge Lit

Full Array

This is a grid system of light that spans across the screen and shines outwards, which creates a bright and uniform picture.

Sony KD-55XD9305 55 -inch LCD 1080 pixels 1000 Hz 3D TV - £1,349.99

The daddy of all LED TVs. If you’ve got the money, this is the TV to buy.

From: amazon.co.uk

Edge Lit

As the name suggests, this display is lit from the edges and is typically used on very thin designs. They do not give quite such an even display as full array models.

Bush 24 Inch Full HD 1080p LED TV - £139.99

Good example of an LED edge-lit TV. 24” Smart HD ready from Bush includes iPlayer and Netflix and also has an built-in DVD player.

From: argos.co.uk

The benefits of LED backlighting

The problem with using CCFL lighting is that the tubes are much larger than the LEDs, which means that LED TVs can be manufactured to a much thinner specification. Nowadays, any TV that has to measure under one inch in thickness is always made using LEDs, as CCFLs are just too large.

Economy-wise, CCFLs are much more energy hungry than their LED counterparts. They tend to consume more electricity because they have to light up the entire screen, whereas LEDs can be turned off in parts.

CCFL tubes can only be arranged in horizontal or vertical lines, whereas diodes can be arranged in a grid pattern all over the screen.

The most important benefit for LED TVs however, is a feature called local dimming. This is a technique that allows a better quality picture, with deeper blacks and pinpoint clarity. Local dimming allows the diodes to be dimmed or completely turned off. With CCFL lighting the screen, every tube has to be on, blazing away in the background to light it evenly. There is no way it can be adjusted on any part of the screen.

The best way to imagine how this affects the picture is to imagine a space scene; there is a big ocean of inky blackness and a few bright stars. LED TVs with local dimming can turn off their diodes for the blackness of space, and keep just a few on for the stars. This makes a bright contrast that CCFL lighting cannot match because it simply cannot block out all that blazing light from the fluorescent tubes. Much better to have no light for that inky blackness instead.

Which TV should you buy?

We would recommend buying an LED TV with local dimming, but before you rush out to buy one, be warned, not all of them come with this feature.

Some edge-lit LED TVs have local dimming but because of the way they are lit they cannot turn off parts of the display as well as full array TVs can.

So if you are buying an LED TV, make sure it is a full array set that has local dimming functionality, these TVS are typically easy to mount, thin and have an exceptional display qualities. However, you are paying for these benefits.

If you are on a budget then opt for an LCD screen, they are still great value but be warned, they won’t be around for ever.

    1. Rick Mock January 1, 2017

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