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Updated by James Frew on 04/27/2017

Modern technology is incredible – a marvel of ingenuity, creativity, and talent. The technological revolution of the past century has changed the world mostly for the better. Alongside the technological innovation, a new vocabulary has had to develop to explain the latest advances in technology.

Nowhere is this more clear than in the television market Everything You Need to Know About Television Technology Everything You Need to Know About Television Technology Before the days of mobile devices and laptops, our entertainment needs were mostly filled by one source, the television. Read More . Understanding terminology can be critical to getting the best quality at a decent price when upgrading your TV 8 Common Terms You Need To Know Before Buying Your Next TV 8 Common Terms You Need To Know Before Buying Your Next TV When you go out to buy a new television, you might be a little confused by the many options available, all the features they have, and the jargon you need to wade through. Read More . So what exactly is the difference between an LED and LCD display?

What Is LCD?

A Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) is one of the most enduring and fundamental technologies used in most monitors, televisions, tablets and smartphones. TVs and other monitors used to use cathode ray tubes (CRTs) to provide the image onto the screen. Once LCD displays became affordable they quickly displaced the bulky CRTs.

An LCD features a panel of of liquid crystal molecules that can be induced by electricity to take certain patterns which either block or allow light to pass through. The an LCD TV has a light source at the back of the display which lights up the crystals. LCDs commonly use Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamps (CCFL) to provide the backlight.

In order to provide a color image on your screen the LCDs have red, green, and blue sub-pixels in each screen pixel. Transistors within the display control the direction of the light emitted in each pixel, which is then passed through either a red, green, or blue filter.

What Is LED?

Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) are small semiconductors that emit visible light when an electrical current is passed through them. Although the light is often not particularly bright, they are typically more efficient and longer lasting How LED Lighting Can Save You a Boatload of Money How LED Lighting Can Save You a Boatload of Money Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are now among the most energy-efficient lighting technologies, but just how much can you expect to save? And is it really worth switching? Read More than traditional lighting.

While LED is often used in place of LCD by many manufacturers, an LED TV is actually a type of LCD 4 Myths About LCD Monitors That Are Outdated and False 4 Myths About LCD Monitors That Are Outdated and False LCD monitors have improved a lot over the years, but these myths and misconceptions just won't die. Read More . Instead of using CCFL tubes to provide the LCD’s backlight, rows of LEDs give better control of the light provided to the display and at greater efficiency as it’s possible to turn off individual LEDs when they aren’t needed.

Is only life were as simple as to present you with only one choice; LED or CCFL LCD. However, it’s a little more complicated than that. If you choose to go with an LED display you have a selection to make between Edge-Lit, Full Array, and RGB-LED.

Edge-Lit LED

In an Edge-Lit LED TV, the LEDs are arranged around the rim of the display behind the LCD panels facing in towards the screen. This allows the display to be slimmer and use fewer LEDs, bringing the cost down. The light is reflected across the screen uniformly to create the image.

However, Edge-Lit LED displays are going to be brightest closer to the LEDs. This means that uniformity may be an issue with some areas appearing darker than others.

Full-Array LED

A Full-Array LED display has a grid of LED lights behind the LCD display. The LEDs shine directly outwards towards which creates a bright and uniform picture. Although Full-Array LED displays enjoy the efficiency benefits of LEDs, they are similar to CCFL LCDs.

For the best image reproduction, a Full-Array LED display can include local dimming. This means that groups of LEDs can be turned on and off when required to provide better control of the brightness. A Full-Array LED display with local dimming is often referred to as a FALD LED display.

RGB-LED

While LEDs are often referred to as emitting white light, they actually produce a light that is closer to yellow than a pure white. This sometimes create a color shift in the image you see on the screen. In order to improve on this some manufacturers replace the white LED with a grouping of red, green, and blue (RGB) LEDs. When used together, the RGB LEDs create a pure white and generally truer colors across the spectrum.

In order to control the RGB LEDs accurately, the displays require more complicated electronics and programming, as well as more LEDs. This significantly increases the cost of RGB LED displays, but for what most viewers would call a marginal improvement. Because of their higher cost, RGB LED displays have never truly become mainstream. Although, Dell has been known to produce a few like the Studio XPS 16 laptop.

Which Will You Choose?

Before you go hunting for your next TV upgrade What Is a Smart TV & 6 of the Best On The Market Today What Is a Smart TV & 6 of the Best On The Market Today Most televisions you look at now will be smart TVs, but what is a smart TV and which ones are the best on the market right now? Read More it’s worth making sure you know what features are important to you. If keeping the cost down is an important factor then it’s worth considering an edge-lit LED display. If image quality is your priority then a full array or RGB LED display is the choice.

And although manufacturers and sales clerks often like to upsell 6 Sales Tactics To Avoid When Buying Electronics At A Retail Store [Opinion] 6 Sales Tactics To Avoid When Buying Electronics At A Retail Store [Opinion] Going to the store is usually a simple process. You pop in, get what you want, and leave. Many stores go to great lengths to ensure that their customers can easily find the item they... Read More with terminology, you can now say you know your CCFL LCDs from your RGB LED LCDs to make the best choice for your next upgrade.

Do you have a preference for LED or CCFL LCD? Do you think one is better than the other? Or, do you think there are more important TV features to think about? Let us know in the comments below!

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  1. Qeeamat Rai
    January 26, 2017 at 11:45 am

    is any internal difference bw led and lcd?

  2. Anonymous
    August 4, 2016 at 11:08 pm

    If you want to look at different specs of monitors of each kind this site is a good source to get an idea of the pros and cons of popular brands.

  3. Adil
    July 14, 2016 at 8:43 pm

    The whole idea of LED vs LCD is nonsensical. All LEDs ARE LCDs. LEDs and LCDs are two different components of a television that serve two different functions. Comparing LED and LCD to each other is as stupid as comparing car's transmission to tires. Do you want rubber tires or automatic transmission? What?? exactly!

  4. Joe
    April 14, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    The majority of flat panel screens are LCD screens.
    Prior to 2011 most LCD screens came with CCFL backlight modules. Nowadays you won't find LCD screens with CCFL because all manufacturers have replaced them with LED back lighting.

    So the problem with your article, is that your title should've been the difference between a LCD with CCFL, and a LCD with LED.

  5. Joe
    April 14, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    I think you are the cause of confusion for a lot of people.

  6. Naoman Saeed
    September 9, 2012 at 7:37 am

    that was helpful

  7. David E Nebeker
    August 24, 2012 at 6:30 am

    I think you are wrong. At Costco in Salt Lake City for 40" TV's far and away the superior picture for resolution of textures, hair, etc. is the LCD Sony 40BX45 with Sharp technology. The whites are white, not pale blue. The difference is not subtle if one takes one's time and looks closely. I bought a Samsung which cost about $200 more, but left it in the box because at Costco I felt something was not right about this model. I returned it and bought the Sony with which I am well pleased.

  8. Ahmed Khalil
    August 22, 2012 at 9:19 am

    As i know also LED is less power consuming than LCD, and TV is more slim too

  9. Marcia Ford
    August 22, 2012 at 5:36 am

    We live at 9,000 feet and have been told that the altitude affects LCDs and plasmas, but LEDs are okay. Does anyone know if that is correct?

    • Matt.Smith
      August 22, 2012 at 8:50 am

      LCD and LEDs should be fine. Plasmas might be fine but I do believe 9,000 feet is outside the manufacturer specifications so that would probably invalidate your warranty.

  10. Sebastian Hadinata
    August 22, 2012 at 3:41 am

    I never knew the differences until now :D.
    Great info.

  11. Benjamin Glass
    August 21, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Thanks for the explanation. I was really confused on this subject.

  12. Randy Luczak
    August 19, 2012 at 4:31 am

    Great info, thanx for the contribution.
    I've just started shopping for a new television and was wondering
    about the difference between the two.

    Now I know!!

    Thanks for answering the question!

  13. Rigoberto Garcia
    August 19, 2012 at 4:03 am

    Great article Matt. Thanks...

  14. susendeep dutta
    August 18, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    So,current prices of LED TVs are not justified.So,I think LCD TVs are best to buy or Plasma TV.What do you think?

    • Matt Smith
      August 18, 2012 at 4:59 pm

      I recently bought an LG 42" Plasma for $299 and I think it's awesome. Grant you, I'm not a videophile, but if I were I would simply have bought one of Panasonic's fancy plasmas. You can get a very nice model for $1000 (in the 'States)

  15. Andrey Zvyagin
    August 18, 2012 at 11:16 am

    Today, under the LED shops mean different things: the type of illumination, imaging, etc. Even there are different types of LED!

  16. Paul Girardin
    August 18, 2012 at 3:11 am

    Thank you for this! :D It is very informative in a simple laid-out way! ;)

  17. Emmanuel Asuncion
    August 18, 2012 at 1:13 am

    Nice article, learned a lot. Thanks Matt.

  18. KevinD
    August 17, 2012 at 10:38 pm

    It's great information.
    What I would like to know but realize I'm a very very small minority, Is the Liquid Crystal display from the same Liquid Crystal research that SDS tried to stop at Kent State University (KSU) in Kent Ohio that resulted in the death of 3 KSU students??

  19. Stay See Kate
    August 17, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    Wow Thanks for the explanation!
    I've always wanted to replace my LCD monitor with the LED ones! because my LCD monitor hurts my eyes like hell! My Grandmom was also planning to replace our TVs with LED ones its good info to know that LEDs do not consume much energy.

  20. Achraf52
    August 17, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    Hi, so I understand all those LED based TV we know use LCD screen, but what type of those listed above is used in Samsung LED 3D TV device ? also I hope you write about Plasma and OLED so we can learn more about those and push us some links to the recommended products .

    • Matt Smith
      August 18, 2012 at 5:00 pm

      I'm not exactly sure what version is used in Samsung LED 3D televisions. It probably depends on the set.

  21. Fayz
    August 17, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    Oh wow! I had some vague idea on the difference between LCDs and LEDs but didn't think there was so much! Great read! c:

  22. Ravi Lamontagne
    August 17, 2012 at 7:49 pm

    I love the LED monitors. The fact that it helps save power is a big deal

    • Achraf52
      August 17, 2012 at 9:16 pm

      Yes, especially on battery powered devices .

    • Tug Ricks
      August 17, 2012 at 9:31 pm

      They do save power, but because they cost more, it can often take quite some time to make up the difference. (At least when talking about TV's anywho.)

  23. Timothy Liem
    August 17, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    Plasma and Tube TVs were great for movie. but it's too expensive to produce. furthermore, they couldn''t handle high resolution on smaller scrren. the bigger resolution it can produce, the bigger its body and screen is. so here comes LCD ones, improved with the coming of LED.

  24. Mike
    August 17, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    Yay, thanks

  25. kushal.hm
    August 17, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    Wonderfull explanation.

  26. kushal.hm
    August 17, 2012 at 7:01 pm

    Wonderfully explained.

  27. Halim3050
    August 17, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    Finally I got the picture :)

  28. Lelen
    August 17, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    How do it work?

  29. GrrGrrr
    August 17, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    Nice article Matt, but too technical.

  30. Ashwin Ramesh
    August 17, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    I have an LED TV at home. It really is worth it! Don't know much about Plasma TV though...

  31. vineedcool
    August 17, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    i will say oled is better coz firstly it uses oragin matter secondly each pixel of oled can be turned off when displaying true black thus saving battery!!!

    • Achraf52
      August 17, 2012 at 9:15 pm

      All LCD and LED turn off to display black color, just how dark it is is what makes it different to us .

      • vineedcool
        August 18, 2012 at 9:05 am

        can they display black on individual pixel???

        • Matt Smith
          August 18, 2012 at 5:03 pm

          No.

          Blacks on an LCD or LED or limited by the fact there must be back-lighting for anything to be visible at all. So while an individual LCD pixel can attempt to block light, light is still being created and will come through the display.

          That's why Plasmas have the advantage in this area. Each individual pixel on a Plasma is filled with gas which is charged to create light. But if you don't need light, you can just not charge the pixel, and it makes none.

          Now, it is a little more complex than that, which is why most plasmas don't produce an absolute true-to-life black, but they do have the ability to make individual pixels almost devoid of light.

        • vineedcool
          August 19, 2012 at 10:27 am

          true :)

  32. Ales Mole
    August 17, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    My opinion: there is nothing better than PLASMA :) for movie enthusiasts, definitely plasma.

    • Achraf52
      August 17, 2012 at 9:13 pm

      It is known that Plasma require room light to show the best while we love to watch a movie when room light is off, so ?

      • Tug Ricks
        August 17, 2012 at 9:30 pm

        Low lighting is actually a better environment for watching a plasma TV, as a room with a lot of light can create a glare.

        • Ales Mole
          August 18, 2012 at 4:37 am

          Correctly...room with a lot of light isn't appropriate for Plasma.

  33. Efi Dreyshner
    August 17, 2012 at 4:45 pm

    Thanks :D
    Tomorrow I am getting a new TV, so i wondered about it :P