LCD vs LED: The Key Differences Explained

People of a certain age will remember the size and heft of a cathode-ray tube TV or monitor. These heavy appliances required sturdy TV stands and were difficult to move. The liquid-crystal display TV quickly displaced its CRT-based relatives. These screens were much thinner and lighter. The smaller size made it possible to develop portable laptop computers.

LCD screens are a ubiquitous technology. Devices from watches to appliance displays use liquid crystals to share information. These crystals do not produce light on their own. A small screen like a watch may have a reflective layer that directs ambient light. A monitor or TV must be backlit by a more robust light source.

The source of the backlighting creates the distinction between LCD and LED screens. Older LCD monitors use fluorescent lights. Liquid crystals in LED screens are backlit using more efficient light-emitting diodes.

LCD vs LED: Side by Side Comparison

Abbreviation Stands For Liquid-Crystal Display Light-Emitting Diode
Common Applications TVs, Monitors, and Laptops TVs, Monitors, and Laptops
Backlit By White Fluorescent White LED
Local Dimming Capability Low High
Screen Burn-In Risk None Medium
Average Lifespan 30,000 hours 50,000 hours
LCD vs LED
A liquid crystal display (LCD) has liquid crystal material sandwiched between two sheets of glass.

LCD vs LED: 5 Must Know Facts

  • In a liquid-crystal display (LCD), electric currents interact with a layers of crystals to block different frequencies of light and produce colors.
  • LCD technology empowers screens in home devices like a watch, smartphone or computer monitor.
  • Older LCDs are backlit with cold-cathode fluorescents lamps (CCFLs).
  • Most LED displays use a liquid-crystal layer with light-emitting diodes as a light source.
  • Newer OLED screens produce images using only LED pixels.

LCD Screens: A Complete Overview

Scientists have studied the properties of liquid crystals since their discovery in the late 1800s. However, it was not until the 1960s that people learned how to incorporate them in displays. In an LCD screen, two pieces of polarized glass sandwich a layer of liquid crystals. As electric currents pass through the crystalline layer, the crystals can block different light frequencies.

In a simple screen like a digital watch, the blocked light creates a black display. In a TV or computer monitor, more advanced technology allows for pixels in a wide variety of colors.

Backlit displays require a light source. The first generation of LCD screens used fluorescent lights for this purpose. These were some of the longest-lasting and efficient light sources of the time. For this reason, displays that use fluorescents continue to bear the LCD-screen label.

Like other CCFL light sources, the fluorescent lights in LCDs are manufactured using mercury. Environmental concerns led researchers to look for a better lighting option. The next generation of laptops and monitors incorporated light-emitting diodes.

LED Screens: Understanding a New Technology

LED screen technology is changing rapidly. However, most LED displays are still a variation in liquid-crystal technology. They have replaced the less efficient CCFL light source with the cool light of LEDs.

Replacing this light source has several benefits. LEDs last significantly longer than CCFLs and run more efficiently. They are a more responsive light source that offers higher clarity and contrast. For a clear picture and fast gaming, LEDs are a smart choice.

Using LEDs also alleviates some of the concerns around CCFLs. Light-emitting diodes do not contain mercury, so their disposal is less complicated. These lights are also dimmable, which can reduce eyestrain in office settings.

LCD vs LED
An LED Screen is like a giant television or computer monitor. The screen itself is made from lots of little LEDs (light-emitting diodes) placed close together.

QLEDs

LED technology continues to evolve, producing more refined displays. The Q in QLED stands for quantum. In addition to the traditional liquid-crystal layer, these screens incorporate a film of quantum dots. These dots emit light at a molecular level for deeper colors and higher contrasts.

OLEDs

Organic LED displays represent something new in viewing technology. A traditional LED monitor is an LCD screen with an LED light source. OLED TVs do not use liquid-crystal technology. Instead, pictures come from millions of embedded LEDs. These tiny lights produce clear images on the thinnest screens on the market.

LCD vs LED: Choosing Your Next Screen

Right now, the type of monitor you choose is a matter of personal preference. If cost is an issue, traditional LCDs offer performance levels that are adequate for most needs at a lower price. However, to work with the latest technology, you will want to consider an LED-powered display.

Technology companies are moving toward LEDs as the standard technology for TVs and computer monitors. Their efficient operation, faster response rate, and lower environmental impact make them an attractive choice. Soon, it will not be a matter of choosing between LCD and LED displays. Instead, you will have to consider what sort of LED screen you want to watch.

LCD vs LED: Full Comparison FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is the difference between LCD and LED screen?

The primary difference between an LCD and an LED screen is the light source. Both screens use liquid crystal technology. However, a TV with an LCD label will use CCFLs. An LED monitor uses white light-emitting diodes.

Is LCD or LED better for gaming?

Both screen types can provide an excellent gaming experience. However, LED screens have better clarity and responsiveness. Their dimming ability will improve screen contrast. An LED TV runs a higher risk of burn-in with static images. This issue can be a problem with games that feature a constant HUD.

What are the advantages of LCD over LED?

LCD monitors typically have a lower cost than LED screens because the technology has been on the market longer. Using a fluorescent light source also prevents the burn-in that can happen when an image is on display for an extended period on an LED screen.

Is LCD bad for your eyes?

Staring at an LCD screen for an extended time leads to eyestrain. People who use LCD screens at their jobs or enjoy longer gaming sessions should take periodic breaks to allow their eyes to recover. Monitors and laptops that use an LED light source have better dimming capabilities and can reduce eyestrain.

Liquid-crystal displays emit blue light that can damage eyes with prolonged exposure. The wavelength also affects the natural sleep cycle, and people should avoid screen time in the hour before they go to bed.

LCD vs LED: Which one is better overall?

Although they are more expensive initially, TVs and monitors that use LEDs as a light source are better in the long run. LEDs are more responsive and energy-efficient. Their compact size leads to thinner and lighter screens. They also have a longer lifespan, which reduces the long-term cost of operation.

More from History-Computer

  • CDW Available here: https://www.cdw.com/content/cdw/en/articles/hardware/the-best-monitor-for-you-lcd-vs-led.html
  • Wikipedia Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquid-crystal_display
  • Wikipedia Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light-emitting_diode
  • Oaxis Available here: http://oaxis.com/en/lcd-screens-harmful-effects/
  • c|net Available here: https://www.cnet.com/tech/home-entertainment/qled-vs-oled-samsung-and-lg-tv-technologies-explained/
  • Digital Trends Available here: https://www.digitaltrends.com/home-theater/led-vs-lcd-tvs/