LED vs. UHD: What’s the Difference?


LED vs. UHD: What’s the Difference?

Key Facts

  • The majority of available UHD displays feature LED backlit screens.
  • Although LED has existed since the late 19th century, it was only in the 1970s that scientists were able to use it to backlight television screens.
  • UHD is a regulatory standard which refers to resolution and aspect ratio: appliances which qualify for it come with a  3840 x 2160p resolution and an aspect ratio of 16:9, at the minimum.

In the lightning-fast world of electronic technologies, the terms LED and UHD play their role in further confusing consumers. When navigating through all the manufacturer’s claims about why their particular model is the best choice, some buzz words mean a lot, and others don’t really change a thing.

To give you some answers, we’ve laid out the facts on LED and UHD in this easy-to-understand article. Don’t be surprised to find out that these two terms mean quite different things.

Let’s take a close look at these two types of displays to see what they have to do with your final user experience.

LED vs. UHD: A Side-by-Side Comparison

What is it?Screen lightingScreen resolution
MeaningLight Emitting DiodeUltra-High Definition
First Use19772001
PixelsCreate pixelsStandardize aspect ratio and screen resolutions
UsesLighting for TVs, monitors, tablets, and phonesImprove consumer literacy on advertisers’ claims

LED vs. UHD: What’s the Difference?

As we can see already, these are two totally different terms used to produce different user experiences. Manufacturers also play their part by using these terms for marketing efforts.

It’s important to consider that most UHD displays on the market come with LED backlit screens or some other newer LED technology.

So, with all the information out there, why do some consumers still think it’s one or the other? Let’s break both of them down to get a real feel for the differences between LED and UHD.

What is LED?

LED is an innovative lighting technology that has been around since the late 19th century. Engineers use physics to manipulate electron flow through semiconductor materials, creating reactions that produce photons, or light.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that LED technology had advanced far enough to start using Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) to backlight television screens. Since that time, LED usage has changed quite a bit. These days, the term refers to many types of TV lighting, and the ways in which the light is produced have changed too.

Not all LEDs are created equally. So, to keep the information digestible, let’s keep this point brief.

In the world of LED, there are direct-lit models, edge-lit, and full-array LEDs, as well as OLED and QLED systems where the pixels produce their own light. To get a clearer idea of what the differences are in these LED technologies, you may want to check out these other articles: QLED vs. OLED: Full Comparison and OLED vs. LED: Full Comparison.

LED: 5 Interesting Facts

  • The first LED to produce visible light was invented in 1962 by Nick Holonyak, an engineer for GE.
  • It is used for most flat-screen TVs, excluding plasma.
  • True LED TVs are not readily available to the public and cost around $100,000. The term LED TV is not an accurate representation.
  • Unless you have a very old TV, your newer set is an LCD TV with LED lighting.
  • LED models provide less color accuracy and limited viewing angles compared to OLED.

New LED Technology

By taking a look at the acronyms above, we can see that LED technology is in a never-ending cycle of innovation. New versions of the old lighting systems are coming out regularly.

We already took a look at OLED, QLED, and full array LED models. When you add to that mini-LED full array, Neo QLED, QNED, and others, it can start to get confusing again. Just remember to take your time when deciding which TV is right for you and don’t get bogged down by all the hype.

8k 4k ultra high quad full HD TV monitor high resolution
With so many different types of TV monitor displays, it can be difficult to truly understand what sets them apart!

LED: An Eco-Friendly Alternative

Another great feature of LED lighting is the energy efficiency and eco-friendly impact this technology is going to have on the world.

A standard incandescent light bulb uses about 9% of the energy sent to it to produce light with the rest going to heat production. In contrast, an LED bulb uses a minimum of 50% of the energy it receives to produce light. When you run those numbers out over the next twenty years, the switch to LED lighting will save billions of dollars in the U.S. alone.

Two other benefits of LEDs reported by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are LEDs’ total lack of mercury used in manufacturing and the almost 100% recyclability of its materials. This is a huge upgrade from Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs) that not only contain mercury but also create huge amounts of waste.

What is UHD?

UHD is an umbrella term used to standardize the specification requirements of regulatory bodies by way of aspect ratio and screen resolution. When a manufacturer says UHD, then the consumer can be sure that it meets certain requirements for these features.

For a unit to qualify as UHD, it must have a minimum 4K resolution (3840 x 2160p) and an aspect ratio of 16:9.

UHD: 5 Interesting Facts

  • To qualify as UHD, screens must have a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels and a contrast ratio of 16:9.
  • UHD is the natural successor to HDTV.
  • Depending on resolution, UHD can be 20 times better quality than HD.
  • UHD has allowed manufacturers to create much larger screens without sacrificing picture quality.
  • Always remember that the screen resolution is only as good as the video signal resolution you are receiving. There is no reason to spend extra money on a TV that goes beyond the values you’re going to get from the provider of your signal.

TV Resolution in Detail

Let’s dig a little deeper into resolution and aspect ratio separately.

Resolution is most commonly used to refer to the number of rows and columns of pixels for the screen. The actual resolution of the screen depends more on the pixel density and the unit’s ability to adjust to the format of incoming signals.

When talking about UHD, we also see the tags 4k and 8k, and even sometimes 16k. As stated above, for a screen to be considered UHD, it must have at least 3840 x 2160p.

So, what about 8k? Well, that would be a resolution of 7680 x 4320p. Does this mean that 8k is twice as good? The answer is yes and no. Although 8k can give a better, more vivid picture, there isn’t any content readily available in 8k. Also, 8k is going through the same growing pains as all other new tech faces and it’s going to be a while before it’s a consumer regular.

Aspect Ratio in Detail

An important thing to remember is that your TV has an aspect ratio and the picture being sent has an aspect ratio of its own. The most common for both right now is 16:9. This refers to the association of the width and height of your screen with the content being viewed.

The interesting thing to consider with aspect ratio is that, these days, our devices are getting “smarter” along with the changes in the viewing tech. Matching the aspect ratios of devices and content is still important, but the viewing experience is improving as computers and TVs learn to adjust.

Final Thoughts

It’s easy to see how consumers can get caught up in the marketing hype of the manufacturers of these TVs. By doing your homework and learning a few simple things about what these acronyms actually mean, you can get an understanding of what points really matter.

LED is a fascinating technology, and if you want to really geek out, the physics behind how this lighting system works is worth your time.

UHD, on the other hand, is not a technology at all. It’s more a way for regulatory bodies such as the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to set specifications for manufacturers and keep them on the up and up with their advertising claims.

It’s becoming more and more important to know the differences in all the advertising acronyms that are out there. You don’t want to spend thousands of extra dollars on features that don’t give you actual user experience benefits.


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Frequently Asked Questions

What's the difference between LED and UHD?

LED is the technology that lights the screen and UHD is a standard of pixel numbers the screen must have for a certain image quality.

Can I buy a TV or monitor that has both LED and UHD?

Chances are if you buy a UHD or 4k TV these days, the lighting technology will be some type of LED or their more modern cousins, like OLED or QLED.

Are UHD and 4k the same?

Yes, by definition a UHD TV is also a 4k model.

What resolution is UHD?

For a TV to qualify as Ultra High Definition (UHD), the resolution must be 3840 x 2160p.

What is the best LED for TVs?

For true LED, the mini-LED full array models are the best backlit TVs. From there, you can get into newer technologies like OLED and QLED.

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