What Is an Edge-Lit LED TV?

Family watching television in living room
Robert Daly / Getty Images

One term that you’re likely to hear when comparing different models of televisions is "edge-lit LED." Consumers encounter a lot of confusion when it comes to the different types of TVs available today and the technology in them. In part, that’s because manufacturers often promote the merits of a particular technology without fully explaining it and give them their own branded names. 

First, you should know that all LED TVs are a type of LCD TV; the “LED” refers only to the type of lighting source used to illuminate the LCD pixels in the television. Complicating matters even more is the fact that there is more than one way to light the pixels. The two major technologies are edge-lit and full-array.

Edge-Lit LED

A television that is edge-lit is a model in which the LEDs that illuminate the LCD pixels are located only along the edges of the set. These LEDs face inward toward the screen to illuminate it.

This allows these models to be much thinner and lighter. They do this at the mild expense of some picture quality—specifically in the area of black levels. Black areas of the picture, such as in a night scene where darkness is being displayed, are not truly black, but are seen as more like a very dark gray because the lighting is coming from the edge and illuminating the dark areas a bit more.

In some models of poorer quality edge-lit LEDs, uniform picture quality can be a problem. Because the LEDs are located along the edges of the panel, as you approach the middle of the screen, quality declines because a uniform amount of illumination is not reaching the pixels located further away from the edges. Again, this is more noticeable during scenes of darkness; the black along the edges of the screen is more gray than black (and corners can appear to almost have a flashlight-like quality of illumination emanating from the corners).

Full-Array LED

Full-array LED refers to televisions that use a full panel of LEDs to illuminate the pixels. Most of these sets also have local dimming, which means the LEDs can be dimmed in different regions of the panel while other regions are not. This helps improve black levels, which appear closer to black than a dark gray. 

Full-array televisions are generally thicker and heavier than edge-lit models.

Edge-Lit Versus Full-Array LED

In general, full-array LED is considered a superior technology when it comes to picture quality, but edge-lit sets have one major advantage: depth. Edge-lit LED TVs can be much thinner than those lit with either a full LED panel or traditional fluorescent (non-LED) backlight. For that reason, most of the super-thin sets you see in stores will be edge-lit.

Which technology is right for you? That depends on what you want.

If you’re looking for the best possible picture quality, you are most likely to find it in a full-array LED display with local dimming. If you are primarily concerned about the appearance of the television and want a set that is extremely thin, edge-lit is the style that will fit your needs.

Was this page helpful?