LED vs. LCD TVs

LEDs are lighter, thinner, and more energy efficient

Three Samsung Curved UHDTVs

Kārlis Dambrāns / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Before buying a new TV, you should know the difference between LED and LCD displays. Both provide a high-definition picture, but they handle creating it a little differently and have a few other differences as well. We've examined these two technologies to help you get a better idea of which one is right for you.

Overall Findings

LED

  • Uses a liquid-crystal display with an LED backlight

  • More energy efficient

  • Lighter sets at the same size (especially with edge-lit displays)

  • More expensive

LCD

  • Uses a liquid-crystal display with a fluorescent backlight.

  • Uses more energy

  • TVs weigh more

  • More affordable

Both LCD and LED TV screens and monitors will give you a bright, high-definition picture. If you're looking to save money on the hardware, you'll want to go with the older LCD setup. LED screens may offer you more cost savings over time, however, because the system generally requires less energy to operate.

Although they're more expensive, newer LED screens are generally lighter than LCDs, especially if you get an edge-lit display that has fewer components to add bulk to the device.

Price: LCDs Are Cheaper but Harder to Find

LED

  • More expensive

  • Easier to find

LCD

  • Generally cheaper because tech is older

  • Harder to find

Before you run out and buy an LCD TV with LED backlighting, you should consider one important factor: price. LED full-array backlit TVs are impressive, but they’re more expensive than their florescent-lit peers. If picture quality is extremely important to you, then spending a little more money to enjoy the benefits of full-array LED backlighting may make sense for you. If you’re looking to have the thinnest TV on the block, edge-lit LED is the way to go.

If you’re a bargain shopper, you will probably be able to satisfy yourself and your wallet with a florescent-lit LCD TV. That said, they are getting harder to find since demand is shrinking

TV Size: LEDs Have Thinner, Lighter Options

LED

  • Full-array is comparable to LCD

  • Edge-lighting provides a lighter and thinner TV set

LCD

  • Fluorescent backlight adds bulk and weight

In the context of televisions, the term LED refers to the TV's backlighting system, not the display technology that produces the image content. In truth, LED TVs use LCD displays; however, they use LED backlights rather than the fluorescent backlights found in traditional LCD TVs. Just as LED TVs are simply a type of LCD TV, OLED and S-AMOLED are different types of LED TVs.

The liquid crystals in LCD TVs do not produce their own light, so backlighting is needed to illuminate the image for the viewer. LCD sets originally used a series of fluorescent tubes (termed CCFL-backlit technology) for this purpose. In LED TVs, the illumination source is a series of light-emitting diodes, better known as LEDs. In most modern LCD sets, those fluorescent tubes have been replaced with full-array LEDs, but both types of TVs still use LCD technology.

LED-backlit LCD TVs use one of two systems:

  • Edge-lit: LEDs are placed along the edges of the LCD panel.
  • Full array: Rows of LEDs are placed behind the entirety of the LCD panel.

Each backlighting system has advantages and disadvantages. Edge-lit sets are typically much thinner and lighter than those that use a full array because the lighting source takes up less space. Full array sets are somewhat thicker and heavier, but they make up for that with local dimming, which means one section of the LED panel can be dimmed while other sections remain bright. This feature slightly improves image contrast.

LED sets that use full-array backlighting tend to produce the best picture of all LCD TVs. Those that use edge lighting sacrifice picture quality, but they are the lightest and thinnest TVs on the market.

Energy Usage: LEDs Are More Efficient

LED

  • LEDs use less energy than fluorescent lights

  • Edge-lighting is especially efficient because they contain even fewer lighting elements

LCD

  • More backlights mean more energy

Because LCD screens rely on fluorescent panels behind the entire screen to make the picture visible, they use more energy than LED sets. TVs and monitors that use edge-lighting are more efficient than full-array ones thanks to their containing fewer lights in general, although full-array screens don't necessarily use all of the LED backlights at once.

Final Verdict

When it comes to picture quality, LED TVs look better than older LCD TVs. Manufacturers also make a big deal out of LED backlighting because sets that use the technology are usually more energy-efficient than CCFL LCD TVs. Therefore, the money you save on your power bill could eventually offset the extra cost of an LED TV.

You'll be happy with your picture regardless of what kind of display you buy, but LEDs have a few practical advantages that make them a better purchase than the older LCDs.