LED vs. LCD TVs

LEDs are lighter, thinner, and more energy efficient

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

LED vs LCD

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 display a bright, high-definition picture. If you want to save money on the hardware, go with the older LCD setup. LED screens may offer more cost savings over time, however, because the system generally requires less energy to operate.

Although more expensive, newer LED screens are generally lighter than LCDs, especially on 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 the technology is older.

  • Harder to find.

Before you buy an LCD TV with LED backlighting, consider one important factor: price. LED full-array backlit TVs are impressive but are more expensive than their florescent-lit peers. If picture quality is important to you, spending more money to enjoy the benefits of full-array LED backlighting may make sense for you. If you want the thinnest TV on the block, edge-lit LED is the way to go.

If you're a bargain shopper, you will probably 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 backlighting system, not the display technology that produces the image content. 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 a type of LCD TV, OLED and S-AMOLED are different types of LED TVs.

The liquid crystals in LCD TVs do not produce 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 entire LCD panel.

Each backlighting system has advantages and disadvantages. Edge-lit sets are typically thinner and lighter than those that use a full array because the lighting source takes up less space. Full array sets are 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 efficient because it contains 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 because they contain fewer lights in general. However, 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 the picture regardless of what kind of display you buy. Still, LEDs have a few practical advantages that make them a better purchase than the older LCDs.