What’s the Difference Between LCD and LED?

By: HowStuffWorks.com Contributors  | 

Technically, LED TVs are a subset of LCD TVs. DrGrounds/Getty Images

LCD stands for “liquid crystal display” and technically, both LED and LCD TVs are liquid crystal displays. The basic technology is the same in that both television types have two layers of polarized glass through which the liquid crystals both block and pass light. So really, LED TVs are a subset of LCD TVs.

LED, which stands for “light emitting diodes,” differs from general LCD TVs in that LCDs use fluorescent lights while LEDs use those light emitting diodes. Also, the placement of the lights on an LED TV can differ. The fluorescent lights in an LCD TV are always behind the screen. On an LED TV, the light emitting diodes can be placed either behind the screen or around its edges. The difference in lights and in lighting placement has generally meant that LED TVs can be thinner than LCDs, although this is starting to change. It has also meant that LED TVs run with greater energy efficiency and can provide a clearer, better picture than the general LCD TVs.

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LED TVs provide a better picture for two basic reasons. First, LED TVs work with a color wheel or distinct RGB-colored lights (red, green, blue) to produce more realistic and sharper colors. Second, light emitting diodes can be dimmed. The dimming capability on the back lighting in an LED TV allows the picture to display with a truer black by darkening the lights and blocking more light from passing through the panel. This capability is not present on edge-lit LED TVs; however, edge-lit LED TVs can display a truer white than the fluorescent LED TVs.

Because all these LCD TVs are thin-screen, each has particular angle-viewing and anti-glare issues. The backlit TVs provide better, cleaner angle viewing than the edge-lit LED TV. However, the backlit LED TV will usually have better angle viewing than the standard LCD TV. Both LED and LCD TVs have good reputations for their playback and gaming quality.

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Originally Published: Jul 22, 2011

LED vs. LCD FAQ

What is the difference between LED and LCD?
LED stands for Light Emitting Diode while LCD is short for Liquid Crystal Display. The difference between the two is the placement and type of light used. LEDs use diodes while LCDs use fluorescent lights. LEDs are also slimmer than LCDs and provide a better quality, clearer picture with high definition output.
Which lasts longer: LED or LCD?
LEDs last longer with a lifespan of around 100,000 hours. On the other hand, LCDs have a shorter lifespan of 75,000 hours.
Which has better picture quality: LED or LCD?
LEDs have better picture quality because they have RGB colour wheels installed in them, which produce sharper and more realistic images. Moreover, light-emitting diodes have a dimming property, which allows them to display accurate colours by blocking excessive light.
Which TV type has less power consumption?
LED TVs are more efficient and consume less power. They can also work with low power sources and are compatible with generators and solar panels, making them 20 to 30 percent more energy-efficient than LCD TVs.
Is LCD or LED better for gaming?
LEDs are brighter and have better contrast, making them a great choice for gaming. But they’re also more expensive, so if you’re on a budget, LCDs still work just fine for gaming.