What is the Difference between LCD and LED Screens?

LED monitors and televisions are beginning to become cheaper and more budget-friendly. They typically promote much higher contrast ratios and lower power use than traditionally lit LCD screens, but they may not be the best option for video editors. Why is that? What is the difference between LCD and LED screens?

The difference between the two technologies actually lies in the way the screen is backlit. All LED screens are LCDs, but not all LCDs utilize LED technology. With an LED-based monitor, backlighting is spread across a grid of tiny lights (LEDs) that is spread from one side of the screen to the other. Unlike the fluorescent lighting behind a common LCD screen, LEDs cover the entire space in order to provide even lighting from end to end. The extra contrast comes from the ability the monitor has to detect areas that are intentionally darker and dim or turn off the tiny LED light directly behind the dark points. This creates what’s called a dynamic contrast which can create much darker blacks as the screen is essentially off in areas that are intentionally dark. This can become a problem in cases where you have a starry night sky and tiny white points of light need to be lit brightly while the surrounding mass is pitch black. Because of this, the stars may appear dimmer than they normally would as the tiny light is dimmed to compensate for the majority of the space being black.

Another advantage to owning an LED-based television or monitor is the ability for the screen to have wider viewing angles. With normal LCDs, you will notice a much sharper change in contrast and clarity as you look to each side. LEDs still drop off as you move to each side, but the change is noticeably different. This is due in part to the complete coverage of backlighting that isn’t present through fluorescent lighting schemes.

The typical lifespan of an LCD monitor or television before the lights start to dim and go out is 4-6 years. LED technologies last quite a bit longer, giving an expected 100,000 hours of light versus 60,000 hours provided by fluorescent lighting.

For the majority of users, an LED screen is a brilliant solution to that offers higher contrast ratios with a significantly lower energy usage. If you do movie editing or a lot of color-accurate detailed work, you may prefer to go with a more traditional LCD monitor.