There's a reason that there is little difference in the name between LCD televisions and their LED counterparts – because the technology has the same basis, although the LED version is more refined. LED televisions are made in almost the same way as LCDs, just with a different lighting technique that produces energy savings, improved contrast ratio and an ultra-thin profile.
How do LED televisions work?
To understand LED technology, it is easiest to first understand how ordinary LCD televisions work. An LCD television is made of two sheets of polarizing plastic filters, sandwiching a film of liquid crystals. When voltage is applied to a crystal, it turns on an angle; this effectively switches off the pixel, as light cannot pass through it. Red, blue and green filters and a light behind the panel create brightness and a range of colours.
Traditional LCD televisions use fluorescent lighting at the back of the screen. This can sometimes result in ‘leakage' of light through switched-off pixels. LED televisions, on the other hand, use groups of individual light emitting diodes (LEDs) to light to pixels from behind. The lack of a large fluorescent tube makes the construction ultra-slim, and the more precise light control results in reduced light ‘leakage' through switched off pixels. This improves the perceived contrast ratio.
The Perks of LED technology
Using LED backlights rather than traditional fluorescent tubes offers an enormous range of benefits for those buying televisions. For example:
- LED televisions are much thinner than traditional LCDs – they can be less than three inches from front to back, and are extremely lightweight.
- Power consumption is reduced over traditional fluorescent lit LCD televisions
- LED televisions have vastly improved contrast ratio. The LEDs in a dark area can be turned off automatically, so that no light leaks through pixels which are supposed to be turned off. This will net you better picture quality in dark scenes, and deeper blacks overall.
- The leakage improvement also results in improved colour saturation, through reds, blues and greens.
It is impossible to fully appreciate the perks of buying an LED television without comparing them to plasma televisions. Picture quality is comparable, but LEDs hold advantages in several areas:
- Viewing quality remains much steadier than with plasmas, which start to reduce in brightness as soon as you start watching them and reduce to terrible quality after around 10,000 hours.
- LEDs use less than half the wattage that plasmas do
- LEDs are not subject to screen burn-in
- LEDs are much lighter, more streamlined, and more suitable for wall-mounting in a variety of positions.
The Lurks of LED Technology
The major turn-off for most people buying televisions is that LEDs are more expensive that ordinary LCD sets, and even more expensive than some plasmas. For example, a popular 32″ Samsung TV using traditional LCD technology costs around $830, while a 32″ Samsung TV using LED technology costs around $1600. However, reviewers often feel that the extra cost brings these LED sets up to roughly the same picture quality that you would find in a plasma television – but without all the enormous drawbacks of increased power consumption, fragility, screen burn-in from static items like channel logos, and a decrease in display brightness to pretty much non-viewability after around 10,000 hours.
LED televisions are the most durable, flexible and future ready sets on the market. For those buying televisions that they want to perform well for years into the future, LED is the way to go.