When Is An LED Not An LED?
published onMarch 28, 2012

You might be surprised to hear that the LED HDTV you have hanging in the family room of your home is not the same as that giant LED at Yankee Stadium or the Meadowlands. Of course, the one in your house is substantially smaller. But there are a few other differences you might not realize.

Home LED screens are, in fact, LCD screens with an LED backlight. What does this mean exactly?

Both LCD and consumer LED displays use a Liquid Crystal Display. In the case of LCDs, they are lit by florescent lighting behind the screen. LED-backlit LCDs — the kind of LED-HDTVs you can buy in stores today — use LED lights behind the LCD screen. These LEDs use less energy and have faster refresh rates than LCDs, and they’ve dropped in price to become affordable enough for most consumers.

The jumbo-trons and Diamondvision screens we see at major sports stadiums, on the other hand, are actually a collections of millions of tiny LED lights that each show a different color (Red, Green or Blue, which gives us the name RGB-LED) and, together, form pictures. There is no Liquid Crystal Display involved in these mammoth screens.

OLEDs work in a similar way, with a series of LED lights on a thin layer, and organic (carbon-based) material behind it. When the phosphorescent material lights up, the red, green and blue pixels light up to form pictures.

At CES, Sony launched another technology that is closer to the “true” RGB-LED screens we see at stadiums. Sony’s Crystal LED uses 6 million RGB-LED lights to form pictures. It’s a jumbo-tron, scaled down for your living room.

Who knows what’s to come next in LED screens — or maybe some other display technology entirely? Samsung and LG are poised to release 55-inch OLED screens for home and commercial use that may blow LED and backlit LED-LCD screens out of the water.

One thing we can expect is more energy efficient, brighter, thinner, lighter displays, which will certainly raise the bar on the Wow factor in digital signage apps, retail stores, sports bars, restaurants and more. Doesn’t it make you want to stay on the cutting edge? We know we do!