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There's no such thing as an LED TV

September 25, 2009 By Geoffrey Morrison



Pure Marketing Obfuscation

I understand the need for a manufacturer to differentiate their product. It's a crowded field out there, and anything you can do to make your product stand out is a good idea.

Well, almost anything.

But let's not call it lying, let's call it a gift for fiction.

Several companies have been advertising "LED TVs." Most visibly Samsung, but Toshiba is also playing this game. Let me be clear, I am in no way knocking the TVs. They're often quite good. I'm knocking the blatant obfuscation in these ads, implying that this is some new type of TV technology. It's not.

nopeIt is, however, a new type of backlight technology. These so-called LED TVs are merely regular old LCD TVs with a fancy new backlighting of LEDs (or edge-lighting, more on that in a second).

LEDs are used instead of the tiny florescent lights that normally let you see what is going on with an LCD (the liquid crystal "glass" only blocks light, it don't create it).

There are many benefits of using LEDs. If you use an array of them as the backlight, areas of the video image that are supposed to be dark can have the LEDs behind them dimmed, and therefore appear darker.

This gives you a better contrast ratio than would have been possible if you had relied on just the LCD glass itself.

Then there's edge-lit LED LCDs, where there are LEDs around the edges of the screen aiming inwards towards the center. With this setup, you can have a TV with almost no depth (no "back"light).

Also, because there are far fewer LEDs than in a traditional backlight setup, this style of TV can be very energy efficient.

There is no magic here. The LCD glass itself, and most of the electronics, in these TVs is the same or very similar to other models in each company's line.

LED lit LCDs are an advancement over CCFL lit LCDs, but the advantage in many cases isn't like the jump to, say OLED. They are not necessarily brighter, LED backlit LCDs aren't necessarily more energy efficient (though edge-lit probably are), and most of the "extended color gamut" that is talked about usually just means they are at best not accurate and at worst wildly over saturated (CCFL LCDs can do that too).

And before you say I'm just whining, a suit was already filed and won against Samsung in the UK for their "misleading ads."  I can't read British, but if you can, the whole thing is here.

If you want more on LEDs, I wrote this article last year on all things LED.

But wait!

What about those huge TVs baseball and football games, you say? Well, those displays, also known as JumboTrons (Sony) DiamondVision (Mitsubishi), AstroVision (Panasonic), are not all LED based. Some are actually CRT based.

Admittedly, the newer ones are thousands (or millions) of LEDs, but none are technically "TVs." They don't have built in tuners. So they are "monitors" or "displays." Yes, I will be that picky at nits (no, not nits).

And on that topic, here's someone using the world's largest HD display for something other than blocking punts:



Comments

This is going to confuse people badly when OLED Tv's finally come to the market, they shouldn't be allowed to advertise these LED backlit TV's as simply 'LED' TV's

There was a manufacture at CEDIA showing a flat panel monitor with 2,206 individually addressable LEDs with 16-bit video processing (Dolby HDR technology)...more LEDish than others, but still an LCD.

Yep, the Sim2 Solar Series. We'll be getting one in soon.

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