ELECTRONICS There are a lot of options when purchasing a new TV today. Apart from choosing whether you want 3D or a standard 2D tube, there's also several options when it comes to the screen construction as well, including standard LCD, LED, AmoLED/OLED, as well as plasma.

In this entry, we'll discuss the main differences that sets them apart, helping you decide what's optimal for your needs.

Digital, contra analogue

When choosing what type of TV or computer monitor to go for, one important thing to remember is the fact that all types of digital displays - even the new LED and OLED screens - all consist of an array of fixed pixels made of liquid crystal. Hence, the acronym LCD - liquid crystal display. Plasma screens, on the other hand, are excluded from that group, because they actually came from an analogue technology much similar to traditional, "fat" computer monitors (CTR's), with the only exception that we're now able to produce them a lot thinner, thanks to modern development in this industry.

LCD, LED and OLED displays, on the other hand, are in fact all LCD displays. However, all LCD's are certainly not LED's, and even fewer are OLED displays. Below you'll find a breakdown of the different types, including pros and cons of each one:

  • LCD and TFT LCD monitors of the traditional kind, have either one or a few, large lamps that light up the entire screen. As the lamp is always turned on*, continuously and evenly distributing luminance across the display, dynamic contrast is somewhat limited. And as the light cannot dim or lighten up the screen regionally, blacks as well as dark shades get lit up just like any other colour. However, as the luminance of the screen is very even and consistent, the colour reproduction is generally quite accurate.
  • "Ultraslim" LED backlit LCD TV.
    LED screens are simply LCD's that are backlit with light emitting diodes (LED). Rather than using merely one big lamp, a large amount of diodes are used for backlighting the screen, where each diode provide for a their own respective group of adjacent pixels. This technology does not only make the screens slimmer than a regular florescent lit LCD, the LED's also enable the screen to dim or lighten up partially, thus creating a much broader dynamic contrast range compared to regular LCD monitors. The uneven luminance among the LED's raise other issues however, including discolouration or tarnish of certain parts of the screen. For instance, a tiny bright spot on an otherwise dark background is enough to engage that respective diode, which will then also light up the darker surrounding pixels, thus creating a sort of halo effect around the bright spot.
  • Fully flexible OLED display by Sony
    OLED or Am-OLED is almost thought of as being the holy grail amongst digital displays as we know them today. It's most definitely the technology of the future. While regular LED and LED Plus are to be considered intermediate solutions, OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diodes) goes all the way, having each pixel controlled individually by a diode of its own. This results in a picture with virtually perfect blacks and fullest possible dynamic colour and contrast range, all the way to the brightest of white. As the light source of OLED's are microscopical, the screens can be made wafer-thin, fully flexible and even bendable. Energy consumption of an OLED screen is also remarkably low.
So, to sum up the discussion above, each and every one of the three different screen types consists of a dot matrix made of liquid crystal. The only technical difference between LCD, LED and OLED lies entirely in how they are backlit.

HEY! Time to spill the beans already! - What should I get?

Next best thing: OLED

As stated above, OLED is most definitely the technology of the future. The only factor that holds the OLED's back is that they're simply too expensive to make. Especially when it comes to larger screens. If just a few, out of millions, of pixels (or diodes) should come out dead, the product is useless, because there's no way a consumer would spend hundreds or perhaps even thousands of dollars on a defective TV.

But for now: LCD or LED

So, until OLED screens become available to a broader market, your choices are going to be either a regular LCD or an LED backlit LCD, unless you rather spend your money on an a plasma, which would only be a suitable for movies and television use, due to burn-in issues that become quite apparent when used as a computer screen, or as a means of displaying other types of still visual content.

LCD TV of the traditional kind.
Still good for PhotoShop.
When to get an LED lit LCD
The broader dynamic contrast range of the LED would probably suit most user better, for casual use including television, movies, videogames, etc. 

When to get a regular LCD 
When absolute accuracy in colour and shades is necessary, and your old CRT has run its course - a regular LCD, with its even and consistent luminance all across the screen, would be a good replacement. This makes the traditional LCD monitor a good choice for anyone working professionally with digital images and video editing.

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* Footnote: Some LCD's come with built-in behaviour of switching the lamp off when the screen goes entirely blank, mainly for energy conserving. This behaviour is most common in computer monitors (sometimes referred to as TFT's), and is often seen as a response to the screen saver sending out a blank signal.

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