LCD: The next generation

In an age when high-definition cable and satellite feeds are slowly eroding the popularity of the once-adored standard-definition DVD format, home entertainment fans are steadily becoming more demanding of their television's picture quality. And that doesn't stop with the source (DVD, Blu-ray, cable/satellite or game system) but extends right down to the TV itself, where plasma and LCD (liquid crystal display) televisions are being challenged by a new technology: the LED TV, or light-emitting diode television.

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Using a new type of backlighting technology, LED televisions offer a sharper, more vibrant and more colorful image than LCD and plasma displays. Although they were once very expensive tech, they are becoming cheaper by the day, to the point where they may soon eclipse their predecessors as the home entertainment display of choice.

LED is LCD, Refined

Unlike three-dimensional displays, or 3DTV, the LED display is not an entirely new type of television. Instead, it's a type of LCD display -- the difference is that LCD sets use a fluorescent backlighting to project a display, while LED TVs rely on a new projection technology that offers a more brilliant image.

There are actually two different types of LED backlighting. One is called edge lighting, where backlights are used around the periphery of a screen. Light is then dispersed across the display, creating the image. The obvious benefit of this technology is that it allows TV manufacturers to produce incredibly slim devices that can be stylishly hung from walls like a picture frame. Unfortunately, the physical appeal comes at a price: Video experts complain that edge lighting produces weaker blacks in the image and uneven brightness across the screen.

The second type of LED backlighting is called full-array lighting, and as the name suggests, it features rows of lights across the whole surface of the screen rather than just the outside edge. As you might expect, image quality is generally better, but the size and weight of the screen tends to be greater.

Advantages of LED TV

There are several advantages to owning an LED display over an LCD TV. They consume less power, offer better color balancing and more vibrant blacks in dark scenes, and in the case of edge lighting, very thin and incredibly practical packages.