If you’re in the market for a visualization system, you’ve probably found that video wall displays come in a bewildering range of shapes, sizes, and technologies. You may also have noticed that many manufacturers use different names for the same technologies and make conflicting claims about which technology performs the best.
Understandably, this can create a lot of confusion for buyers. For many people, one particular point of confusion is the difference between two popular display types: “LCD” (sometimes called “LED-LCD”) and “LED” (sometimes called “Direct View LED”). Though they may sound similar, LCD and Direct View LED are two distinct display technologies with their own unique features and benefits. So, what are those benefits? How do they differ? If you’re struggling to answer those questions, we’re here to help!
What it is
LCD (liquid crystal display) is a flat panel display type that has been popular for years in both the video wall and consumer electronics markets. Chances are, you already use LCD technology several times a day – it’s the display type used in most smartphones, computer monitors, and television screens.
LCD panels are composed of a layer of liquid crystal sandwiched between two pieces of polarized glass. Liquid crystal is a substance that flows like a liquid but has molecules that can be oriented like crystals. When an electric current is applied to the liquid crystals, the crystals shift, allowing light to pass through to create an image. Liquid crystals don’t produce their own light, so backlights are arranged behind the glass to illuminate the display. LEDs (light-emitting diodes) are the most common type of backlight used today, and some manufacturers market their LED-backlit LCDs as “LED-LCD.”
LCDs are bright, affordable, reliable, and provide excellent visual performance. LCD is an extremely high-resolution technology, so LCD video walls can display text, images, and video in sharp detail. These advantages make LCDs a great option for a range of video wall applications, from military control rooms to university research centers.
When LCDs are tiled together to create a video wall, bezels (or seams) are visible between the individual panels. This can be seen as a disadvantage when comparing LCD to seamless display types like Direct View LED. However, manufacturers are reducing bezel-width with every new generation of displays, so you’ll find that the bezels on newer LCDs are much less noticeable.
Direct View LED
What it is
Like LCD, Direct View LED (sometimes just called “LED”) is a flat-panel display type involving the use of light-emitting diodes (LEDs). However, Direct View LED works very differently from LCD. In a Direct View LED display, hundreds of tiny LEDs are mounted directly on a panel, and no liquid crystal or polarized glass is used. Instead of serving as a backlight (like they do in LCD displays), the LEDs in Direct View LED displays produce images themselves. Each LED is essentially a tiny lightbulb that emits colored light when a particular voltage is applied to it. Clusters of red, green, and blue LEDs are grouped on the panel, creating the full-color pixels needed to produce an image.
Direct View LED was once a lower-resolution display type used mainly in giant outdoor displays, but the development of smaller LEDs in recent years have made much higher resolutions possible. These recent advances have made Direct View LED an exciting new option for indoor video walls.
Direct View LED panels have no bezels, so they can be tiled together to form a completely seamless video wall. LED displays are also extremely bright, reliable, energy-efficient, and have the best color accuracy and refresh rates of any display type available today. These qualities make Direct View LED an excellent choice for large-scale digital signage and other applications that demand high-impact visuals.
Although prices are expected to decrease over the coming years, higher-resolution LED displays are currently several times more expensive than LCDs, so this technology is still out of reach for most customers. In addition, even the highest-resolution LED displays still can’t provide the ultra-high resolutions available from LCD. For use-cases that require attention to the finest details, LCD may still be preferred.
We hope we’ve helped shed some light on the differences – and common benefits – of LCD and Direct View LED. Ultimately, both are excellent display technologies, and only your specific application and budget can determine the best option for you.
Want to learn more about LCD, Direct View LED, and other popular display types? Our white paper, “A Comparison of Video Wall Technologies,” provides detailed explanations of leading and emerging technologies and compares resolution, brightness, reliability, cost of ownership, and more. Download it for free!