LCD vs LED for Gaming (Which Display Technology Enhances Gaming?)

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LCD vs LED for Gaming

LCD vs LED for gaming? These are display terms you’re sure to come across whether you’re shopping for a new gaming laptop or an external gaming monitor for your existing laptop. While the type of display you get is paramount to your immersion experience. LCD and LEDs aren’t so much different display types per-se as much as they are different panel technologies. Different panel technologies that help rather than oppose one another. Each one affects your viewing experience in different ways, which can give you a competitive advantage as a gamer. And you get to enjoy a greater depth of color. The distinction is simple. Let’s explore these common display technologies.

LCD for Gaming

LCD screen cross-section image

Liquid-Crystal Displays get their name from having liquid crystals sandwiched between two layers of glass. They replaced the big and bulky CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) displays that were popular throughout the 1980s and 90s.

LCD refers to a type of display that utilizes liquid crystal technology. You can find LCD screens on gadgets you use every day like laptops, smart watches, calculators, monitors, digital cameras, tablets, televisions and so on.

How Do LCD Screens Work?

LCD screens use liquid crystals to switch pixels on and off to reveal a specific color. Put another way, they’re used to change the colors of pixels to create the images you see in games. The liquid crystals themselves are a mixture between a solid and a liquid – think of them like window shutters.

When a shutter is opened, light can easily pass through. Similarly, when a current of electricity is applied to liquid crystals, they become aligned in a special way so light can come through. But the screen needs illumination so you can see your game.

Backlighting

Backlighting refers to how the screen turns light off and on.

LCD screens are thinner and consume less energy compared to the older CRT screens. But they can’t produce light on their own like CRTs. The back of an LCD is responsible for shining light through the screen. As a result, older LCD screens were backlit by CCFLs (cold-cathode fluorescent lamps).

It consists of a series of tubes laid horizontally behind the liquid crystal panel to illuminate the screen from a single source of light. The latest LCD screens, however, use LED backlighting, which is more efficient.

In front of the light is a screen made up of pixels colored: red, blue or green. The liquid crystals electronically turn a filter ON or OFF to reveal a certain color or keep the pixel black.

The latest LCD screens include an active matrix which can be switched ON or OFF more rapidly, thereby improving refresh times.

Layers of on LCD Screen

The first layer is a sheet of polarizing film. It filters out the vertical light waves illuminated from behind the layer, leaving only the horizontal.

The second layer actually consists of three more layers. Two are pieces of protective glass containing the liquid crystals. This layer keeps the liquid crystals in place and away from damage.

The third layer is yet another polarizing sheet that filters out horizontal light waves rather than vertical ones.

And the final layer is where all the color changes happen. There are three light filters on top of each pixel. They emit red, blue and green.

Advantages

  • More affordable than LED displays
  • In game HUD (heads-ups display) elements won’t create burn ins as readily as with LEDs
  • Low response times
  • The lower image quality can prevent your eyes from becoming as tired as an LED screen

Disadvantages

  • Low contrast and brightness rates

LED for Gaming

LED screen cross-section image

LED stands for light-emitting diode. And although it has a different name than liquid crystal display, it’s really just a different type of LCD screen.

What’s the difference?

Backlighting

The major difference between LCD and LED is how they provide backlighting. As we said old LCD screens used CCFL to backlight the screen. LED backlit LCD screens use more efficient light emitting diodes.

CCFL backlit LCD screens can’t always block out all the black colors. So, what happens is that dark scenes in a game don’t look as dark as they should. Since LED backlit LCD screens can localize the blackness. The result is a much deeper contrast.

What this means is that an LED-backlit LCD screen can turn on color for just the portion of the screen that requires color, allowing the rest of the screen to remain true black.

Advantages of LED Backlighting

Initially created by Samsung, LED backlighting provides brighter colors and sharper contrast compared to LCDs that use CCFL backlighting.

This gives the monitor or laptop display a shallow depth, making them thinner than the ones with an LCD. They’re also more energy efficient. LED technology also support high refresh rates and response times.

While LCDs depend on one light source for backlighting the entire screen. LED backlit LCD screens have a series of scattered light emitting diodes to light the screen, contributing to a much brighter screen.

By taking advantage of the comparatively high number of light sources, LED screens make room for useful features like a broader dimming range, better contrast ratios and a lower energy consumption. As a result, LED screens cost more than the ones with LCD technology.

Speaking of Cost

Additionally, LEDs are much less expensive to produce these days, which is why you see them in everything from kids toys to headlights. They require much less energy and can be made in a variety of sizes, brightness levels and colors.

This gives modern screens better color range, faster response times and a greater range of available contrast. LEDs also open up new ways to approach backlighting a screen. Keep reading to find out more.  

Advantages

  • LED backlighting technology makes for a more radiant experience
  • Consume less energy
  • Offers quick response times
  • Thinner and lighter
  • Higher color fidelity
  • Deeper contrast

Disadvantages

  • The backlighting technology can make your eyes feel tired faster, especially when playing bright games.

The Different Types of LED Backlighting

Edge-Lit LED backlighting positions the LED lights around the edge of the screen. The lights then shine through the back of the liquid crystals. Guides are used to diffuse the light evenly across the screen, hence the name for this type of backlighting technology.

But while mounting LEDs on the edge of the panel (instead of behind them) makes for a thinner, lighter screen. Images aren’t quite as good.

Mounting the LEDs around the perimeter means they can’t dim specific sections of the screen individually. The result? You sometimes get light shining on areas that don’t need it. That’s why you sometimes get brightness in gaming areas that should be dark.

Array-Lit LED backlighting place the LEDs in an array (pattern) behind the screen. The more zones in the pattern that are independently dimmable, the easier it is to control the lighting of the screen. And the smaller the bright areas of an image you see in the dark part of a game.

It’s Hard to Tell What Kind of Backlighting You’re Getting

Unless the backlighting setup constitutes some sort of special feature you’re getting with the laptop display or monitor. It’s hard to tell what type of backlighting you’re getting (again, even LCD screens use LED backlighting).

Even the typical product description does little to clue you in on just what you’re getting.

One of those special features behind edge-lit and array-lit LEDs is local dimming. This capability selects certain zones of LED lights to improves contrast ratio and provides deeper blacks in dark scenes.

As a result, monitors with this feature tend to be pricey. Well-reviewed options with both edge-lit technology and partial local dimming include the Samsung Odyssey G7. A full array example with the local dimming feature is the Acer Predator X35.

How to Choose the Best Screen Type for Gaming

So, what have we learned? In the aggregate, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between the modern LCD or LED display.

Most modern displays, regardless of being LCD or LED use LED backlighting. LED backlights allow manufacturers to make thinner, more energy-efficient screens with better graphics – a boon for gaming.

Which would we choose? Is there really a choice? LED-backlit LCD screens all the way! But the type of backlighting is just one consideration when it comes to choosing the perfect display.

Other panel technologies like the refresh rate, response time, whether or not the display comes with G-Sync, FreeSync or HDR are also important to think about when it comes to the enjoyment of your investment.

HDR LCD monitors are becoming more common – It gives a significant boost to color range over traditional LCD panels.

When it comes to gaming monitors there are a range of options to choose from for the best visual experience without breaking the bank. A couple of great LED monitors that won’t break the bank include the Asus VP249QGR which is a budget friendly 1080p monitor. And the Acer XF250Q Cbmiiprx, is a great budget 240 Hz monitor.