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LED TV Guide
- An Introduction To LED Televisions

The LED TV is the new kid on the block.

It's the fresh new technology that everyone is getting very excited about, and is the new 'must have' of the TV world.

Don't you just love the sleek looks and the modern styling? LED displays certainly look fantastic on the wall. Isn't it great that there is a brand new technology to compete with the old favourites, LCD and plasma TVs?

But wait! Hold on just one second....

Just before you dash out and buy an LED screen, there's a bit more to this technology than meets the eye.

Would you be surprised to know that LED TVs may not be quite as revolutionary as you may believe? That's not to say they're not worth considering, but understanding LED screens can be important before you buy.

Let's take a look at the details, and all will be revealed.

LED TV in a blue room with two speakers

What is an LED TV?

Here's a good one for you: when is an LCD TV not an LCD TV?

Answer: when it's called an LED TV.

Ok, not the funniest joke on the internet, but one that makes an important point - an LED television is an LCD TV.

An LCD TV has its name because it uses a liquid crystal display - and an 'LED' television uses a liquid crystal display!

We should really say LED TVs are part of the LCD TV family.

A traditional LCD television has a screen made with small pixels filled with liquid crystal - and it also has a backlight in the form of a fluorescent lamp which is used to create the picture. The exact type of lamp is known as a cold cathode fluorescent lamp (CCFL).

LED televisions are different because they use light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to produce the light from behind the screen - however, it still has the same liquid crystal screen as any other LCD TV.

Put simply, it is an LCD TV with an LED backlight.

The use of LEDs to create the backlight can result in a number of advantages over the CCFL backlight - such as a better contrast ratio, lower power consumption and better colour reproduction.

There are generally two main designs that are used when building TVs with LED backlights:

  • Edge-lit LED - the lights are are arranged around the edge of the screen, and the light is spread out across the back from the sides
  • Backlit LED - the lights are positioned in blocks directly behind the screen

These differences in design can be important because they have different advantages and disadvantages, and it is useful for you to understand the difference before you buy one of these screens.

For more information on the differences between edge-lit and backlit LED screens, go to the article about understanding the LED HDTV.

LED or LCD TV?

It used to be that only some manufacturers used the term 'LED TV', and the main result of this is that many people were confused by what they were buying.

A few years ago, when there used to be a mixture of LCD screen televisions with both CCFL and LED backlights, different manufacturers used different names to identify televisions with similar technology.

Samsung, LG, Toshiba and Vizio (amongst others) used the term 'LED TV' when advertising their TV models that had LCD screens with LED backlights.

However, Sony used the term LCD TV for all their TV models with LCD screens - no matter which type of backlight they used - CCFL or LED.

This has now changed in the last year or two, and all manufacturers now just use the term 'LED' as part of their product descriptions - or where it is not mentioned at all, we can now just assume it is an LCD television with an LED backlight.

Buying Guide Tip!

Before you decide on the model of TV that you want to buy, think about these three things - it could save you a problem later!

  1. What devices do you need to connect to your TV? - cable box, games console, DVD/Blu-ray player etc
  2. What video and audio outputs does each device have?
  3. Does your new TV have enough connections (of the right type) to connect everything?

Flat screens and screen sizes

The LED television has the same benefits of flat screen technology as the traditional LCD and plasma TV.

They are slim, light TVs that you can easily sit on a piece of furniture - or hang on the wall to give yourself more space in your home.

In fact, edge-lit LEDs take the flat panel television to the next stage by being even thinner than ever - and they really do look cool!

Samsung JS9500 SUHD LED TVSamsung 78" JS9500 SUHD LED TV

Whilst plasma and LCD TVs have generally ranged from 2 to 8 inches thick, the design of an edge-lit TV enables it to be thinner than 2 inches.

A thin TV not only looks great, but it could make the TV easier to install in your room.

Don't underestimate how tricky it can be to install a heavy flat screen TV on your wall - and so these thinner and lighter models can save you a problem - and possibly the cost of paying a professional installer to install the TV for you.

The screen sizes of LED TVs start at around 22 inches and go to very large screen sizes of 60 and 65 inches - or even to an enormous 78 inches in the case of the Samsung 78" JS9500 Curved SUHD 4K Smart 3D TV shown above.

Connection types

You should find most of the standard video and audio connections that are common on all modern TVs these days.

Therefore you can expect to find HDMI, component, S-Video, SCART (mainly Europe) or composite connections for the video (picture) - plus an antenna (aerial) connection if you need an antenna to receive analog or digital TV transmissions.

You may want to consider if you actually need a TV with an internal analog or digital tuner, as you may be able to buy a cheaper model if you don't need this - although you may find these as standard on many models.

There may also be a VGA or DVI connection for viewing your computer on the big screen - or you may be able to use a spare HDMI input if your computer has this type of output.

Go the guide to home theater connections if you want more detailed information on these connection types.

Common LED TV Connections Common LED TV Connections

Many newer models will also have ethernet (wired) or wireless connectivity to access your internet connection and/or home network. Access to an internet connection will allow you to stream video content from online - while some TVs may be 'DLNA Certified' for playing video and audio files from your home network.

For audio inputs, you may have stereo analog connections (red and white RCA), or possibly digital audio connections such as optical or coaxial. If there are HDMI and SCART connections, then these are designed to transport audio signals as well as the video - so you may just use these for the audio signals from your devices.

Some TVs will offer audio outputs for connecting to home theater surround sound systems, although that is less common. However, this may be something that you need if you will be wanting to send the audio from the TVs internal tuner to your surround sound system.

The really important thing to think about is what connections you actually need.

If you are using an AV receiver to connect all your devices as part of a home theater system, then you generally need less connections on the TV as the receiver will take most of the inputs - and you will just send one (maybe two) cables to the TV for the picture.

Go here for more information on AV receivers.

The cost of LED TVs

The cost of LED televisions has fallen in recent years as the technology has become more established.

It used to be that LED televisions were more expensive than their LCD (CCFL) counterparts across all screen sizes. However, now that LED technology is the most common type of TV, this is no longer the case.

An important point is to check that a particular model has the features you need - and that you don't end up paying for things you don't want. Most manufacturers have will have several different versions of the same model of TV - but at different prices.

For example, make sure if the TV comes with a built-in TV tuner. A cheaper model may not have one of these, and if you already have a separate tuner or cable box, then you may not need one built-in.

Who makes the best LED TV?

As already discussed, it can be difficult to identify the companies that make LED TVs - as they don't all use the term 'LED'!

However, if you are looking to buy one of these screens, then you should be checking out the following manufacturers:

  • LG
  • Samsung
  • Sony
  • Vizio
  • Panasonic
  • Sharp
  • Toshiba

Buying guide: what to look for

The main things to think about are:

  • What screen size is right for your room?
  • What is the quality of the high-definition picture?
  • What is the quality of the standard-definition picture? (only important if you will be using an SD source)
  • Do you want a 4K or full HD resolution TV?
  • Does it have the correct input connections for your external devices? (HDMI, optical etc.)
  • What do the on-board speakers sound like? (assuming you are not using a surround sound system)

LED TV Guide Summary

LED TVs are the next development in LCD technology, and after a gradual introduction it is now the the common type of flat screen TV.

The use of LED lights at the back of the screen brings a number of benefits over the old LCD TV with a CCFL backlight - such as a better colour accuracy, better contrast and thinner screens.

So while the older television technologies like traditional LCD and plasma screens disappear and have been discontinued, you have little choice if you want to buy a new flat screen television (unless you want to pay extra for an OLED television).

The choice these days is mainly down to the size of screen you want, and the extra features that you require like smart TV and 3D capability.


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