Q&A: LCD vs. LED Technology

Beijing South Railway

The Beijing South Railway installed an impressive LED display to show departures and arrivals in this concourse area. As opposed to LCD screens, Airports and Mass Transit facilities can install attention-grabbing, dynamic LED screens to show dynamic content which can be seen at longer viewing distances.

In our conversations with aviation and mass transit representatives, we’ve seen some confusion about what type of display – LCD or LED – is best used for large scheduling boards. I’ll try to clear it up by responding to some common questions about the differences between the two technologies. In short, LED displays have properties that make them inherently more effective at conveying scheduling information in large, open areas.

Q: I’m installing a display outdoors. Should I use LCD?

A: LED displays are almost always preferred outdoors over LCD screens because 1) they’re much brighter and 2) they’re much better at handling the elements. LED cabinets are rated to withstand particles and extreme temperatures, and even the LEDs themselves are protected by impermeable epoxy. That’s why you always see LED displays advertising businesses near the roadside. LEDs operate from -40° F (-40° C) to 140° F (60° C), while LCDs can suffer when exposed to temperatures below 50° F (10° C).

Q: I’m installing a display in an area with lots of windows, lit mostly by sunlight. How can we clearly display our schedules in this bright ambient light?

A: Sunlight is LCD technology’s worst enemy due to its low brightness (it can also cause glare, especially at wider viewing angles). LCD screens offer about 350-1,000 nits, while LED displays shine 2,000-10,000 nits.

Q: What if something goes wrong?

A: Problems with LCD components? Time to throw it away and replace it with an entirely new unit. Conversely, LED displays are easy to service from the front or the back. Any component is easily replaceable – saving maintenance costs in the long run.

Q: How long will each last?

A: LCD screens are rated from about 40,000 to 60,000 hours until half brightness. That’s about 5-7 years. LEDs last about 100,000 hours until half brightness, roughly 11 years.

Q: What about the capabilities of each?

A: It’s commonly known that LCDs have a much higher pixel pitch than LED displays. But at long viewing distances, especially on large boards in public areas, it doesn’t matter. The brain connects the dots, creating a seamless text or video image on LED boards – and Daktronics is great at helping you find just the right pixel pitch for your viewing distance. LED displays also don’t need intrusive bezels like large arrays of LCD screens.

LCD screens’ aspect ratio is generally stuck at 16:9. LED displays are available in hundreds of standard sizes and aspect ratios, and can even be curved. And with Daktronics’ Venus 1500 or 7000 software, it’s easy to integrate LED displays with scheduling software and video feeds, using the same ports as LCD screens.

We’re not saying LCD screens don’t have their uses. My own LCD TV works great at a 10 foot viewing distance in my living room. However, for a cost-effective means of displaying information and video in large areas, I would much rather put my trust in the capabilities of LED technology.

Contact me at Mike.Weinberg@daktronics.com or 605-695-2586 for more information about LED technology.

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