The Truth About "LED TVs"

LED TV. Really?

For today’s column I have decided to comment on the latest trend in the HDTV market today, the misnomer running around called LED TV. We have Samsung and Sony (who else) running the bandwagon that is creating waves in the industry. Take a look at Samsung’s 128 LED TV display in Berlin; these guys are really taking it high.

I have respect for these brands, we review their products regularly, including the ‘LED TVs’ but, their marketing terminology is wrong. These TVs are not LED TVs, rather they are LCD TVs. The panels are made of liquid crystals itself, just like normal LCD HDTVs. So what is different? The LEDs are used to light the panel. Let’s backtrack a bit in to the tech behind an LCD TV.

An LCD has a source of light, which used to be a CCFL light, pretty similar to the lamps and bulbs that light up our rooms. This light is called the backlight, and forms a huge chunk of the quality you will receive. These generally have a brightness of 330 – 350 cd/m2 brightness at midpoint. This lights the LCD panel, which is made up of pixels, from behind. Each pixel either blocks the light to show black, or totally allows it to show white. Each pixel is made of 3 sub pixel, for red, green and blue. These intermix according and thus we get color, but still essentially it’s the blocking and letting through of light that dictates the image, and how well the LCD can do it, decide qualities like brightness and contrast etc.

Now in LED TVs, especially the Samsung one released in India, the CCFL light is replaced by an LED source, these are definitely a better choice than the fluorescence cathode. They consume lesser power, thus efficiency goes up. Now we have another issue here. LEDs can light the panels from back, or from the side. The ones we have reviewed, light it from the side, and are actually LED edge-lit LCD TVs. That’s what we call our reviews of such products.

It is debatable whether Samsung and Sony’s ads are correct, maybe they should be more specific in their nomenclature, but then history is filled with marketing spunk, no use complaining of that. Backlit LED monitors are available in laptops and monitors of around 21-23 inches size. Samsung themselves have released an LED backlit monitor, called the XL2370, it should come here soon. The Samsung 7 series edge lit TVs are superb, there is no doubt about that, except right now they are pretty pricey. I feel one should just wait a bit.

Finally, so then what exactly is an LED TV. An LED TV is one that actually uses LEDs to make up the pixels, and are totally different technology. No consumer TV has this, only outdoor giant screens used in stadiums have this. These utilize up to 25 million LEDs to produce a full-color HD image, and no I do not think anyone has one in their house, not even in Los Angeles. Sony has something called an OLED TV, the XEL-1, but the price is a joke, and the technology is still different from normal LED TVs. More on this in the coming months.

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