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CCFL backlight vs LED backlight

Today displays are some of the most vital components in consumer technology since they are often the primary medium for us to register information that gadgets present.

Since their advent, displays have come a long way. Large CRT Monitors were phased out of commercial places by thin LCDs, which are space-efficient and also offered a reduction in energy consumption.

While LCDs did have their advantages, they needed a source that could directly light the liquid crystal since these did not produce their own. This direct source of light is what we call a backlight.

In this article, we will be comparing CCFL backlighting to its newer counterpart, LED backlight, to see whether the advancements brought with LED are worth it.

Also read: LCD vs OLED displays: What’s the difference and which one is better


What are CCFL and LED backlights?

CCFL or Cold Cathode Fluorescent Lamps are tubular objects, akin to tube lights you may find in an office building.

These work with the principles of electron discharge and fluorescence while, their range of brightness and colour comes with the use of varying materials within the tube cavity. 

An LED backlight uses semiconductors that glow when a current passes through it. In the beginning, LED panels used a blue diode and yellow phosphor to generate the colour white, but with time this has evolved to what we know as the RGB diode system, which provides access to an even range of colours.

These light sources, when put onto a panel, become CCFL and LED backlights.

Also read: 60Hz vs 120Hz vs 144Hz vs 240Hz displays


What is the difference between CCFL and LED backlighting?

Now that you are informed about CCFL and LED backlights, before deciding which is better, let us understand the differences between the two kinds of technology.

Design

As mentioned earlier, CCFLs use a tubular design, and since CCFLs have been around for longer than LED panels, the technology has reached a point where the cost to implement it is lesser, and they are said to be easier to install.

CCFL backlight vs LED backlight | Candid.Technology
A CCFL Backlight | Image by BBCLCD via Wikimedia Commons

On the other hand, LED-based displays are inherently thinner than CCFL-based display due to the smaller size of the diodes; this allows the panels to be a lot slimmer than the already compact LCDs. 

LED and CCFL backlights exist in edge-lit and full-array configurations. Although the smaller size of LEDs allows for local dimming zones to be formed, which plays a role in the brightness control mentioned ahead.

Brightness Levels

To generate light, the gases within CCFLs require ionisation. The generation of heat during this process adds a limit to the maximum brightness acquired.

This factor also leads to a time duration that CCFLs require to reach max brightness.

Also, with CCFLs, regulation of brightness levels can be complex, which results in issues with achieving accurate black levels.

With LEDs, brightness levels have a higher cap because of improved efficiency, allowing passage of more voltage within a smaller enclosure, giving consumers an overall brighter and energy-efficient panel.

LED technology also allows for what is known as dimming zones, which refers to having control over the diodes at a minuscule scale — in batches — to allow the formation of deeper blacks and a more contrasty look.

Colour Accuracy

When display technology was developing, CCFLs became known for their gamut of colours achieved due to the work of mercury vapour contained in the tube, but this presence was a drawback for CCFL backlights.

LEDs initially used blue light-emitting diodes mixed with a yellow phosphor coating to create the colour white — this nature led to a higher level of blue light in the resulting colours. While a drawback, the implementation of RGB diodes in displays today, allows for accurate colour production, overcoming the only major drawback LED technology had in the past.

Also read: Capacitive vs Resistive displays; Are resistive screens still used?


Which one should be preferred?

If one looks at it objectively, LED technology is the way towards the future with developments like MiniLED and microLED already underway — these aim to offer more contrast, energy efficiency and better colour production — CCFLs are a thing of the past.

CCFL backlight vs LED backlight | Candid.Technology
Apple is rumoured to refresh the 12.9 inch iPad Pro with MiniLED Displays in March 2021

In industries where designs or equipment still use CCFLs, the transition to newer technology may be worth it, based on the cost the company may have to bare for its implementation.

LEDs offer consumers space and power-efficient equipment, and the lack of mercury makes it the perfect choice.

CategoryCCFL BacklightLED Backlight
SizeThicker PanelsSlimmer Panels
CostCheapExpensive
Colour AccuracyStandard due to better whitesImproves with cost and types of diodes used.
RGB diodes provide most accurate representation of whites

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