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TV Screen Types: What’s the Difference?

Tv Screen Types

Check out our guide on TV Screen types. Know the difference.

New TVs are always exciting, however, buying them can become a frustrating experience when you have no idea what all the acronyms, techy jargon, and formats mean in the TV specs. We’ve put together a guide for you to reference when shopping TVs, explaining the different types of TVs like LCD, LED, Plasma, and OLED.

Let’s get started with a little blast from the past and talk about an old TV format; the CRT. This isn’t mentioned above, but let’s touch on it quickly.


So, what does CRT stand for? Cathode Ray Tube. This is the old chunky-style TV with the big box that was used to house a screen and projector gun. By firing electrons through the projector gun onto a screen and exciting the particles, an image was created. Since the early 2000s, this TV format has been in severe decline with the intro of MUCH smaller LCD screens.

LCD TV Screens

LCD screens are thin displays that are usually used in TV screens and laptops. LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display, which is a specific flat panel that is able to allow light to pass or block it. The panel is made up of segment blocks filled with liquid crystals.

The transparency and color of the blocks can be altered by reducing or increasing electrical currents. These crystals do not produce light on their own, and for that reason, an external light source is needed to create an image on an LCD TV like a florescent bulb.

LED TV Screens

Although many people think that LED TVs are a totally new format of TV, they’re not. Simply, they’re an updated version of the LCD generation. Both LED and LCD TVs use the same technology. Instead of being illuminated by the florescent bulb, the LED screen is lit by various LEDs or Light Emitting Diodes. These TVs are able to be narrower because the LEDs are far smaller in size and more efficient.

The LED TVs can be divided into two subcategories: Edge-lit LEDs and Direct Back-Lit LEDs.

Edge-lit LED TVs

The name is kind of a giveaway, but these have lights around the edge of the TV frame. Edge-lit LEDs reflect light to the center of the monitor, they are the lightest and thinnest LED models available since the lights are fewer in the middle of the screen.

For a while, LED TVs were the most popular TV format on the market because of its size, cost, and its versatility. It’s not the highest quality on the market but is still a great TV.

Direct-lit LED TVs

The direct-lit displays are backlit by LEDs that are directly behind the LED screen. This allows for focused lighting areas, which means specific cells of darkness and brightness can be more effectively displayed.

Plasma TV Screens

Plasma TV screens consist of two sheets of glass with mixtures of gasses stored between them. The gasses are injected and sealed in plasma form while in the manufacturing process– this is why it’s named a Plasma TV. The gasses react causing illumination in the pixels on the screen when electrically charged.

In terms of color and contrast accuracy, the plasma is a bit superior to the LED and LCD TV screens- arguably so. Due to its costs, the format is restricted to screen sizes that are larger, not smaller. Typically, 40 inches and above. Buying larger plasmas tend to work out a bit cheaper. They are more cost effective to produce larger sizes. Plasma’s have somewhat faded off the market, though.

OLED TV Screens

Now, the newest of all screens, the OLED! This TV is a massive leap in TV screen technology. While it does have LED in the name, it is nothing like an LED TV. OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode and uses organic materials such as carbon to create light when it’s directly supplied by an electrical current. OLED TVs do not need a backlight to illuminate the screen area. Without having the restriction of an external light source, OLED TVs can be very thin and even flexible!

Due to individual areas being lit up directly and not by an external source, the TV’s color and contrast are the very best. The OLED processes images faster by creating deeper colors and very crisp contrast. The OLEDs are still so new that the prices are still very high. It may be a year or two before consumers can purchase these at a lower price, unless you lease to own an OLED TV—then you can actually get one without breaking the bank in one lump sum!

Now that you have some information on what the different TV screens mean, check out our TV Screen Size and Viewing Distance Guide!


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