Direct LED offers higher brightness and better black and backlight uniformity, but displays that use this technology are usually bulkier and consume more power. Edge LED offers better contrast and the displays that use it are thinner and more power-efficient, but they can suffer from poor black and backlight uniformity.
If you’re shopping for a new TV or monitor, chances are you’ve encountered the terms “direct LED” and “edge LED”, so what do these two terms mean, and more importantly, which is a better fit for your needs?
Read on and find out!
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Direct LED and Edge LED – What Are They?
In essence, both direct and edge LED are LED backlight technologies utilized by LCD displays, and they both have their own distinct advantages and disadvantages.
Most displays that you’ll encounter today are LCD displays, and they mainly differ in regards to what type of panel they use and in regards to the type of backlight that they utilize, which we’ll discuss here.
A direct LED backlight is a backlight whose LED matrix is positioned directly behind the panel, whereas an edge LED backlight only has LEDs positioned along the edges of the screen, using “light guides” to spread the light across the entire surface of the display.
NOTE: We should mention that OLED displays have nothing to do with LCD displays, as OLED is an entirely different technology that doesn’t utilize an active backlight. You can read more about OLED here.
Direct LED vs Edge LED – Pros and Cons
The main advantage of direct LED lies in the fact that it can provide higher brightness, as well as better backlight and black uniformity. However, displays that utilize this type of backlight tend to be bulkier and they are more power-hungry compared to those that use edge LED. Moreover, the contrast is usually not as good with direct LED displays, and blacks usually appear as dark shades of gray.
Edge LED, as we have mentioned above, only has LEDs along the edges of the screen. As you might have guessed, this is more power-efficient and allows for thinner, sleeker, and better-looking TVs and monitors. But on the downside, it’s more likely to suffer from clouding and backlight bleed issues, particularly around the edges.
Direct LED vs Edge LED – Which Should You Choose?
With the above in mind, it should be fairly easy to decide which type of backlight would be a better fit for your needs.
If you don’t really care about power efficiency or the external appearance of the monitor/TV, then it’s mostly a matter of choosing between better contrast and better brightness, plus there are the backlight and black uniformity concerns.
If you can’t stand poor contrast, then edge LED would be the more appealing choice, but if you’d rather have a more limited contrast and no unsightly backlight bleed, then a direct LED display would probably be the better pick.
However, it’s worth noting that many LED displays now come with a feature called local dimming, which allows the display to completely turn off segments of the backlight, thus allowing it to achieve better contrast in some parts of the screen. Naturally, just how much local dimming helps with improving contrast will vary from model to model.
It’s Not All About the Backlight!
As mentioned above, there are several panel types that you’ll find in modern monitors and TVs, and they, too, can affect the image quality.
In short, the panels that you’ll commonly encounter are:
- IPS – found in both monitors and TVs, in-plane switching panels have the best color accuracy and viewing angles but they often suffer from mediocre contrast and backlight bleed.
- VA – also found in both monitors and TVs, vertical alignment panels have good color reproduction, albeit not as good as what you can get with IPS. They make up for this by offering much better contrast, though they can have some issues with ghosting and motion blur due to relatively slow response times.
- TN – mostly confined to monitors, twisted nematic panels usually focus on performance and affordability, offering high refresh rates and fast response times at relatively low prices. Sadly, they usually have limited color accuracy, mediocre contrast, and poor viewing angles.
You can read our full article on this subject here.
Price Is Also a Factor
Some things simply can’t be expressed as numbers on a spreadsheet, and that’s where quality comes in. No two products are the exact same, and you usually get what you pay for.
Of course, that’s not to say that cheap monitors are necessarily bad – quite the contrary, there are numerous budget options that offer great value for your money at relatively low prices, but budget monitors/TVs always have to cut some corners in one department or another.
At the end of the day, it goes without saying that a $100 IPS monitor will hardly offer the same experience as a $500 one, and you can’t judge everything based on on-paper specs, which is why it’s always a good idea to look at reviews, professional and user-written alike.
And that would be about it when direct LED and edge LED backlights are concerned. As you can see, the differences are fairly straightforward, and the panel is also something to keep in mind when shopping for a new display.
If you’re shopping for a new gaming monitor right now, you might want to check out our selection of the very best gaming monitors of 2020 – note that we update these guides regularly, so if you’re seeing a dated model on there, it’s either there for a reason or the guide is slated for an update in the near future!