Expert Eye

TV types explained: Plasma, LCD, LED & OLED

Buying a TV can be frustrating. You just want to settle down to watch Star Trek (or whatever), but you’re confronted with all these different types of TV. A baffling array of acronyms, formats and tech jargon. All of these things are designed to promote and explain the features of modern televisions – but if you don’t know what to look out for, researching for your new set can be a bit of a minefield.

In this guide we’re going to take a look at the different types of TV. We’ll focus on Plasma, LCD, LED & OLED and give you a brief explanation of how they work. Then you can make your choice and crack on with watching your favourite show or movie!


This article was updated in May 2021

CRT

So let’s start with the basics and a TV format not mentioned above… The CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) refers to the classic style ‘chunky’ television set (and monitor) we probably all visualise when we think of TV sets. The reason these TVs were so bulky is because the box had to house a screen plus a projector ‘gun’. The image was created by firing electrons through the gun onto a screen, exciting the particles on it. These TV formats have been on the decline since the early 2000s (with the introduction of far smaller LCD screens) and these days you would be extremely hard pushed to find any retailer selling them.


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Lcd 5

LCD

LCDs are thin displays normally used in laptops, computer monitors and TV screens. The term ‘LCD’ Stands for ‘Liquid Crystal Display’. A liquid crystal display is a special flat panel which can block light, or allow it to pass.

The panel is made up of segments with each block filled with liquid crystals. The colour and transparency of these blocks can be changed by increasing or reducing the electrical current. LCD crystals do not produce their own light, so an external light source like a flourescent bulb is needed to create an image.


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LED

Contrary to popular belief, LED TVs are not a completely new format of television. Instead they are simply an updated version of the previous LCD generation. LED TVs use the same technology as an LCD TV, but instead of being illuminated by a florescent bulb from behind they are lit by an array of LEDs (light emitting diodes).

These are far more efficient and smaller in size, meaning the TV can be even narrower. LED can be broken up into two further major categories Direct (back-lit) LED and Edge-lit LED:

Direct LED
These displays are backlit by an array of LEDs directly behind the screen. This enables focused lighting areas – meaning specific cells of brightness and darkness can be displayed more effectively.

Edge-lit LED
As the name suggests have lights set around the television frame. Edge-lit models reflect light into the centre of the monitor, and are the thinnest, lightest models available. Since they have fewer lights in the centre of the screen.

LED is the most popular format of TV on the market now due to its cost, size and versatility, although it is not the highest quality image available.


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Plasma

Plasma is arguably superior to LCD and LED in terms of contrast and colour accuracy. However, the format is restricted to larger screens sizes (usually 40”+) due to costs. In these larger screen sizes buying the Plasma option can work out cheaper. It is also used in the super-sized 80-inch+ screens as the plasma screens are easier and more cost effective to produce at those larger sizes.


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oled tv

OLED

OLED is massive leap forward in screen technology. Unlike the name suggests, OLED is nothing like LED. OLED stands for ‘Organic Light Emitting Diode’ and uses ‘organic’ materials like carbon to create light when supplied directly by an electric current.

Unlike LED / LCD screens, an OLED TV doesn’t require a backlight to illuminate the set area. Without this restriction of an external light source, OLED screens can be super thin and crucially, flexible.

As the individual areas can be lit up directly and not via an external backlight, the colours and contrasts are much better on OLED TV’s. On the whole, OLED is thinner, more flexible, faster at processing images, creates deeper colours and is more crisp in contrast. It is, however, still very expensive.

We may begin to see the technology more on phones, smartwatches and wearable tech, where the screens are a smaller size and are therefore more cost efficient.


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So those are the different types of TV. Your next step is to work out what size TV is most suitable for you. There may be other particular features or aspects you’d like to think about. Perhaps you’re after a 4K TV? How about taking a browse through Ebuyer’s selection of TVs?

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