Digital Display Options: Explore the Differences of LED, LCD and Projection Screens

LED vs other Blog

When planning digital signage projects, there are many factors that must be considered when it comes to screen choice. Primarily, it’s critical to understand that the options—LEDs, LCDs, and projection—are not interchangeable. While LEDs and LCDs have some similarities, projection screens are a completely different type of system altogether. Realizing that you’re not comparing apples to apples is essential, as the application, use, and site are paramount to a successful signage integration.

LEDs: Light Emitting Diode Displays

  • LEDs are built upon columns and rows of individual LED packages.
  • LED colors are more vibrant than LCD with greater contrast
  • LED’s offer the greatest brightness–typically between 4,000 to 8,000 nits–that won’t weaken significantly less with age than other display types
  • LEDs are thin, lightweight, and use less power
  • Direct view LED displays are available in more sizes than other screens—ultimately giving more creative freedom for screen configuration and size
  • With LED pixel pitch available in sub 1MM to 100MM configurations, LED resolution resembles that of a flat panel and everything in between.
  • The higher the brightness of the display, the more direct sunlight it can compete against—specifically beneficial for outdoor displays

LCDs: Liquid Crystal Displays

  • LCDs have the highest resolution of the three options, but with much lower brightness—300 to 2,500 nits—making them ideal for up-close viewing
  • The larger the size, the heavier and more fragile the LCD screen which directly correlates to overall weight of displays
  • LCDs can be tiled together for a wall, however, there will be seams between bezels
  • LCD flat panels are available in 1080P and 4K UHD resolutions—the higher the resolution, the more pixels per inch, and the closer the viewer can be
  • Common LCD sizes range from around 10” up to 95” diagonal

Projection Screen: A Surface & Support Structure to Display Projected Images

  • Projectors are required to transmit the image to a projection screen
  • Because images must travel to the viewer’s eye, there’s a larger expanse in which the brightness and visibility of projected images can be diminished, resulting in image clarity and crispness challenges
  • Over time, a projector loses brightness, affecting its ability to properly display saturated colors like black
  • Upkeep and maintenance is more prevalent to keep your projection display system running at its full capabilities.
  • Projectors lack the contrast capabilities of LED 

Lighting Considerations: Lights (Natural and Artificial) Influence Screen Selection

  • LEDs are recommended if the space is located outside or will be filled with natural light
  • While it doesn’t impact the visibility of LED images, ambient lighting makes a projected image more difficult to see
  • Ambient light on TV style video walls can have glare and reflection ultimately diminishing effectiveness
  • Depending on the area, LEDs may not even need to display at their highest brightness, adding to their longevity and less consumption of energy

Image Definition and Sizing

  • LEDs and LCDs support HD (high definition) with no challenges
  • Projectors typically only support standard definition or cannot display HD images at full resolution. Higher resolution output projectors can be extremely costly
  • Projectors, however, can easily display images of all sizes, from small to extremely large
  • LED panels only range from about 60 inches to 90 inches at the large end of the spectrum, but can be stacked to create larger composite images
  • Depending on application text playback can determine the resolution of display needed to accomplish effective content reproduction

Set-Up and Usage

  • LEDs and LCDs are much easier to set-up and quicker to turn on than projector displays
  • Projectors are limited in how and where they are used, requiring a video source connection, unimpeded space between the screen and projector, and high mounting in the back of a room or display area—low hanging objects in a venue will obstruct projector set-ups

Maintenance and Cost of Ownership

  • For maintenance, LED repair is straightforward, often just a software update will suffice, while replacing a module or broken bulb necessitates little effort
  • LCDs may require manual calibration and aren’t able to be serviced in the field
  • Projectors typically must be sent off for repair, resulting in downtime
  • Long-term reliability goes to LEDs, which last up to 100,000 hours before suffering dimming issues
  • LCDs only run for 30,000 to 50,000 hours before degradation leading to issues such as image burn in
  • LEDs are more expensive purchases than LCDs, but due to the probable repairs and less lifetime usage of LCDs, LEDs have a lower total cost of ownership


Which display is right for your project?

There is often a misconception around LCDs, LEDs and projector displays. LEDs and LCDs are similar, but still have differences that matter to specific applications. Each system has advantages and disadvantages, and the one that’s right for you depends on your needs and what you are ultimately trying to accomplish.

PixelFLEX® provides custom LED display solutions for multiple applications. No matter the use of space, our expert team works with you to design the best LED signage for your needs within the budget and constraints you have. Check out our line of LED solutions and how they can work for your next project.

How does LED display stack up against other technologies? Check out our LCD vs. LED and Projection vs. LED infographics.