Edge-Lit vs. Backlit Displays: Choosing the Best Display Technology for You

If you’re researching new monitors or TVs, you’ll no doubt come across the terms “edge-lit” and “backlit” to describe how the LCD panel is illuminated. But what exactly do they mean and why should you care?

Understanding the difference allows you to match display lighting technology with your budget, desired picture quality, and viewing environment. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to choose the right display type for your needs.

Overview: Edge-Lit vs. Backlit Display Technology

Edge-lit displays have LED lights positioned along the edges of the screen which shine inward to light up the LCD panel. Light is spread evenly using a diffuser panel behind the actual LCD.

In backlit displays, a full grid of LED lights sit directly behind the LCD panel to illuminate it. No diffuser is required since the lights cover the entire backside of the screen.

Backlit TVs and monitors can produce exceptionally bright, uniform and vivid images but at a higher cost. Well-designed edge-lit displays can still look great for more casual viewing and in darker rooms.

Understanding these core technology differences allows you to pick the right display type based on your budget, room lighting, and desired picture quality.

How Edge-Lit and Backlit Displays Work

Let‘s explore what sets edge-lit and backlit displays apart:

Light Placement

As the names suggest, the lights are arranged differently:

  • Edge-lit: LEDs along the rim shine inward
  • Backlit: Full grid of LEDs directly behind the panel

Diagrams showing edge-lit vs backlit light placement

Light Directionality

This positioning also affects light direction:

  • Edge-lit: Illumination has to travel farther inward
  • Backlit: Light shines directly outward towards viewer

As a result, properly diffusing the light evenly poses challenges for edge-lit displays.

Power Requirements

The number and density of LEDs impacts power draw:

  • Edge-lit: Fewer LEDs means lower energy use
  • Backlit: More LEDs equals higher power needs

Thinner edge-lit designs compensate by sacrificing some brightness potential.

Picture Quality Comparison

How do these lighting placement and direction differences actually impact real-world image quality?

Light Uniformity

With direct rear access to the panel, backlit displays achieve more consistent brightess uniformity across the entire screen:

  • Edges don’t receive disproportionate illumination
  • No fall-off or dark patches towards the center

Edge-lit screens have to work harder to spread the light inward sufficiently using diffusers. Without proper panel design, you may notice:

  • Brighter illumination around the edges
  • Uneven brightness across the panel area

But well-engineered edge-lit TVs with quality light guides can still achieve fairly consistent lighting.

Peak Brightness

The localized LED grid enables backlit displays to produce searingly bright images for enhanced contrast and HDR content reproduction.

Edge-lit televisions emit lower peak brightness levels on average, given their directional lighting challenges:

Display TypeTypical Peak Brightness
Edge-lit TV300-500 nits
Backlit TVUp to ~1000 nits

Brighter displays overcome challenging room lighting better. This allows you to view backlit screens comfortably even in sunlit living rooms.

Black Levels & Contrast

Deeper blacks also produce richer contrast and images that pop. By lighting zones more granularly, high-end backlit TVs achieve impressive black levels.

Some even use full array local dimming (FALD) to deactivate LED zones entirely behind dark picture areas. The grid density determines how precise this dimming can be.

Edge-lit displays light large portions uniformly, making truly dark blacks elusive. Light bleeds into black bars and letterboxing more. This also lowers effective contrast.

Viewing Angles

Since the LEDs are centralized on backlit panels, they offer wider effective viewing angles over edge-lit models.

You’ll enjoy faithful colors and brightness even when viewing quality backlit monitors and TVs off-axis.

Cost Considerations

What about cost differences? Well, unsurprisingly:

  • Backlit displays demand a higher price tag
  • Edge-lit televisions and monitors are generally more budget-friendly

More LEDs, deeper casings, complex dimming circuits etc. translate to higher manufacturing and retail costs.

You pay a premium for backlit’s performance perks. But edge-lit continues improving while remaining reasonably affordable.

Edge-Lit vs. Backlit: Pros and Cons

Edge-Lit DisplaysBacklit Displays
Pros 👍Thinner profile
Lower energy use
Cheaper at same screen sizes
Wider viewing angles
Higher peak brightness
Excellent contrast
Uniform illumination
Cons 👎Light bleed
Mediocre contrast
Potential edge hotspots
Lower peak brightness
Narrower viewing angles
Higher price tags
Thicker profiles to accommodate LED grid
Higher power consumption due to more LEDs
Best For 🎯Smaller TVs (under 55”)
Basic productivity monitors
Bright rooms on a budget
Secondary/kids’ room TVs
Home theaters
Gaming & graphics
Monitors needing color accuracy
Cinema rooms
Very bright living spaces
Examples 📺Hisense 40-Inch Roku TVLG 65-Inch C2 OLED TV

As you can see, both technologies cater to different display purposes and price points.

Backlit TVs and gaming monitors dominate high-end home theaters and desktop setups. Edge-lit displays suffice for casual TV viewing and office work without breaking the bank.

Pairing Display Lighting Technology With Screen Types

It’s also worth factoring in LCD panel types like:

  • IPS – Excellent viewing angles with great color
  • VA – Impressive contrast but viewing angle tradeoffs
  • OLED – Perfect blacks and wide viewing but potential burn-in

"Many high-end monitors pair IPS panels with full array backlighting for awesome off-angle clarity and contrast," notes display expert Dr. Raymond Soneira of DisplayMate Technologies.

"And DIrect-lit QLED TVs can almost match OLED contrast at a fraction of the price thanks to quantum dots expanding color brightness."

Important Monitor Features for Gaming & Graphics

Gaming monitors demand optimized specs like:

  • High refresh rates (144+ Hz) for ultra fluid frame rates
  • Quick response times (1ms) to combat distracting blur during fast motion
  • Adaptive sync support (Nvidia G-Sync and AMD FreeSync) to prevent screen tearing

Connectivity matters too – prioritize full-spec HDMI 2.1 ports for 4K gaming without compression.

Image quality-focused creators should seek professional color spaces like sRGB, Adobe RGB and DCI-P3 reproduction.

Summing Up: Choosing What’s Right for You

So which display lighting tech should you choose?

As we‘ve covered, backlit displays excel on versatility, brightness, and contrast. Though costlier, they work great in any lighting environment.

Edge-lit screens offer remarkable picture quality improvements at lower price points. They fit tighter budgets without huge tradeoffs.

At the end of the day, focus less on backlight terminology itself. Instead, analyze how each option impacts viewing experience quality across various metrics.

Let aspects like room lighting, viewing angles, panel types and price drive your technology decision. By picking the best-engineered display for your specific needs, you’ll enjoy picture perfection without overspending.

Happy display shopping! Want display advice tailored for you? Join our reviews Discord community!

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