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February 9, 2011

The Benefits of LED Displays on Laptops

LED displays began entering the laptop market back in 2007, though at the time they were offered on higher-end laptops only.  These days LED displays are more common, even on budget models.  What are the benefits of LED displays?  In a nutshell, the LED screens are thinner, brighter, and more energy efficient than traditional displays.

Here are some facts about LED displays.

  • Longer Life
    LED technology can achieve 100,000 hours of life, compared to CCFLs which are often rated at 20,000 hours.
  • Better color accuracy
    CCFL backlighting results in inaccurate color display. This is particularly problematic for artists and photographers, who have been known to continue using old, boxy CRTs rather than use a CCFL backlit screen.
  • Brighter screen
    LEDs are up to 30% brighter, which means your laptop should be more useable outdoors. LED brightness may also counter the visibility problems found on glossy screens. The brightness is typically spread more evenly across the screen, as well.
  • Improved battery life
    Because LEDs are typically more energy efficient, you may get longer battery life on your laptop. Dell has claimed that switching to LED backlighting nearly doubled the battery life on one of their models. Personally I do not believe this, however there is likely a noticeable difference when using an LED display.
  • No dulling effect over time
    LEDs are discreet elements; they work until they fail. CCFL backlights, in contrast, wear down over time, gradually losing their brightness. If you plan to keep your laptop for a long time, this could be problematic.
  • Increased durability
    LED backlights are less vulnerable to breakage from minor bumps.  I’ve had a CCFL backlight die on me after a very minor fall.  The LEDs should be more shock-resistent. 
  • LEDs weigh less and are thinner
    This isn’t a major factor, but the lighter weight can shave a bit off the overall weight of the laptop.

The major drawback of LEDs is their cost.  However, production has ramped up to meet demand, bringing the cost down to competitive levels.  This has led to most laptop makers shifting over completely to LED displays.  Soon, you won’t be able to find a CCFL backlit screen.  That is a good thing for laptop users.

UPDATE: I was disappointed to see that Sony is still not using LED-backlit screens on their 16.4″ VAIO laptops.  These machines start at around $900.  For that price, Sony needs to up its game and switch over to LEDs!

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