Techno-comparison: WLED vs LED

Susan Fernandez February 02 2022

What is LED technology?

LED stands for Light Emitting Diodes. It is a semiconductor light source based on the composition of gallium arsenide phosphide, which emits light when electricity is passed through it. Though mostly used in lighting, LED devices can also be found in many other applications such as camera and telescope sensors, solar panels, and displays.

This technology was created in 1962 and was first used as indicator lamps. LED technology has seen an increase in use for other applications such as displays since 1990, and is still continuing to expand. The light emitted from LED sources has a narrow spectrum of light wavelengths, due to the components being used to create them. This leads to higher energy efficiency compared to traditional lighting sources such as incandescent bulbs or fluorescent lights.

LED monitors are becoming increasingly popular in the past few years, with many manufacturers producing them for commercial or household use. They are much cheaper to produce than their LCD counterparts, have a better response time when displaying images, and are much thinner.

How are LEDs made?

The producers of LED monitors usually use LEDs as backlights, instead of traditional fluorescent or incandescent light sources. Due to the sensitivity of the human eye to different wavelengths of light, different color LEDs are used to produce an image with high accuracy and vivid colors on screen.

While WLEDs use a semiconductor material GaN, LEDs use a wide range of materials such as GaAsP, InGaN, and AlInGaP. These LED monitors use a light guide plate (LGP) in the final stages to produce an even distribution of light across the screen surface.

The technology process changed since the time it was invented, but the nature of the LED backlights in modern monitors has not changed. These monitors use efficient White LEDs, or WLEDs, which are mostly used in LCD TVs and displays due to their size and cost-effectiveness. However, they can still be found in smaller devices such as laptop screens and mobile phones.

How do LED monitors work?

The basic components in an LED monitor are the LEDs, the backlight unit (BLU), color filters, lenses, and diffusers.

A light source is placed at one end of the BLU to provide an even distribution of light across its length. The LEDs in all monitors used in this process produce white light. This white light is then passed through color filters in order for it to be used for different colors by the human eye.

To separate the colored light into red green and blue, dichroic mirrors are used. These mirrors turn 90% of the unwanted wavelengths into heat. For larger screens using LCD technology, cold cathode Fluorescent Lamps (CCFLs) are instead of WLEDs due to their larger surface area and cost-effectiveness.

What is WLED technology?

WLED stands for Wide-spectrum Light Emitting Diodes. It works by arranging three different color diodes (red, green and blue) to make white light. WLEDs are currently used as backlights for LCD screens, where they provide an exceptionally slim profile, compared to other lighting technologies like CFL or incandescent. Plus, because of how energy-efficient WLEDs are, they're the most popular form of lighting for tablet and smartphone displays.

The first WLED was created in 1993 by Japanese scientists Isamu Akasaki and Hiroshi Amano, who received the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on LEDs that emit pure visible light. Their creation is a significant step toward making smaller and brighter lighting a reality.

In recent years, researchers from the University of California Santa Barbara have been able to make WLEDs even more efficient said Alex Björklund, an assistant professor in UCSB's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering whose research includes alternative semiconductor technologies. He noted that his group has reduced the number of LEDs needed for white light by 25 percent over the last few years.

How is WLED monitors made?

WLEDs are created using a semiconductor material known as gallium nitride (GaN). It's one of the hardest materials on earth -- just 9 tons can support a block weighing nearly 1,000 tons –which makes it perfect for manufacturing because it doesn't require bulky supports for everyday use.

GaN has been used in the U.S. since the 1980s for high-voltage devices like power amplifiers, but it wasn't until recently that GaN was successfully used to create WLEDs.

Scientists have struggled with making white LEDs using GaN due to its poor electrical properties, which made it difficult to inject current into the material when turned on. However, researchers have found a way around this issue by a slowly "pulsing" electric current through the semiconductor at extremely fast speeds (over 1 million times per second).

Today's modern WLEDs are most often created by growing thin layers of gallium nitride on top of sapphire or silicon carbide wafers coated with reflectors. This process, known as epitaxy, begins by heating the substrate wafer to around 1,000 degrees Celsius before introducing gallium nitride molecules. The growth of GaN is performed in multiple steps with temperatures reaching 1,200 to 1,400 degrees Celsius. Then a series of patterning and etching processes are used to create the LED's circuitry.

How do WLEDs work?

While LEDs come in a variety of colors (red, blue, and green), white light is created by combining these individual colors together. By using various semiconductor materials that emit red, blue, or green light when electricity is passed through them in a vacuum or inert gas atmosphere at high temperatures (over 750 C), scientists have been able to combine these colors together to make white light.

White LEDs are essentially a sandwich of three different layers. These include an electron-hole recombination layer, an active (light-emitting) layer and a phosphor layer that helps improve the overall quality of the light by controlling the wavelength and color temperature.

Electrons from an external current source move through the semiconductor material in what's known as a "pn junction." When electrons meet holes (areas with missing electrons), they fall into a lower energy state and release energy in the form of photons – this is how they emit light.

What monitor is better WLED or LED?

LEDs, which emit blue light and then cover it up with a yellow phosphor coating to make it appear white. Because LEDs need a yellow covering, this makes the resulting display slightly less bright than WLEDs. In other words, whites aren't as white on an LED display since they have a slight orange tint.

In the future, researchers will likely use alternative semiconductor materials in WLEDs that can produce better colors without the need for a phosphor covering. Plus, while LEDs are currently used for smartphone and tablet displays, they're not practical for large-scale lighting solutions due to their high cost and lack of efficiency compared to WLEDs.

What TV will you prefer?

As of now, WLEDs are a much better solution for large-scale lighting applications because they're more efficient and cost less to produce. However, LED displays will likely continue to dominate the market due to their better image quality and color reproduction.

The main benefit of LED lighting is that it's much more controllable compared to traditional fluorescent or incandescent bulbs -- you can simply dim them using a standard light switch instead of waiting around for the bulb's filament to warm up as it does with incandescent lights. In addition, LEDs last longer than fluorescent bulbs (on average about 20 years), which helps lower maintenance costs over time since you don't have to constantly replace them.

Will you choose LED or WLED monitor for gaming purposes?

LED monitors offer reduced input lag and better color reproduction, which is important if you plan on gaming on your display. They're also more energy-efficient and last longer than traditional LCDs.

If you don't mind a slight decrease in image quality and have a tighter budget, then LED displays are likely the way to go for now since they cost less to produce compared to WLEDs.

However, if color reproduction and overall picture quality are more of a priority, then it's hard to beat OLED technology right now given its superior contrast ratio, speed, and viewing angles.

In addition, with Panasonic recently announcing that it'll be discontinuing plasma TV production this year after facing stiff competition from both OLEDs and LEDs, it's likely that OLED TVs will continue to get cheaper as they lose market share, which is another reason why WLEDs are currently the better choice for gamers.

What monitor will you prefer?

So what's the best solution right now? If you're gaming on a PC or console hooked up to your TV and want to use standard lighting fixtures in your home, then LED monitors may be worth considering given their lower input lag and overall picture quality (just don't forget an OSD remote).

On the other hand, if you want the absolute best picture possible regardless of cost or input lags, then go with OLED displays for their superior contrast ratio, speed, and viewing angles.

What is the difference in price?

LED and WLED technologies are both cheaper to produce compared to OLED TVs, which is why they're the dominant choice among gamers right now. However, due to their limited color accuracy and viewing angles, don't expect them to replace OLED displays in terms of overall picture quality in the next few years.

What are LED and WLED quality differences?

LED monitors are likely the way to go for now given their better image quality and color reproduction compared to WLEDs. However, with OLED TVs offering superior contrast ratio, speed, and viewing angles, don't expect LEDs or WLEDs to replace OLEDs in terms of overall picture quality anytime soon.

WLED technology is still very young; new developments may significantly improve its performance in the future. Nevertheless, it already offers some advantages over LED displays like lower power consumption and increased energy efficiency (which makes it more environmentally friendly).

What resolution do you prefer?

For gamers who plan on hooking up their PC or console to a TV via an HDMI cable, then higher resolutions like 4K offer greater detail at larger sizes than WQHD monitors.

At the same time, gamers looking at 27" and larger panels should take advantage of WQHD's extra desktop real estate for multitasking purposes or to increase their field of view in competitive shooters like CS: GO and Overwatch.

What about input lag?

Input lag is another factor you need to consider when choosing between LED and WLED monitors. The difference in latency between a 60Hz display (14ms) vs. 100Hz (9ms) and 144Hz (7-8ms) may not seem significant, but it does affect your overall gaming performance especially if you're playing fighting games where fast reflexes are needed.

For example, players using an ultra-low input lag monitor like BenQ's XL2430T (2ms) or ASUS' PG248Q (1ms) can react to their opponent's attacks almost a full-frame earlier than those using an LED/WLED monitor with higher latency.

Do you prefer IPS panels?

While OLED displays offer better viewing angles, they're normally associated with lower color accuracy and shorter lifespans compared to IPS and VA monitors.

On the other hand, WLED and LED displays tend to be more accurate when it comes to displaying colors; all else equal, an LED display should provide more consistent reproduction across different middle gray tones than a WLED one. Furthermore, LEDs are also known for maintaining their brightness at wider angles compared to OLEDs which start fading the moment your line of sight shifts.

Bottom line

LED and WLED technologies are cheaper to produce compared to OLED TVs which is why they're the dominant choice among gamers right now. However, with OLEDs offering superior contrast ratio, speed, and viewing angles, don't expect LED or WLED displays to replace them in terms of overall picture quality anytime soon.

If you're a competitive FPS player who values low input latency over everything else, then go with an ultra-low response time display like BenQ's XL2430T (2ms) or ASUS' PG248Q (1ms). Otherwise, higher refresh rates such as 100Hz and 144Hz will be more than sufficient for casual players. Keep in mind that even though these monitors may cost more than slower models with lower refresh rates, the added benefits of faster graphics cards will more than make up the difference.

If in doubt about which resolution and panel type to get, just go with WQHD monitors for now given their extra desktop real estate which is great if you're multitasking or gaming from a distance.