If you’ve ever searched the web for a great gaming monitor, you’ve come across abbreviations like LCD and LED. What do they stand for? More importantly, which one is better for gaming?
There’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Whether you prefer an LCD or an LED monitor—or any other type—depends largely on the kinds of games you like to play and on how you want them to look.
In this guide, we’ll break down the technical differences between the two most common types of gaming monitors to help you decide which is best for you.
What Do the Terms LCD & LED Mean?
LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display. It is a flat-panel display that uses liquid crystals to reflect and focus light emitted by a backlight. Each crystal bends the light in a science-y way to change the colors of each pixel in your monitor to, in turn, form a complete image.
Now comes the shocker: an LED (light-emitting diode) is just a type of backlighting for an LCD display. LEDs have an advantage over other types of backlighting because of their price and their ability to light pixels more accurately than most other types. The specific pattern of their placement is called an LED arrangement.
There are three different types of LED arrangements, and they produce images that look slightly different.
In an edge-lit configuration, the LED lights are arranged around the edge of the display. They project light toward the center of the panel, resulting in superbly even brightness.
Direct-lit displays have several rows of LEDs behind the screen. They’re slightly more energy-efficient and less expensive than edge-lit displays, but they don’t light the image quite as evenly.
Full-array LED displays are, well, absolutely packed with LED lights. Like direct-lit configurations, the lights themselves are behind the display, but there are way more of them, and they’re arranged in tight clusters rather than in rows. This allows for ultra-precise dimming and brightening, resulting in the best-quality image currently possible—and a bigger price tag.
CRT – Cathode Ray Tube monitors are nearly extinct. That big space in the back contains cathode tubes that light up the screen. They are the ancestors of all the great monitors we have today. Why are they no longer used?
To name a few reasons, they’re super-heavy, power-hungry, and they can’t replicate colors very accurately. They’re also more expensive to manufacture, particularly in light of how few people want them anymore.
LCD vs. LED: What Should You Look For?
LED monitors are just a particular subspecies of LCD monitor, so there’s usually no point in focusing on that distinction. Instead, consider the same basic things you’d evaluate in any other case.
As with most things, the priciest option isn’t necessarily the best one. You can probably find a cheap gaming monitor that fits your needs better than the most expensive models.
These days, the impact that any computer monitor has on your power bill is pretty negligible, but it’s not quite zero. If you’re on a really tight budget, shop for smaller, more energy-efficient displays.
Components Inside Your PC
It’s easy to forget that your monitor’s performance depends on the rest of your hardware. If your CPU and GPU can barely run Overwatch at 30 frames per second on a 22-inch 1080p screen, they definitely won’t be able to run the game in glorious 4K on a 36-inch screen.
Refresh Rate & Response Time
Your monitor’s refresh rate is the number of times per second that it refreshes the image—so to see 60 frames per second, you’ll need a monitor with a refresh rate of at least 60 Hz. Monitors with higher refresh rates display smoother, more visually pleasing gameplay, but they cost more and require beefier hardware.
Should you buy a 60 Hz vs. 120 Hz vs. 144 Hz monitor? Let us help you decide.
Curved or Flat Monitor?
Curved monitors fill a particular need for a particular type of gamer. They can offer a wider field of view than flat monitors can, and the curvature can make the environment in your game look more natural and feel more immersive, but not everyone cares about that.
It comes down to your tastes. If you’re really into immersion and want to feel like you’re actually freezing your butt off in Skyrim, check out the best curved gaming monitors currently on the market. If that’s not really your thing, a flat monitor will do just fine.
Choosing an LCD monitor is all about choosing what kind of backlighting you like. Most of the monitors now use LED technology, including the cheaper ones.
Remember, always do your research and don’t buy the most expensive one thinking it’s the best—it’s often not. An expensive full-array LED monitor looks gorgeous, but to most people, the images don’t look that much better than they do on an edge-lit or direct-lit screen, so it comes down to how much you’re willing to pay for that extra bit of quality.