CCFL Versus LED: Is There A Downside To Going Green?

With the display market quickly transitioning to LED backlighting, are we losing anything in the move away from CCFL? Sure, LED is supposed to be greener, with richer contrast and color...but is it? Before you jump to conclusions, check out our review.

Out with the old, in with the new. LED backlighting is now all the rage in monitor design—and why not? Apple made LED technology the golden child of green tech when the company announced in 2007 that it would move to LED backlights and drop traditional cold cathode fluorescent lamp (CCFL) backlighting in its products. The target was mercury, a key ingredient in fluorescent lighting tubes.

The other side of going green is consuming less power, and monitor vendors practically trip over themselves to make lofty claims of electricity savings. Viewsonic, for example, notes a 50% benefit for its VX2250wm-LED. Moreover, those who value their investments could point to NEC, which proclaimed that LED technology would double the longevity of a monitor backlight from 25 000 hours with fluorescent to 50 000 hours.

Without question, there’s a lot about LED to commend it as a greener technology than fluorescent. Surprisingly, though, few (if any) people have stopped to ask what the relationship is between power savings and image quality. Is there a relationship? We always hear that LED monitors have far better contrast and better color, but is this true, and is there a price to be paid for that superior image?

Source: 3M’s LCD Optics 101Source: 3M’s LCD Optics 101

The widespread transition from CCFL to LED got under way in earnest in 2007. Today, LED pricing has virtually reached parity with CCFL, and the trend is clearly in LED’s long-term favor. We’re not saying this is a bad thing. We only wonder if today, while you still have a choice between the two backlight technologies, if there is still a compelling reason to opt for the receding choice.