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.

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  • In the "Wrapping It Up" section, perhaps you meant "LED" instead of "LCD"?
  • nevertell
    How about doing this with IPS panels ? :>
  • nforce4max
    I am going to get such a monitor later this year. Imagine the leap from CRT to Led LCD.
  • Ragnar-Kon
    I personally can't wait until the OLEDs manufacturing process becomes cheaper. Having seen Sony's new OLED displays at this year's NAB in Vegas, I can say they are VERY VERY impressive.
  • scook9
    I know that I have been rocking a pair of Gateway FHD2400's for a few years now and love them as they meet all my needs and have never left me wanting
  • g00b
    Ummm ... LED? They are all LCD :).

    "Ultimately, we’d pick LCD for media consumption, but we’d pick CCFL for editing work where detail and accuracy are paramount. LCD is more fun to watch; CCFL is more reliable."
  • Please substitute "LCD" with "LED" everywhere in the conclusion section!
  • theshonen8899
    Basically the differences are very dramatic right? I'm gonna sound like a hippie for this but I'd definitely go for the greener option. Just being polite for our future generation is all.
  • what g00b said. At the end you start saying LCD instead of LED, might confuse some poor soul.
  • wrxchris
    May not be too relevant here considering that this article was based around image quality, but as a gamer, I'm still plenty satisfied with my trio of 25.5" Asus TN monitors. Yes, they bleed a bit of light around the edges and the colors may not be very accurate, but they handle fast moving images with no problems and only cost $750 for the set. And my favorite feature is the 16x10 aspect ratio, which is becoming quite hard to find these days; not sure why people are so willing to give up vertical screen space.
  • haplo602
    still does not beat a high quality CRT in image reproduction. size/weight/power are another thing.
  • pirateboy
    if you check the evidence of osama's death on a ccfl screen you would discover he isn't really dead but it's just some random bearded dude they shot
  • Kisakuku
    X-Rite's iMatch software doesn't have a correction for LED backlighting. A colorimeter like i1 Display 2 is not a spectrophotometer and can't just measure any screen thrown at it. It requires corrections for LED and WCG-CCFL backlighting. Not sure how you can make far-going conclusions from these inaccurate measurements.
  • LuckyDucky7

    It's starting to look bad- if you're spending 200+ dollars you might as well be buying a REAL screen instead of these ones.
    Even 40 more dollars buys you a screen FAR superior to these crappy TN panels.

    So why aren't they being reviewed?
  • g00ey
    It would be interesting to look at which LED lit panels use local dimming and which ones do not.
  • masterbinky
    The funny thing in the opening of the article, it typically isn't the CFL that goes out in monitors. It is the power inverter, that powers the CFL. When I did dell repairs, it's funny they didn't let you just get the inverter to replace, you had to replace the whole panel.
  • masterbinky
    nforce4maxI am going to get such a monitor later this year. Imagine the leap from CRT to Led LCD.

    I image it's a leap off a cliff. You'll be dissapointed if you place them side by side. Well, depending on what your looking at, but try a dark image with detail in it,hint: you'll have to use the CRT to identify that image. Black crush sucks.
  • mcd023
    great article. thanks.
  • bildo123
    I was going to make the switch from a 24" VA panel to a newer LED panel (in which I tried two). The first was an Acer LED 23" and the blue hue this thing put off was gross. It didn't how much I calibrated it the colors were dull and the blue hue remained. The next LED I tried was the Samsung BX2450, 24"; the colors were better and the blue hue was less noticeable but it was still apparent (at least to me). I realize both are TN panels as well but I think I'll wait it out until a nice LED-IPS panel comes out for sale in the States.
  • haftarun8
    @ masterbinky Have you looked at top quality IPS panel LCD's calibrated compared to a CRT lately? The HP LP2475w at work beats out an old NEC Multisync 22" CRT with darker blacks even though the whites are brighter, has very accurate colors after calibrating, and has zero black or white crush - every shade of extreme blacks and whites can be discerned on test images. If you don't want crap for LCD's you still have to spend over $500 for your monitor, no getting around it.
  • torque79
    I might have missed it somewhere, but I read the whole article. are these all edge-lit LED? Are there any back-lit monitors available to compare? I think it would have to be a subjective review, but I'd like to know if this makes a difference in watching a movie with both dark and light areas for example. It sure would be nice if monitors could get close to the performance of a Plasma tv. I guess OLED will eventually accomplish that.
  • pictus
    Monitor calibration sensor evaluations

    Also using Argyll + dispcalGUI is the best and also FREE!
    (For non PRO monitors, the ones with *NO* hardware internal LUT)
  • SabreWulf69
    Could I have the settings that you used after calibration for the BX2350? I have a BX2250 and imagine they would be the same.
  • b23h
    In a perfect world, we would have five figures to drop on Minolta colorimeters and luminance meters, but then you wouldn’t have had scantily clad elves in our holiday hardware roundup until 2017. Faced with that dilemma, we opted to accept X-Rite’s generous help.

    I thank you for your wise choice.