LCD and OLED Displays Explained

LCD and OLED are common terms when discussing display technology. Both types of displays are used in devices such as televisions, smartphones, monitors, laptops, and tablets. LCD and OLED, however, differ significantly in the technology behind them.


LCD, or liquid crystal display, produces an image through the use of a backlight. To produce an image, the technology uses two pieces of polarized glass that contain liquid crystals in between them. As light passes through the pieces of polarized glass, an electrical current causes the liquid crystals between the first and second piece to align, allowing for some light to go through and blocking out others. This light is then projected through the second piece of polarized glass to create the image seen by users.

LCD displays are cheaper to produce, lightweight, and rarely leave burn-in. However, due to the layered approach to producing images, the LCD display is rigid and is viewed best from directly in front of the screen.


OLED, or organic light-emitting diode, uses an organic carbon-containing film that emits light when an electrical current is passed through it. This allows for an image to be produced without the use of a secondary lighting source, such as the backlight used by LCD displays. Each diode is directly controlled by the electrical current passing through it.

Since each diode is controlled directly by the electrical source, OLED displays can produce higher contrast ratios and truer black tones. OLEDs also consume less energy due to the lack of additional lighting required to produce an image. OLEDs are also flexible and can be viewed from multiple angles. However, OLEDs are more expensive to produce and can suffer from burn-in and image degradation, where a shadow picture remains due to the overuse of specific pixels.

LCD and OLED Uses

LCD and OLED display technology can be used in the same products such as televisions, smartphones, monitors, and laptops. LCDs, due to the lower price point, dominate the market in all categories. Many manufacturers, however, offer OLED as the top-of-the-line versions of their products, like smartphones and televisions, because the OLED can produce higher contrast and deeper blacks. As the price of production for OLED comes down, expect to see even more products integrating the technology.

The only market in which OLED is not making strides is the laptop, tablet, and computer monitor market. These devices are still primarily LCD and will be for the foreseeable future. This is due to the slow refresh rate of OLED monitors, which makes them unsuitable for high-speed gaming, as well as their tendency for burn-in. Laptops, tablets, and computer monitors are more likely to have a single image displayed, such as the home screen, for long periods of time, resulting in burn-in.

For more information on LCD and OLED displays, or test your knowledge, check out our CompTIA A+ practice tests, study guides, and flashcards.

LCD and OLED Displays Explained

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