LED, LCD, TFT, OLED: MP4 and Car DVD Screens Explained

Author Chinavasion Marketing 7.7.2007. | 10:38

When you’re looking at electronics, what kind of screen should you be buying? What’s better and what do all the acronyms mean?


LCD, and TFT, and OLED, oh my. Having trouble with your technical acronyms when you look at screen specs for an MP4 or a Car DVD Player, or in fact anything that has a screen? Therefore I present this little guide to again aid all those stuck in the mire of confusion and misery caused by those often unintelligible tech specs.

A good explanation of what all of these are can be a little tricky and really really wordy, so this is just going to be a very basic overview with their Advantages (pros) and Drawbacks (cons) laid out.

Knowing what the letters mean is the first step to enlightenment, so lets begin with a quick breakdown what those pesky little letters stand for-

  • LED – Light-Emitting Diode
  • OLED – Organic Light-Emitting Diode
  • LCD – Liquid-Crystal Display
  • TFT-LCD – Thin Film Transistor Liquid-Crystal Display (note that this is the compete name, but it is often just shortened to TFT)

So know comes the fun part. Here are the very very basic definitions of what the screens mean/do, some pros and cons for each, and my own little overall opinion of them.



LED is the most basic of all in this list. It can basically be called a substitute for a light bulb, but probably the most widespread. Very useful for displaying information on a small screen.



  • Cheap Cheap Cheap – Cheap to make, cheap to use. Pass the savings on!
  • Reliable – Very long lasting screens that do not burn out easily with long term use.
  • The Future – The future looks bright (pun definitely intended) for LED.
  • Brighter screens, more colors, more uses, less price.


  • Display – Really this kind of screen is just for showing characters, information and the like. If you are looking for quality pictures, forget about it.

Great for information displays on screens of MP3s and gadgets that flash with bright colors. NSH (Not So Hot) for anything else.



OLED is one of the cooler screens that you can get for a product. It is similar to an LED in that it has a light emitting diode, but that is where the similarities end. As to the organic part of the name, well that involves a lot of explanation to really understand, but basically it uses conductive organic materials rather than conductive crystals, plus the screen is one complete structure layered on top of each other. Understand? I did say it could be a little wordy.


This Metal MP4 Player Watch has a full color OLED display



  • Color – OLED pixels directly emit light, so the range of colors is very high, very bright, and very sharp.
  • No Backlight – An off OLED screen uses no backlight, meaning that it produces no light while off and uses no power.
  • Viewing Angle – pixel colors will appear correct and unshifted even if you view the screen at an angle of almost 90 degrees.
  • The Future – Exciting things are going to be coming out with OLED screens. They are very flexible, can be very thin. It can be printed onto flexible substrates so just imagine a normal looking pen with a roll out OLED screen. Yup, that is the future.


  • Screen Size vs Price – Sad but true. Most times you will not be able to get a larger OLED screen for as cheap as an LCD one.
  • Lifespan – The lifetime of the organic materials is a factor. For PMPs it is not so bad, as they are off for very long periods, but larger screens that are on for extended times simply won’t last as long as a LCD. There is work being done on this, but it is not quite ready yet.
  • Water – Do not, under any circumstance get your OLED Screen wet. I mean it, because if you do it can damage the organic materials, and really dampen the colors and sharpness.

Incredible screens with great colors and details, but really better overall at this time with smaller screen PMPs (1.5-2.0 Inch screens)



Ahh LCD, where would we be without you? This has been one of the standards of the electronic business for quite a while. They are basically liquid crystals that are activated by electric current and are constructed of layered materials (liquid crystal that is sandwiched between layers of glass or plastic).


This Car Rearview System shows you what’s behind you when you’re reversing, on a color LCD screen.
When the LCD is off, it reflects light like a normal mirror.



  • Price – Cheaper than most of the other screens that you will find. A lot of bang for the buck.
  • Screen Size – Very large screen sizes are possible with a LCD screen. The resolution for these larger screens can be quite high as well, but the higher the resolution, the higher the price of course.


  • Image – LCDs will display images very well, but only in their native resolution. It is best to have your images the same resolution as the screen or there will be noticeable loss of clarity .
  • Viewing angle – The larger the angle from the screen you are, the worse the image will look.
  • Backlight – LCDs need a backlight to illuminate the screen, and draw quite a bit of power

One of the best choices for a medium priced screen. You won’t get as clear a picture as maybe some of the others, but you will not be disappointed at all in what you get. Well established and reliable technology, especially good for small handheld screens.



TFT is very similar to LCD screens in construction, but improves on the image quality. It uses an Active Matrix rather than the Passive Matrix used still used in many LCD products. In essence it is an evolved form of an LCD Screen.


This Touchscreen Car DVD Player features a high resolution TFT Screen



  • Price – Definitely one of the features. A little more expensive than a LCD screen but worth it if you want those clearer images.
  • Image – Like LCD it produces very clear images, but they are much brighter and sharper. You still should keep the resolution the same however.
  • Screen Size – Large size TFT screens are no problem, and are very nice to look at.
  • Future – The future looks good for TFT screens, and more and more products screens are starting to use them than almost any other.


  • Viewing angle – Less of a problem than a LCD, but you will still see a difference if you view it at a larger angle.
  • Backlight – TFT screens use a backlight that’s a bit of a drain on a battery if you’re using a portable device.

What more can I say than this is a better LCD for generally a little more money? Expect to see many screens in the future that use TFT. Especially good for Car DVDs in my opinion.


Thus ends our little look at different kinds of screens that you will often see with products that you are buying or selling.


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As always I humbly ask for opinions, additions, and/or corrections (no one is perfect as they say), but please don’t be too harsh. Now back to RL! TTFN!

by: The Incomparable GRM

Author Chinavasion Marketing 7.7.2007. | 10:38
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1 Comment

  1. Ahashan April 26, 12:07

    I am gonna buy either Nokia N79 or N85. But I’m a bit confused about the displays. It says that N85 has AMOLED display which uses less power, so the battery time is upto 6 hours. Again, N79 used usual TFT display but there is no comment on quality except a note that says, OLED doesn’t work better in direct sunlight as TFT does. Is AMOLED better in quality than TFT, and is somewhat different than OLED one ?
    I’ll be happy if you clear my confusion about the displays. By the way, though specs of both handsets are almost same, price is US $385 of N85, having 2.6″ display and slide form factor and US $300 of N79, having 2.4″ display with bar form factor.
    Thank You.

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