Decoding Displays: All the Acronyms You Need to Know

Picking the right display for your device impacts everything from your power budget to the end user’s experience. In our latest blog, we cover all the different display types and acronyms you need to know to help you make the best choice.
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If you’re an engineer who’s new to the world of displays, you may not be familiar with the many acronyms floating around, including LED, LCD, and OLED.

In this piece, we’ll go over the key features of different types of displays, and more importantly, which factors to consider when choosing a display for your next project.

Display Types and Acronyms You Need to Know

LCDMicroLCDOLEDRLCDEPDLCD 2.0
Resolution and color contrastVariesHighHighVariesLowVaries
Viewable in low light?XXXX
Viewable in brint light?XXX
Leverages ambient light?XXX
Emits high levels of blue light?XXX
Designed for energy efficiency?XXX

 

LED: Light-Emitting Diode

LEDs by themselves are not a type of display, but rather a lighting technology. Organizing multiple LEDs of different colors (e.g., red, green, and blue) into a matrix is one way to use these light sources as a display for creating images on a screen (as we’ll get to later on).

LCD: Liquid Crystal Display

LCDs are the most common displays in today’s applications. They’re called transmissive displays because they use an LED-powered backlight to transmit light through filters, diffusers, and a liquid crystal layer in the pixels to illuminate a screen.

  • Key Features:
    • Varies in resolution and color contrast
    • Low visibility in bright conditions
    • High power consumption
    • Emits high levels of blue light
  • Use cases: Virtually any device with a screen, including…
    • Consumer products
    • Industrial applications
    • Medical applications
MicroLED Display

MicroLED displays use microscopic LEDs to form individual pixels that create images on a screen. They are emissive displays because each pixel emits light directly, without going through multiple layers and filters.

  • Key Features:
    • High resolution and color contrast
    • Low visibility in bright conditions
    • High power consumption
    • Emits high levels of blue light
  • Use cases:
    • Mobile devices
    • Smartwatches
    • Billboards
    • Indoor displays
OLED Display: Organic Light-Emitting Diode Display

OLEDs are another type of emissive display. They use organic compounds to emit light when a charge is applied to them. These displays are only at peak performance for one to two years before the organic material within them starts to decay.

  • Key Features:
    • High resolution and color contrast
    • Low visibility in bright conditions
    • High power consumption
    • Emits high levels of blue light
  • Use cases:
    • Mobile devices
    • Televisions
    • Computer monitors
    • Indoor displays
RLCD: Reflective Liquid Crystal Display

As the name suggests, RLCDs are reflective displays that use ambient light to illuminate a device’s screen. RLCDs don’t consume much energy compared to LCDs, OLEDs, or MicroLEDs because they don’t compete with ambient light.

  • Key Features:
  • Use cases:
    • Ebook readers
    • Industrial devices
    • Tablets
    • Wearables
    • Medical devices
Frontlit Reflective LCD (LCD 2.0)

Azumo’s frontlit reflective display, also known as LCD 2.0, combines the latest reflective LCD technology with a thin, LED-powered front light panel layered on top.

The display operates as a high-end, high-resolution RLCD with a fast refresh rate that’s easy to view in most settings. LCD 2.0 leverages ambient light to illuminate the screen in bright conditions and relies on a front light panel to illuminate the screen in dark conditions.

  • Key Features:
    • High resolution and color contrast
    • Good visibility in all lighting conditions
    • 90 percent less power consumption than traditional LCDs
    • Low blue light emission
  • Use cases:
    • Tablets
    • Wearables
    • Indoor and outdoor signage
    • Industrial applications
    • Medical devices
    • Automotive displays
EPD: Electrophoretic Display (aka Electronic Paper)

EPDs, also known as electrophoretic displays, electronic paper, or e-paper, is another type of reflective technology and are designed to mimic the look and feel of ink on paper. An electric current rearranges particles under the display’s surface to create images, text, and shapes.

While EPDs have low power consumption, they trail behind RLCD and LCD 2.0 in terms of color quality, video refresh, temperature range, and price.

  • Key Features:
    • Poor color and slow refresh (no video)
    • Limited temperature range
    • Good visibility in bright conditions but not in dark conditions
    • Low power consumption
  • Use cases:
    • Ebook readers
    • Transportation signage
    • Electronic shelf displays
Transflective displays

Transflective displays combine reflective and transmissive display technology. You may think you’re getting the best of both worlds, but in fact, these displays don’t perform either reflective or transmissive functions very well so we generally don’t recommend them.

What Should You Consider When Choosing a Display?

Different groups within your company likely have their own display preferences for a device. The marketing team may advocate for the newest, most advanced technology, like MicroLED displays, to appeal to customers. On the other hand, the sourcing team may want the least-expensive solution.

But as an engineer, you should focus on picking a reliable display that meets both your device’s functional requirements and your customers’ expectations.

For instance, if you’re designing a consumer application that will mostly be used indoors and needs to show a lot of extreme contrast and moving images, an OLED or MicroLED display will likely be your best choice, depending on your budget.

On the other hand, if your product will be used in an industrial setting, you may opt for an RLCD. Your users will likely prefer to have a device that’s durable and viewable in all conditions rather than a device that has great picture quality and short battery life.

Finally, if you’re looking for a display with great visibility in a variety of conditions, high energy efficiency, high resolution, and a full range of colors, LCD 2.0 may be the right solution for you.

The Right Display Is Key to Creating a Great Product

Once you understand the technology behind each type of display, it’s easier to narrow down the possible options for your device. Choosing the right display is critical for your product’s success and your customers’ satisfaction.

If you’d like additional support in picking a display for your next project, reach out to us at info@azumotech.com for more information.

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