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Find out how LCD TV works and get LCD TV buying tips.

Learn more about LCD TV technology. [© Jupiter Images, 2009]
© Jupiter Images, 2009
Learn more about LCD TV technology.

In recent years, Liquid Crystal Display, or LCD TV has become a buzzword in the electronics industry. While most are familiar with the term LCD TV, not everyone understands how the technology works. Read on to learn some important facts about LCD TV.

What is LCD TV?

LCD TV stands for Liquid Crystal Display television. This technology has been around for years, making up the screens of many electronic products, like calculators, laptops, watches and music players. Now LCD technology is taking over virtually all traditional monitors, from TV monitors to computer monitors, for flatter, lighter and sharper products. Because of their characteristic flatness, LCD TVs are also known as flat-panel display TVs.

LCD or flat-panel TVs are not synonymous with "flat-screen" TVs. Flat-screen is a general term used to describe the depth of the TV screen's surface and does not reflect the technology used in the TV. For example, some traditional cathode ray tube (CRT) TVs (described later in this article) are considered "flat-screen," but they do not use the same technology as LCD TVs and generally do not produce the same results. Flat-screen CRT TVs usually have less glare, but they do not provide the same enhanced visual crispness that is characteristic of LCD TVs.

How LCD TV Works

Though it may seem hard to believe when looking at those thin LCD screens, an LCD television screen is actually made up of several layers. One of these is a sheet of liquid, composed of crystal molecules transformed into a near fluid state. These molecules can allow or disallow light through them, and can also rearrange themselves depending on the image. An LCD TV utilizes these properties by projecting light through liquid crystals and polarized glass to create images on a flat surface.


CRT, or cathode ray tube, TVs are the traditional TVs many people grew up with. While these TVs can have relatively flat screens, they have a large back that can take up considerable space and are usually quite heavy. CRT TVs use a glass cathode ray tube, through which beams of electrons are projected, to create images.

Because LCD TVs do not rely on a cathode ray tube to create images, they have clear advantages over CRT TVs. They are flatter and lighter, making them space-efficient on desktops, countertops, and even walls — which can make them ideal for areas with limited space.

Other advantages of an LCD TV include:

• Sharper, crisper images, limiting eyestrain
• Lower power consumption and less heat generation, making them more environmentally and cost-friendly

LCD monitors consume half to two-thirds less energy than the traditional CRT TV. And because LCD TVs generate less heat, they help to lower other expenditures, such as air-condition usage in the summer months. Choosing monitors that meet the standards of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy  (look for the "Energy Star" label) can help consumers save even more.

Some disadvantages of LCD TVs compared to CRT TVs:

• Higher cost upfront
• Limited viewing angle
• Lower color quality and screen resolution options, making them less ideal for gaming

Depending on one's priorities, LCD TVs may or may not be the ideal option.

LCD TV vs. Plasma TV

Like LCD TVs, plasma TVs are also flatter, lighter and provide crisp images. But, unlike the LCD TV, plasma TV uses plasma gas instead of liquid crystals to create images. The result, according to product analysts, are TVs that are slightly heavier and less energy-efficient than LCD TVs, but with slightly better color quality and better screen resolution than LCD TVs.

Plasma TVs are also known to function better in dark rooms, but LCD TVs have less glare in a well-lit room, so it's up to personal taste to decide which TV is ultimately better. Many analysts say that the differences between LCD and plasma are quickly closing, so unless a consumer has specific requirements, one may not see a difference between the two formats. Both are flat, light and crisp. Plasma TVs tend to be slightly less expensive at larger (50-inch-plus) sizes.

Either way, it is clear that traditional CRT TVs are going out of fashion, especially as LCD and plasma TVs continue to gain popularity.

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