Types of Flat Panel Displays

By Mitch Morgan

Whether used to access and view computer files or video, a flat panel display is a device commonly synced with computers or used as a TV to provide a visual output. Flat panel displays, or FPDs, allow users to view data, graphics, text and images. The depth of flat panel displays is usually quite thin, sometimes measuring less than one inch deep, making them ideal for hanging on walls or brackets.


Two of the most common types of flat panel displays incorporate separate technologies: the liquid crystal display, or LCD, and plasma display panel (PDP). A more recent version of flat panel incorporates light-emitting diodes (LEDs) as a backlight. These forms of flat panel displays have begun to replace the long-used CRT or cathode ray tube display found in older monitors and televisions for their ability to produce better quality images. The many variants of flat panel displays determine the resolution and quality of picture.

Liquid Crystal Display (LCD)

An LCD flat panel contains a liquid-crystal solution that is pressed between two thin sheets of polarizing material. When electricity is applied, the crystals in the solution align to prevent any light from passing through. LCDs require high levels of ambient light to produce brilliant colors and shades of dark. Most LCD flat panel displays are generally backlit by bright fluorescent lighting which helps to produce crisp images. LCD flat panels generally do not reproduce the black or darker portions of an image as well as other flat panel technologies. LCD flat panels are available in an array of sizes and may be manufactured smaller than competing technologies such as plasma displays.

Plasma Display Panel (PDP)

Unlike LCD flat panel displays, plasma displays contain a gaseous substance sandwiched between two panels of glass that are activated by electric currents to produce a visual display. Plasma displays have the ability to reproduce truer, "darker" blacks or hues and usually provide a wider viewing angle. One hindrance of some plasma displays is the ability for images to become permanently "burned" into the viewing area. They are generally heavier and thicker than LCD due to the use of glass, and typically use more electricity than LCDs.

Light-Emitting Diode (LED) Displays

Although they are marketed as a new technology, LED displays are essentially LCD panels that use light-emitting diodes as a backlight instead of traditional fluorescent lights. These units utilize the same liquid crystal diode technology found in LCDs, but due to the minute size of LED lighting, LED displays can be manufactured even thinner than before. LEDs are also thought to outlive fluorescent lighting. "Edge lit" LED displays contain lighting along the sides of the display, which allows for thinner design.