What Is the Difference Between SMDs and LEDs?

By Matt McGew

Light emitting diodes date back to the early 1960s. However, for decades LEDs did not have many practical applications due to their manufacturing cost. Today, LEDs have cost-effective applications in everything from toys to luxury automobiles. An SMD LED is a surface-mount LED that reduces the size of the light while at the same time adding more colors to a single LED.


SMD LEDs mount on the surface of electronic boards but do not physically go through the boards like other types of LEDs. Another important feature of SMD is miniaturization. Reducing the size of the LED makes it possible to place 3 LEDs of different color in one unit. The three colors - red, blue and green - create smaller pitch. The pitch (or distance) between pixels affects the resolution and image quality of an LED display, such as a digital billboard. Using one LED to create three colors results in improved image quality.

Regular LED

Regular LEDs are larger in size than SMDs. Regular LEDs, however, still have many applications for cost-effective lighting. These applications include solar powered lighting products used in rural areas and developing countries with unreliable power supplies. Regular LEDs are also a better alternative to compact fluorescent lighting because they use less energy and have a longer lifespan than fluorescent light bulbs.

Benefits of SMD LED

A smaller size is a primary benefit of SMD LEDs. Even though regular LEDs are smaller than most other types of lights, new electronic devices continue to require even smaller light sources. Hard drives, flash drives and other computer components require the efficient use of space. On devices where space is at a premium, SMDs can provide a light source without taking up a significant amount of room inside these devices. Outdoor and indoor displays, therefore, benefit greatly from SMDs because they help arrange light in tight groups, creating more colors and high quality images.

Life of a LED

The lifespan of an LED light depends mainly on the quality of the light’s manufacturing process. An SMD LED can last up 100,000 hours. In other words, an SMD LED can provide more than 11 years of continuous lighting. Additionally, LED lights won’t burn out like incandescent light bulbs unless serious hardware damage occurs. The brightness of an LED can, however, gradually fade. Lifespan depends on the temperature and the setting for the brightness of the light.