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What is an LCD Monitor?

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Updated May 18, 2022

These days, it’s pretty rare to see a cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor taking up far too much space on someone’s desk anymore. That’s because LCDs have become ubiquitous and in turn, freed up much-needed desk space while also offering a sharper picture with truer colors. Although LCD technology is incredibly common these days, not everyone knows what it stands for and how it differs from CRT screens except for the fact that LCD monitors are slimmer. Keep reading to learn about these and other great computer monitors.

What is LCD technology?

LCD stands for liquid crystal display and it is used for flat panels such as monitors and televisions. It relies on those liquid crystals to create images thanks to the use of a backlight. This is very different than how the old CRT monitors used to work.

LCDs and Pixels

Most people know that television displays are made of individual pixels. LCD, LED, and CRT monitors all rely on pixels, but each interacts with them differently. Pixels contain three subpixels — one each that is red, green, and blue (RGB). When the subpixel color combinations change, new colors are created. And when those pixels are switched on and off rapidly, a picture or image is created. This is a basic explanation of how televisions work.

But in LCD screen panels, the pixels are placed between two polarizing glass filters. To control the pixels, an electric current is passed over the filter and interacts with a transistor that either activates or deactivates the pixels. These transistors help to create a display grid and are either known as matrixes and can be either active or passive.

Active vs. Passive Matrix

In an active matrix, the display grid is composed of a thin film transistor (TFT). transistors are located at every pixel intersection. In contrast, passive-matrix LCDs have conductor grids with pixels located at every intersection. When a current passes between two conductors in the grid, the pixels are controlled.

Active matrix LCDs require less power to control light emissions from every pixel and usually offer better screen refresh rates. However, you can find some passive-matrix LCDs that offer dual scanning for faster scan times. Still, active-matrix LCDs are considered the superior choice.

Tip: Active matrix LCDs require less power to control light emissions from every pixel and usually offer better screen refresh rates

Tip: active-matrix LCDs are considered the superior choice

Types of LCD Technologies

LCD panel technologies were first invented in 1970, but the technology has come a long way from the first iterations that were power-hungry and relatively inefficient. As technology improved, new LCD versions were created and the following types of LCD methodologies are the ones you’re most likely to find when shopping for a monitor or television:

  • In-Plane Switching (IPS) Panel Technology: considered the best type of panel technology in terms of image quality, color accuracy, and viewing angles. For color-critical work professions where good color performance like accurate colors, a wider range of colors, and deeper blacks on the entire screen is crucial, like graphic designers, consider IPS panels.
  • Super Plane to Line Switching (PLS): considered 10% brighter than IPS with better viewing angles and lower production costs
  • Vertical Alignment (VA) Panel Technology: a median pick between IPS and PLS but slightly slower response time and somewhat uneven brightness distribution that leads to color distortion. If faster response times are important to you, consider other panel types.
  • Twisted Nematic (TN) Panel Technology: the most consistently used panel in LCDs and often preferred by gamers in gaming mode

Comparing LCDs with CRTs and LEDs

As compared to CRT monitors, LCDs are a massive improvement. The most obvious benefit is that LCDs are thinner and consume less electricity to create images. And as LCD technology has improved, the lower cost and increased quality have essentially made CRTs an obsolete display technology.

Along with consuming less power and being much thinner, LCDs also tend to be brighter. If you need to adjust the brightness of your monitor, you can do so with our how to change monitor brightness in Windows 10 resource article.

But with LEDs, the comparison isn’t as simple. LEDs also rely on liquid crystal technology to create images and have a thin profile, but the backlighting is different. Rather than the LCD’s fluorescent cathodes, LEDs use light-emitting diodes. While better for our eyes, how that light is placed within the screen can impact whether or not an LED screen is superior to an LCD. Specifically, only full-array LEDs where every edge of the screen has lighting, are considered better than an LCD monitor. Edge-lit array LEDs are considered inferior.

Warning: only full-array LEDs where every edge of the screen has lighting, are considered better than an LCD monitor


The American inventor J. Fergason created the first working liquid crystal display in 1970. Before that, such devices consumed too much energy, their operating life was limited, and the contrast of the image was on a low level. (Source)