Understanding LCD vs. AMOLED displays

Breaking down the differences between the market's leading display technologies

Not all electronic displays use the same technology. There are many different types of display technologies, each of which works in a different way. In recent years, liquid-crystal display (LCD) and active-matrix organic light-emitting diode (AMOLED) have become two of the market’s leading display technologies. You’ll find them in everything from smartphones and tablets to TVs, smart appliances, human machine interfaces (HMIs), and more. Below, we break down the difference between LCD and AMOLED displays.

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What is an LCD display?

LCD display on a tablet

An LCD display is an electronic display that’s defined by its liquid pixels. All electronic displays are comprised of a grid-like arrangement of pixels. When the pixels are illuminated, they form the images projected by the display device. LCDs, however, contain pixels made of a liquid organic substance.

The liquid pixels used in LCD displays feature a layer of molecules sandwiched between electrodes and polarizing filters. When an LCD display is turned on, the pixels are illuminated with the help of an underlying backlight. The backlight projects light from behind the liquid pixels, thus forming the LCD display’s images.

What is an AMOLED display?

An AMOLED display, on the other hand, is an electronic display that works in a similar way as organic light-emitting diode (OLED) technology. OLED is a display technology that, like LCD, uses organic liquid pixels. OLED isn’t the same as LCD, however. Rather, the organic liquid pixels used in OLED are capable of creating their own illumination, whereas those used in LCD rely on a backlight for illumination.

AMOLED is simply a variation of OLED. The “AM” in “AMOLED” stands for “active matrix,” which is the feature that distinguishes it from OLED. AMOLED displays are powered by active-matrix LED technology that allows them stronger light.

Both OLED and AMOLED contain self-illuminating pixels. Their respective liquid organic pixels will illuminate in response to an electrical charge. AMOLED displays, however, are typically brighter than their OLED counterparts because of their use of active-matrix technology. At the same time, AMOLED displays offer independent pixel controls, meaning each pixel can be turned off or on without it affecting the display’s other pixels.

hand holding a smart watch an OLED type screen

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