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The 12 Best Reasons to Avoid an Edge-Lit LED TV in 2023

Edge-lit LED TVs have been a popular choice for budget-conscious shoppers for over a decade thanks to their affordable pricing. However, while they seem like a good value on the surface, there are some significant downsides with edge-lit LED TVs that make them a poor choice for home theater use in 2023.

What is an Edge-Lit LED TV?

Before digging into why you should avoid edge-lit LED TVs, it‘s important to understand what exactly they are and how they work.

Edge-lit LED TVs use LED light sources along the edges of the screen, usually the left and right sides, to illuminate the entire display. The light from these LED zones passes through a light diffuser panel to distribute it evenly across the screen. Compared to more advanced backlit or self-emissive display technologies, edge lighting allows for very thin TV profiles since the LEDs are positioned along the edges rather than directly behind the screen.

However, by only using LEDs along the perimeter, edge-lit LED TVs have far fewer individual dimming zones than premium LCD and OLED models. Most only have 2-4 zones in total. This lack of precise zone-level backlight control causes multiple picture quality and performance issues, which is why they should generally be avoided for serious home theater use.

Reason #1: Restrictive Viewing Angles

One of the biggest drawbacks of edge-lit LED TVs is their poor viewing angles compared to other display types like OLED and QLED. Since the light source originates from the edges, anyone sitting even slightly off-axis will experience color and brightness degradation.

Most edge-lit LED TVs lose 50% or more of their peak brightness levels at viewing angles wider than 30 degrees. Color accuracy also rapidly shifts off-center, with flesh tones and saturated colors turning dull or taking on unwanted color casts. This makes edge-lit LED TVs a poor fit for rooms where seating can‘t be positioned directly in front.

Reason #2: Backlight Blooming and Clouding

Backlight blooming, sometimes called flashlighting, occurs when bright on-screen objects cause excess light to bleed out from the edges. This manifests as glowing halos or clouds around bright objects, especially when positioned against dark backgrounds.

With advanced full-array local dimming (FALD) LED LCD TVs that have several hundred or more zones, blooming is minimized. But with edge-lit LED TVs and their very limited zones, it‘s a constant issue that severely impacts contrast and picture depth. Bright highlights tend to look overly hazy, while blacks appear more washed out gray.

Reason #3: Limited Dynamic Range and Contrast

Hand-in-hand with the backlight blooming problems mentioned above, edge-lit LED TVs suffer from low native contrast ratios. Even models listed as having high dynamic range (HDR) typically only achieve mediocre specs of around 3000-4000:1 thanks to their basic edge lighting systems.

For the best HDR performance that takes full advantage of the expanded brightness levels and color volumes that HDR content provides, far higher native contrast is required. OLED TVs essentially achieve infinite contrast since each pixel produces its own light and blacks are totally black. High-performance LCD TVs with FALD backlight systems can hit 8000:1 or even higher dynamic range when optimized effectively with enough dimming zones.

With their low native contrast and blooming issues, HDR content loses much of its impact on edge-lit LED TVs. You don‘t get the specular highlights or deeply saturated colors that give HDR its stunning visuals.

Reason #4: Severely Limited Local Dimming

Local dimming is what allows advanced LED LCD TVs to dynamically adjust the brightness of different areas of the screen independently. This helps maximize contrast and reduce blooming in challenging high-contrast scenes. More dimming zones equals better local dimming precision.

Edge-lit LED TVs only have a few zones to work with. Usually there will only be two larger zones—one along each vertical edge. Some models even use just one continuous zone! Without sufficient segmented dimming zones, local dimming performance is extremely limited on edge-lit LED TVs. Any local dimming attempted by the edge lighting system is imprecise at best.

Reason #5: Judder and Blurring in Motion Scenes

The responsiveness and motion clarity of edge-lit LED TVs also tends to underwhelm due to cost-cutting measures. To keep prices low, most edge-lit LED models use 60Hz native refresh rates and have no advanced features to improve motion resolution or reduce motion blur.

With a mere 60Hz refresh rate and no black frame insertion (BFI) technology, fast movement in sports, video games or action films is often plagued by noticeable judder and motion blur. This messes with viewing immersion and eyestrain over longer viewing sessions. While stepping up to 120Hz helps, most edge-lit LED TVs stick with 60Hz.

Reason #6: Weak Processing and Upscaling

Edge-lit LED TVs aimed at budget buyers also use lower-end video processing solutions compared to more advanced TVs. This means features like upscaling of lower resolution content to 4K and noise/banding reduction are not as refined.

Weak upscaling leads to softness, artifacts and a lack of depth when watching HD cable/satellite content or 1080p Blu-rays. Streaming compression artifacts also tend to be more visible. For the best detail and picture cleanliness from various content sources, better processing is key. But edge-lit LED TVs fall short here.

Reason #7: Mediocre HDR Format Support

To enjoy 4K HDR movies and shows properly through popular streaming platforms, a TV must support both core HDR formats: HDR10 and Dolby Vision. Entry-level edge-lit LED TVs usually only come with basic HDR10. Lacking Dolby Vision means losing access to a considerable amount of content in the best quality.

Mid-range edge-lit LED TVs may add Dolby Vision support, along with gaming-centric features like Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) and Variable Refresh Rate (VRR). However, they almost never support advanced formats like HDR10+ Adaptive which improves dynamic range per scene. HDR format limitations dampen the benefits of HDR for edge-lit models.

Reason #8: Mediocre Sound Quality

Edge-lit LED TVs aimed at cost-conscious buyers rarely offer potent built-in audio. Usually you get low powered 10-20W stereo speaker systems lacking in bass impact and resonance. Dialogue clarity can also suffer without a dedicated center channel.

Many edge-lit LED TV models even downsample surround audio like Dolby Atmos into basic stereo to cut costs. This ruins immersion for movies and games. External soundbars or home theater speaker systems are highly recommended over the anemic built-in audio most edge-lit LED TVs come equipped with.

Reason #9: Lack of Future-Proofing Features

To keep costs low in the development process, television manufacturers producing basic edge-lit LED TV models tend to use older generation processors and panels rather than the latest innovations. Updates to HDMI inputs for advanced gaming features usually come slower too, if they ever do at all.

This lack of future-proofing means missing out on newer features that are becoming more relevant. HDMI 2.1 bandwidth for 4K/120fps gaming and variable refresh rates is still mostly absent on affordable edge-lit LED TVs. Next-gen panel technologies like mini-LED and QD-OLED also take much longer to make their way down to entry-level models, if they ever do.

Reason #10: Questionable Long-Term Reliability

The cheaper manufacturing costs and lower-grade components that allow edge-lit LED TVs to hit such affordable price points also call into question their long-term reliability. More expensive TVs use higher-end materials that improve durability over years of use.

With their thinner designs and weaker panel materials, edge-lit LED TVs tend to be more prone to screen uniformity issues as they age. Some owners report problems like dirty screen effect (DSE) and color banding developing after 1-3 years, even with light usage. This can permanently mar picture quality over time.

Better Display Technology Alternatives to Edge-Lit LED TVs

Clearly edge-lit LED TVs come with some significant flaws in areas like picture quality and features that make them poorly suited to serious home theater use. But what are the better display technologies available today that avoid the pitfalls of edge lighting?

QLED TVs: Quantum dot LED TVs offer superior LCD image quality thanks to quantum dot filtration and full array local dimming (FALD). Increased dimming zones and peak brightness compared to edge-lit LEDs greatly improves HDR performance. Samsung‘s 2023 QLED lineup including the excellent mid-range Q70B series provide far better picture quality over basic edge-lit LED TVs.

OLED TVs: Thanks to their per-pixel self-emissive abilities, OLED televisions offer the best overall image quality outside of high-end microLED models costing over $100k! Perfect blacks, infinite contrast, wide viewing angles and superb motion handling make them ideal choices for dedicated home theater use. LG‘s C3 and G3 OLED TVs provide phenomenal performance at mid-range and high-end budgets.

Mini-LED LCD TVs: Mini-LED backlights with thousands of tiny LED zones give LCD TVs a major boost in contrast and brightness over edge-lit models. Improved local dimming coupled with quantum dots produces excellent HDR images that can rival OLED, like TCL‘s affordable 6-Series R648 mini-LED model.

Any of those three premium display technologies make for smarter alternatives over basic edge-lit LED TV limitations.

Closing Thoughts on Avoiding Edge-Lit LED TVs in 2023

Edge-lit LED TVs certainly seem tempting on paper thanks to very affordable prices for large 4K screen sizes. However, practically every aspect of picture quality and performance lags behind superior display technologies like QLED, OLED and mini-LED.

If you‘re building a dedicated home theater and want the fully immersive movie and gaming experience that today‘s 4K HDR content can provide, then edge-lit LED TVs should be avoided. Their restrictive viewing angles, blooming issues, limited contrast and dimming zones, motion blur, and weak features leave much to be desired compared to other options on the market across all pricing tiers.

For only a couple hundred dollars more, certain QLED and mini-LED LCD models like the Hisense U6H offer far better performance where it counts. Or if your budget allows, making the leap up to OLED delivers a simply stunning visual experience. The technology improvements across the high-end TV landscape make basic edge-lit LED models very tough to recommend in 2023.

You deserve better performance after spending hard-earned money on a new TV. Bypass the compromises and pitfalls of edge-lit LEDs and enjoy superior display advancements!

Reason # Reason to Avoid
1 Restrictive Viewing Angles
2 Backlight Blooming/Clouding
3 Limited Dynamic Range/Contrast
4 Severely Limited Local Dimming
5 Judder and Blurring in Motion
6 Weak Processing and Upscaling
7 Mediocre HDR Format Support
8 Mediocre Sound Quality
9 Lack of Future-Proofing
10 Questionable Reliability

Frequently Asked Questions

What display technologies are better alternatives to edge-lit LED TVs?

For superior home theater performance, the top alternatives are QLED TVs, OLED TVs and mini-LED LCD TVs. All provide major improvements in contrast, viewing angles, local dimming, motion clarity and other areas where edge-lit LED TVs falter.

Do edge-lit LED TVs work fine for casual viewing in bright rooms?

They can suffice for background TV viewing where critical image quality is less important. Their high peak brightness helps combat glare. But contrast and color still lag behind other technologies.

How much more expensive are better performing TV types over basic edge-lit models?

Within each size class, expect to pay at least $300 more for superior QLED TV models, $800+ more for impressive mid-range OLEDs, and $200-500 more for a nice mini-LED LCD over edge-lit LED pricing.

Should I just buy a cheap edge-lit LED for now if money is tight?

If budget constraints limit your options today, it can serve for the short term. But image quality and reliability sacrifices will have you wanting an upgrade sooner rather than later. Consider saving longer for a better performing TV you’ll enjoy for years.