SMD LED Signs™

With respect to technology, the current Classic Series design is about as good as it can get.  Individual exposed LEDs that are used in future displays may be brighter, but we are dimming the current ones most of the time already.

The newest LED development is the “SMD” (Surface-Mount-Device) LED chip.  We manufacture signs using them.  SMD LEDs are actually 3 very small, different colored (RGB) LEDs, enclosed in one shell, or lens.  The LEDs backlight the translucent shell, which makes the light appear larger.  Currently they are not bright enough for use in outdoor video displays.  (And, using larger LEDs this close together interfere with each other electronically.)

When SMD LEDs become bright enough there is still the question as to whether or not they will be useful in outdoor signs.  We essentially have another “Pixel Cluster” display, but with very small Pixel Clusters; 3 LEDs grouped very close together, with vast distances between them.  The light output is dimmed by having to pass through a translucent shell; they are especially dim when compared to an exposed LED sign.

Grouping many SMD LEDs very closely together eliminates the “great divide” and produces a “dynamite” display; some very expensive indoor displays are manufactured this way, but the cost of these “dynamite” indoor displays is as much as 15 times the current pricing of our Balanced Array™ because of the extraordinary numbers of LEDs required.

Up close they look VERY good, but from 50’ away, even indoors, our Balanced Array™ is their equal, except that we can be brighter if we turn our automatic Brightness Control “Off.”  (Outdoors in direct daylight our exposed LED signs are readable, the SMD LED sign is not.)  SMD contrast suffers greatly (see below.)

Contrast – Exposed LEDs vs. Enclosed LEDs

As with a television, contrast is very important in the legibility of a sign or image.  The color “black” plays a very important part in LED image contrast.

Because there is no “black” LED, and because it cannot be created by illuminating other colors in any combination, “black” is the absence of light; all the lights are turned off.

The face design of a LED sign is therefore critical in creating contrast.  It must be black, flat, and it cannot be reflective.  (See “Glare Shields” above.)

This is a problem with SMD (Surface-Mount-Device) LED signs.  The SMD’s shell, or lens, is necessary both to protect the circuit-boards and more importantly to make the light source appear larger (above.)

But, because there are actually three very small LEDs inside each SMD LED, the plastic covering must be translucent, white; a black exterior won’t let the light out through the lens!  A clear lens won’t spread the light.  So when the LED lights are out (above right) the exterior of the face is off-white from a distance, not black, and contrast suffers.

SMD LEDs work OK indoors, but outdoors where there is an absolute demand for contrast, current SMD LED technology suffers.

SMD LED Signs™ are also on display in our Showroom.  Come in and compare ALL types of LED Signs and become an informed buyer.

Incidentally, we are the ONLY manufacturer of all 3 LED display designs.  We have no ax to grind when comparing LED signs.


The “Brightness” of a LED sign is totally dependent on the image being displayed.  The Red, Green, and Blue (RGB) LEDs are adjusted in light output to create the full spectrum of colors the human eye sees.

Therefore, honestly quantifying a comparative Maximum Light Output (Brightness Potential) of LED signs is tough.  Even when varied signs have all their LEDs illuminated 100% the resulting color is not identical.  This is because all the Red, Green, and Blue LEDs in LED signs are not the same: in design, sometimes in voltage, in size, in shape, in placement, or in directional light output.  Even the numbers of Red, Green, or Blue LEDs in an identical area of sign face are not identical:  it varies by display type, and by Light Density.  For a manufacturer to say that all their signs have the same potential light output is baloney.

At Sunburst LED Signs we evaluate the “Brightness” of our signs, and our competitors, by illuminating a square meter of sign face all Red (only) at 100% power and taking a foot-candle reading 1 meter from the sign face.  We repeat the process for Blue, and Green.  We average the readings for a comparative “real-time” number that means something.  Not that “nits” baloney.  (See “How Can You Determine if a Sign is Imported” below.)

Ask us for details.

Sunburst™ LED Signs are brighter, and remain brighter, because they are designed, powered, cooled, and thermally protected properly.