cob led vs smd led feature picture

COB LED vs LED: Pricing, Differences, Use Cases & Which Should You Buy

Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are famous in modern display technologies such as LED panels and lighting systems such as LED lamps. Nowadays, they are dominating the display and lighting market. However, intense competition between manufacturers and tech innovators triggered research and development to design new LED variants, innovations, and applications.

Because of the tough competition and fast-changing environment, tech buyers and manufacturers face a difficult situation when buying and applying LED products for industrial and commercial use. In this article, we compare COB LED vs LED. Though both are LED products, COB LED and regular LED differ in some ways, and we’re here to answer your questions and provide helpful information about these LED products. We’ll cover how COB LED differs from traditional LEDs, especially in their applications, pricing, use cases, and significant differences.

We hope this guide can aid you in making an informed buying decision and provide you with the necessary information about LED technologies.

What Is COB LED?

COB (chip-on-board) LED is a popular LED product. It’s called “chip-on-board” because the chips are permanently placed or soldered onto the circuit board, creating a continuous light strip. COB LED is relatively new in the LED industry because it’s a different kind of design. 

Image showing a sample of COB LED.. In our COB LED vs LED comparison, we go over the differences between the two.
COB LED

This circuit board used in COB LED can efficiently handle heat normally produced when using the LED. It is made of special materials that can withstand heat without affecting its performance, brightness, and durability. The LED chips in the printed circuit board are arranged closely together to produce light.

At first, tech companies, manufacturers, and buyers were skeptical about COB LED and its applications. They doubted its ability to produce bright light while keeping energy consumption at a minimal level, which was significantly lower than standard or normal LEDs.

COB LEDs don’t have a standard or fixed price. The final price depends on the brand, quality, overall performance, and energy efficiency. You can expect COB LEDs to be more expensive than regular LEDs because they produce brighter outputs and work more efficiently than regular LEDs. To get the best value for money, it’s smart to check out different sellers and see who’s offering the sweetest deal for what you need.

  • Produces bright lights at higher lumens and efficacy: When comparing COB and regular LEDs in terms of brightness, COB wins hands down because it’s way more efficient at generating higher lumens. With COB LEDs, you get this cool feature where you can customize your lighting setup at home or at the workplace to match your needs or taste. COB LEDs can do that because they have a higher lumen efficacy than traditional LEDs.
  • Is good for the environment: COB LEDs are eco-friendly because they consume less energy. They can cut down on your carbon footprint arising from the use of more electricity. But more importantly, you’ll have a smaller electric bill, which is a win-win for both you and the planet. 
  • Has a simple form factor: COB LEDs are also super simple and compact, with tiny chips on the board and minimal parts, making them easy to handle and install. Though they’re simple, COB LEDs are still consistent and uniform in producing light.
  • Requires cooling: If there is no proper cooling or ventilation, those diodes could be damaged from the intense heat and light they’re putting out. The printed circuit board can withstand the heat, but the LED chips don’t have the same resistance.
  • Can have a high upfront cost: Because of the brighter yet more energy-efficient capabilities of COB LED, it goes without saying that it’s more expensive than traditional LEDs.
  • Has a higher maintenance cost: Even if one diode isn’t working, you can’t simply take it out and replace it with a new one. You need to replace the whole thing since the diodes are soldered into the board, which makes maintenance more expensive.

What Is Regular LED?

LED stands for light-emitting diode. When electricity passes through the diode, light is emitted. In essence, LEDs aren’t really intended for lightning. However, technology paved a way to make LED the most sought after lightning technology today. It gained popularity in consumer technology because it competes head-on with traditional incandescent and fluorescent lighting. The problem with incandescent and fluorescent lights is their high energy consumption. Besides high energy requirements, they also produce more heat. Hence, the arrival of LEDs disrupted the lighting market and urged households and manufacturers to switch to environment-friendly lights.

You’ve probably seen LEDs on everyday items like flashlights, smartphone screens, television screens, desk lamps, or street signs. LEDs also gained a liking among manufacturers in display technology. Prior to that, the use of LEDs, LCDs, or liquid crystal displays was a thing. However, with LEDs, display technology manufacturers are now keen to adopt more LED screens to provide the best screen for their products while using only a fraction of the battery.

Similar to COB LEDs, traditional LEDs have a market-oriented pricing model. This means that pricing significantly differs for each supplier or manufacturer. It also depends on the brand, brightness, and efficiency. We recommend different suppliers for estimates to gauge the price of LEDs in the market today.

  • Has a more affordable price tag than COB LEDs: Traditional LEDs are more affordable than COB LEDs. Since traditional LEDs can be easily installed, they have a lot of applications and uses.
  • Can be easily replaced: When there’s a busted diode, it’s easy to repair it by simply replacing it with a new diode. Because every diode is easily replaceable, it has a lower and much cheaper maintenance cost.
  • Produces less heat: Traditional LEDs have ample space in between diodes to allow heat to dissipate properly. Hence, the device using traditional LEDs won’t heat up as fast or as often. Since COB LEDs are so close to each other, heat buildup is a problem. So, if you don’t have a proper cooling system, choose traditional LEDs instead of COB LEDs.
  • Is not as bright as COB LEDs: The main argument against traditional LEDs is their lower lumen output than COB LEDs. If you’re particular about brighter outputs, traditional LEDs are not a good pick.
  • Requires more space: Traditional LEDs aren’t as compact as COB LEDs. You can clearly see the diodes in traditional LEDs because of the spaces in between. Because of its larger size, regular LEDs take more space in the circuit board, which effectively reduces the number of chips that can be placed.

COB LED Comparisons

Long before COB LED’s application in consumer technology, the SMD LED and DIP LED products were widely used. If you’ve seen old television remote controls, the red light there is a DIP LED. Moreover, house lights and lamps use SMD LED.

When comparing DIP, SMD, and COB LEDs, you’ll notice that COB LEDs are smaller. Another key difference is how many LED chips can fit into a small space on the circuit board. In contrast, DIP or SMD LEDs are larger so fewer LED chips are in place. 

COB LED vs LED: At a Glance

COB LEDRegular LED
DesignMore compact and denseLess compact and spread out
BrightnessBrighter due to higher light densityNot as bright as COB LED but still brighter than traditional lighting
Size & Form FactorLED chips can have different forms and sizes, depending on the manufacturing instructions. COB LEDs are smaller than regular LEDs.Larger than COB LEDs and takes up more space in the board.
DurabilityDurable due to heat dissipation featuresDurable due to less heat accumulation
Thermal PerformanceThe heatsink takes away the heat from the LED systemDoesn’t accumulate a lot of heat due to a more spread-out placement
CostMore expensive due to manufacturing intricaciesLess expensive since it’s not complicated to manufacture
Energy EfficiencyMore efficient than regular LEDEfficient as is but not as efficient as COB LEDs

COB LED vs LED: Design

WINNER: COB LEDs

COB LEDs have a different design and layout on the board than regular LEDs. They can be further designed to be arranged in different ways. Individual COB LED light chips are densely packed and tightly close to each other in the printed circuit board, while traditional LEDs have spaces in between. This layout minimizes visible gaps between each diode, which enables manufacturers to add more diodes to the circuit board. More diodes also mean brighter and more powerful light output.

Aside from having more diodes, the LED size also affects how many diodes can be placed in the circuit board. Smaller COB LEDs allows manufacturers to add more LED chips into the circuit board. If you compare that with regular LEDs, there are gaps in between which would reduce the number of chips in the subscribe.

Having a more compact COB LED design generates higher light densities and brighter output within a single circuit, making it brighter than standard LEDs if compared side-by-side. The increased lumen density of COB LEDs contributes to their ability to produce brighter light and display panels than traditional LEDs.

Traditional cases for regular LEDs often include casing that scatter light. COB LEDs they are placed on a coated surface that can uniformly emit light. COB LEDs uses a phosphor coating. This type of coating converts blue light into white light. However, it also enables uniform light emission.

COB LED vs LED: Brightness

WINNER: COB LEDs

LEDs produce brighter lights and displays compared to other light sources like fluorescent lights. They can produce light at higher lumens while only consuming a fraction of the energy used in fluorescent lights. However, the development of LED technology has led manufacturers to develop better LED products that outshine their predecessors.

For instance, COB LEDs nowadays compete with normal LEDs in terms of brightness. It’s important to note that COB LEDs don’t outshine other types of LEDs. The quality of light output still depends on other factors, such as design proficiency and material quality. For instance, CREE LED can outperform COB LEDs if CREE LEDs have been re-engineered to produce higher lumen outputs. 

But if we’re talking about innate potential, COB LEDs naturally produce higher lumens than standard LEDs because of their structure and design requirements. At the fundamental level, COB LEDs take a lead in brightness. 

Since COB LEDs are preferred in uses that require high lumen density, they’re not recommended for lighting large venues or outdoor spaces. For instance, stadiums and concert arenas won’t benefit from COB LED’s lumen density. If you put a COB LED and regular LED light side by side in a wide open space like a stadium, the light output would look similar, and you wouldn’t even bat an eye. Hence, COB LED is best used for applications that require a high lumen density.

Aside from lumen density, beam angles also dictate brightness. The beam angle of COB LED is the reason it produces a more uniform and bright light output. The difference is noticeable at a granular level but not noticeable if used at a macro level.

In summary, we still give COB LED the win in terms of brightness in our COB LED vs LED comparison. Its form factor (which will be discussed in the next section) highly dictates why it produces a higher lumen than standard LEDs.

COB LED vs LED: Size & Form Factor

WINNER: COB LEDs

In terms of size, you can find LEDs with widths ranging from 2mm to 10mm. The shape of the LED also differs, and no universal shape is followed. Because of their tiny size, LEDs are known to be compact and space-efficient if compared to traditional lighting technology that came before LEDs, such as fluorescent and incandescent lighting. That’s why manufacturers prefer COB LED for small lighting devices

COB LEDs are easily identifiable because of their small size. If you put them beside regular LED, you’ll notice that the regular ones are bigger and more noticeable. Hence, the circuit board of COB LEDs can fit more LED chips because of the chip’s small size. You can think of it as adding more sprinkles to a piece of cake—the smaller the sprinkle size, the more sprinkles (COB LEDs) that can fit the cake’s surface (circuit board).

Because of its form factor, COB LED sizes enable manufacturers to fit them in extremely narrow strips, suitable for tight corners and indoor decorations. If you get a strip, it can approximately have a width of 2 to 2.7 mm. Though that’s narrow, you’ll still get a brighter output.

If you want to order COB LED, you’ll have to be familiar with how manufacturers describe LED products. You might want to get in touch with the manufacturer to learn how they specifically identify their LED products.

In conclusion, COB LEDs win in terms of size and form factor. Regular LEDs have wide gaps in between, making them inefficient. COB LEDs are compact and small. Having smaller chips gives more space for more LED chips to fit in the space. As a result, more chips would lead to denser light output.

COB LED vs LED: Durability

WINNER: COB LEDs

In general, LEDs can last longer than fluorescent and incandescent lightning. Fluorescent lights can last up to 15,000 hours or less while incandescent lights only reach up to 1,000 hours. It is indisputable that LEDs can last longer. However, within the LED industry, the scales don’t balance. LED products have different lifespans. Some are longer, while some are shorter. 

COB LEDs can last for up to 40,000 to 60,000 hours. On the other hand, regular LEDs can last up to 30,000 hours. These numbers aren’t fixed, and manufacturing quality highly affects the useful life of these LED products. If you go for popular brands, expect more premium products and longer lifespans.

Other LED manufacturers claim that LEDs can last anywhere from 35,000 to 50,000 hours of useful life. The actual hours of useful life may still differ depending on several factors. Some LED brands claim that a minimum of 50,000 hours. Assuming 12 hours of continuous use, the LED would last for 11.42 years.

More expensive brands claim their LED product can last as long as 100,000 hours or 27.40 years. LED is more cost-efficient regardless of which brand you choose. It can still last for more than five years. While the numbers look impressive, we only factored in the number of hours. 

The LED’s useful life may decrease if we include external or environmental factors such as weather and heat. It’s also possible that non-stop use may further decrease its useful life. For example, a LED product with a 15,000-hour useful life will only last for 1.71 years if used for 24 hours a day.

In conclusion, COB LEDs, have a longer useful life than regular LEDs in durability comparision of COB LED vs LED. But the use case and use frequency will still determine how long the light will last.

COB LED vs LED: Thermal Performance

WINNER: COB LEDs

COB LED wins in thermal performance no doubt. It’s outstanding heat dissipation system is the reason behind that. The circuit board where the LEDs are placed has a special coating that effectively takes away the heat. However, the heat we’re talking about here is not extreme heat. If one is to touch the LED, the heat is not noticeable. But for LEDs, the heat can damage them.

LED only generates minimal heat but the light that’s coming out of the chip isn’t hot. They generate heat only because they’re constantly being used, but they don’t make the room hot or warm. COB LEDs require proper heat dissipation so that the heat won’t affect the chip’s useful life. And because of the chipboard design used in COB LEDs, the diodes’ useful lives are fully maximized.

However, heat coming from an external source (e.g., sunlight) can damage LEDs. Even if we’re saying that it has outstanding thermal performance, external factors may still affect the LED’s useful life. Hence, be careful where you place these LED strips or bulbs. Exposing them to extreme heat can damage the LED chips. The heat sink only dissipates the heat from the LED, not the heat coming outside the LED system.

COB LEDs rely on the heatsink to absorb the heat. They are designed to take away the heat from the LED chip and spread it outward. It is important for the manufacturer to design the heatsink correctly to effectively manage the heat from the LED die and onto the solder point. A die is a semiconductor made of gallium nitride. Electricity interacts with the die and causes it to emit light. The solder point plays a crucial role in this process. All of these components are placed there to enhance thermal performance in LED systems.

In summary, COB LEDs manage heat well if compared to standard LED lights. This design of chipboards and heatsink ultimately affects thermal performance. LEDs don’t like heat so having good thermal performance is optimal and a must.

COB LED vs LED: Cost

WINNER: Regular LEDs

In our COB LED vs led comparison of cost, COB LED are more expensive than regular LEDs. Since COB LED is more compact, additional manufacturing materials are required to make it fully functional. And besides that, COB LED manufacturing is more intricate, which would contribute to a lot of overhead for the manufacturer. Normal LEDs don’t have intricate manufacturing procedures and special materials. Hence, it’s more affordable than COB LEDs.

If price is your focus, normal LEDs win in this category. If you’re lucky enough to get a manufacturer willing to offer a bargain price for high-quality LEDs, you can save more money by buying these LED products.

COB LED vs LED: Energy Usage

WINNER: COB LEDs

You can safely assume that all LED products are energy efficient, especially if we compare them with traditional lighting products like incandescent or fluorescent light. However, you also need to consider that not all LED products are created equal, and some LED variants may be more energy-efficient than others. And in our comparison, COB LEDs generally exhibit higher energy efficiency than standard LEDs.

In this article, we define energy efficiency as the ratio of power input to light output. It measures how much energy is required per watt to produce a given amount of light or lumens. This definition is important to remember so that you’ll know how to assess energy efficiency when looking for LED products.

COB LEDs are known to produce high lumens without consuming too much energy. The quality of the diode material also affects the COB LED’s performance. The phosphor coating in the chipboard also contributes to the COB LED’s performance. High-quality phosphor can help manage heat, which would enable the LEDs to perform at top performance.

The best way to measure energy usage and efficiency is by comparing the duration of powering COB LEDs and standard LEDs using a battery. Manufacturers have discovered that COB LED lasts longer than standard LED when connected to the battery, making it an energy-efficient LED product for battery-powered devices. However, that won’t matter if LED lights are connected to a power source. Hence, in our COB LED vs LED comparison of energy usage, COB LED takes the win.

Applications of COB LEDs

In our comparison, it shows that COB LED outperforms regular LEDs in many aspects. Now, let’s look at some use cases for COB LEDs.

  1. Ultraviolet light sterilization: With COB LEDs, manufacturers can create ultraviolet COB LEDs that can be used for sterilization. This takes advantage of COB LED’s denser lumen output, enabling the LED to generate more ultraviolet light.
  2. Outdoor signages and billboards: Businesses can use COB LED panels to create vibrant billboards or signages even in broad daylight. Higher lumen output can lead to higher nits, making the LED signage more visible. At night, LED billboards and signs produce bright and clear output.
  3. Lighting for shooting films: COB LEDs have revolutionized the film industry, offering versatile lighting solutions for creating captivating scenes in movies and theaters. Because COB LED can generate denser light, it can mimic sunlight intensity and it can even produce different colors.
  4. Indoor and outdoor decorations: Have you seen those light strips used to add ambient lighting in PC gaming setups? If yes, those are COB LEDs. Since light trips are thinner and narrower, COB LEDs can be manufactured and designed to fit into strips while producing bright light outputs.

Conclusion

Though COB LEDs win in our COB LED vs LED comparison, regular LEDs can still be a good choice if you’re looking for an affordable pick. Regular LEDs can still produce a pretty decent output. But if better performance is what you’re aiming for, choosing COB LED over regular LED is an easy pick. We hope this guide helped you make a decision.

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