A display is made up of millions of pixels. The quality of a display commonly refers to the number of pixels; for example, a 4K display is made up of 3840 x2160 or 4096×2160 pixels. A pixel is made up of three subpixels; a red, blue and green—commonly called RGB. When the subpixels in a pixel change color combinations, a different color can be produced. With all the pixels on a display working together, the display can make millions of different colors. When the pixels are rapidly switched on and off, a picture is created.
The way a pixel is controlled is different in each type of display; CRT, LED, LCD and newer types of displays all control pixels differently. In short, LCDs are lit by a backlight, and pixels are switched on and off electronically while using liquid crystals to rotate polarized light. A polarizing glass filter is placed in front and behind all the pixels, the front filter is placed at 90 degrees. In between both filters are the liquid crystals, which can be electronically switched on and off.
LCDs are made with either a passive matrix or an active matrix display grid. The active matrix LCD is also known as a thin film transistor (TFT) display. The passive matrix LCD has a grid of conductors with pixels located at each intersection in the grid. A current is sent across two conductors on the grid to control the light for any pixel. An active matrix has a transistor located at each pixel intersection, requiring less current to control the luminance of a pixel. For this reason, the current in an active matrix display can be switched on and off more frequently, improving the screen refresh time.
Some passive matrix LCD’s have dual scanning, meaning that they scan the grid twice with current in the same time that it took for one scan in the original technology. However, active matrix is still a superior technology out of the two.