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Differences in LED chip sizes & brightness

When purchasing LED strip lights or rope lights, the type of LED chip is often specified—SMD 5050 LED, SMD 3528 LED, SMD 2835 LED, SMD 3014 LED, etc. But what do all these numbers and letters mean? Let’s break it down.

SMD stands for Surface Mount Device, which in the case of LED strip and tape lights, is an LED chip that is mounted on the surface of PCB or printed circuit boards.

The numbers following SMD—5050, 3528, 2835, etc., indicates the physical dimension, or more simply put, size of the chip in millimeters.

Example:

SMD 5050 LED = 5.0mm x 5.0mm individual LED chip size
SMD 3528 LED = 3.5mm x 2.8mm individual LED chip size

There are currently a large selection of LED chips that range from all different sizes and efficiency, including but not limited to 2835, 3014, 5630, and 3020. However, since LED strip lights have been introduced, the most popular size chips manufactures use are the 5050 and 3528.

With so many options, which chip is considered “the best”? Simply put, there is no one chip that out rules the rest. Each chip has it’s own benefits when used properly and in the right application.

SMD 5050 LED

SMD 5050 LED chips are 5.0mm by 5.0mm and house three diodes in one housing. Theoretically, they offer up to three times more illumination to SMD 3528 chips. When compared individually, 5050 chips are a lot brighter than 3528 chips because there are more diodes. However, due to their slightly larger size,  only so many chips can fit on a PCB strip which can cause restraints on brightness in certain strip applications. Because 3528 chips are smaller and can be more densely placed on a strip, a strip of 3258 may be brighter in comparison to a strip of 5050.

Strips that use SMD 5050 LED also require thicker PCB to draw heat away from the chips. Larger chip means greater heat output; and although the larger chip size creates more heat than smaller chips, the 5050 is still drastically “cooler” than other lighting options.

SMD 5050 LED strip lights are well suited for applications that require high levels of ambient lighting. 5050 strips can be used for single color applications, but they are much better for multi-color or RGB use. Because 5050 chips use three diodes, millions of color variations can be created by combining three different diodes within the housing.

SMD 3528 LED

SMD 3528 LED chips are 3.5mm by 2.8 mm and contain only one LED per chip. When placed side by side with a 5050 chip, they are not as bright; however, when used in high density or quantity, 3528 LED strips can be brighter than a comparable strip of 5050. They are good for single color applications, such as providing TV back lighting, accenting crown molding or pictures, under tables & cabinets, bar lighting, and more.

Looking for a more cost effective solution? SMD 3528 LED strips may be the right choice for you. Although they are not as bright individually in comparison to 5050 chips, a reel of 3528 LED strip light, which may contain 600 chips, can be much brighter than a reel of 5050 of the same length.

How does this apply to you?

When determining the type of strip light needed for your project, remember to consider the size of the chip and how many chips you’ll need. The size & number of LEDs per foot or meter is pertinent to brightness.

Tip: If competing strips are using the same chips, and you’re not sure which to choose, take a look at how many LEDs on the strip and lumen ouput. These two factors will help you in determining brightness.


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