COB LED Vs. LED: Everything You Need to Know

LEDs are semiconductor light-emitting devices used in modern-day display technologies and lighting systems. In fact, LED currently dominates the evolution and market for illumination and display technologies in today’s fast-paced, digitized ecosystem.

However, as years go by, consumer demands in terms of taste, efficiency, longevity, and cost have inspired the development of variants that appear to clash. This has made the LED market so competitive and overwhelming that you could have difficulty choosing which will satisfy your lighting or display needs. 

So, in this COB light Vs LED comparison, we will introduce what COB LED means and how it compares with the normal LED light systems or packages you may already know. At the end of this piece, you should know the distinction between COB LED vs. normal LED. You can also deduce which will best suit your lighting or display needs. Continue reading to learn more.

What Is LED?

LED is short for light-emitting diode, a common name in the lighting and display industry. Mainly because it is a major competitor to incandescent and fluorescent lights, LED lights can produce up to 90% light more efficiently yet use less than 90% of the energy consumed by their competitors. 

LED lights are unique because 

  • they provide high-quality natural and aesthetic light, which can be adjusted using a color rendering index (CRI) system, 
  • are energy-efficient and emit less heat, 
  • and are durable and can last over 40 times longer than other types of light and display technologies or products.

What Is a Regular or Normal LED?

Just as we’ve mentioned before, LED lights have variants. Each has unique features and can be suited for different or the same purposes, depending on what you want. There is a high chance that you could be using a regular LED light or display system in your home, office, or street. 

Common examples of LEDs include flashlights, lamps, or even signage boards or banners in your street. They are called normal LED lights because you can easily set them up for simple lighting and display needs. The graphic below indicates a regular LED light:

What Is a COB LED?

Now that you’ve seen what LED or regular LED entails let’s talk about the other elephant in the room: the Chip on Board LED. 

COB LED is a lighting technology in which the light-emitting chips or die are soldered into a thermally efficient printed circuit board (PCB) typically made of phosphor comprising gallium-nitride-on-silicon (GaN-on-Si), silicon carbide, or sapphire coating or wafers to form white lights. 

It is called Chip on Board because of how the light chips are fused into the substrate or board—like a printed strip or card of light-emitting chip arrays. COB LED is a nascent display or lighting technology that has been commercially available since 2007. Although there was skepticism about COB LED products at first. 

Mainly due to its ability to contain large amounts of energy, emit very bright light, and yet discharge very little energy to the environment compared to other LED lights. Sounds weird, right? No one believed it for some time, too. 

Other popular LED variants and competitors to COB LED include the CREE LED, Surface Mounted Device (SMD) LED, and Dual In-Line Package (DIP) LED. They have been around before COB LED. For instance, the DIP LED light was one of the earliest LED bulbs introduced around the same time the first LED bulbs were launched commercially in the 60s. 

You can find DIP LEDs in remote controls and IoT sensors. Following DIP LED is the SMD LED, which is common in today’s LED illumination and display systems like ring lights, table lamps, headlights, etc. If you want to compare DIP vs. SMD vs. COB LED, you must start with their most notable feature: the number of LEDs that can fit into a millimeter square PCB. 

For instance, in a 10mm x 10mm PCB board, COB LED would feature over 30 times more LED chips than DIP LED and over eight times more chips than SMD LED. This arrangement results in higher intensity and greater light uniformity than the other LED technologies.

COB vs. LED: Advantages

Looking at the advantages—COB LED vs. CREE, COB vs. SMD LED, or even DIP vs. COB LED brightness—COB LED probably trumps the rest. Some COB advantages include:

  • Higher lumen efficacy or density: In a COB vs. LED brightness comparison, COB will trump normal LED due to its higher lumen efficacy. Lumen efficacy or efficiency simply means improved light quality and customization, allowing personalized LED arrangements.  Despite the customization advantages, COB LED devices have only one circuit and two contacts for the entire chip—the two contacts indicate the anode and cathode power sources. Then there is the big circuit where all the dies are soldered.
  • Environmental protection: COB LED can significantly reduce carbon and energy footprint and consumption. 
  • Power cost reduction: In areas with high power costs, you could significantly reduce power costs with greater lumination than the SMD and DIP LED lights. 
  • Energy efficiency: Regardless of the energy levels in the circuit, COB LED can still maintain a greater light intensity than other LED technologies due to the multiple arrays of light-emitting diodes. For example, a 100-lumen COB LED array can be much smaller and consume substantially less energy than a 100-lumen SMD or DIP LED Array.
  • Simplicity and compactness of COB LED due to the small sizes of the chips on the board and the contact and PCB board.
  • Improved and high light uniformity and consistency—even at far working distances, you can still have a good shot using COB LED.
  • Another advantage of COB LED is its enhanced thermal conductivity, which makes it heat resistant, durable, reliable, and stable.

However, after many years in the market, COB LED lighting and display technologies are disrupting the LED product market for many reasons, which we will discuss further in the subsequent section as we compare COB vs. LED lights.

COB LED Vs. LED: The Major Differences

Now let’s look at the major differences between COB LED vs. LED of other making. By knowing their difference in various categories, as highlighted in this section, you can describe and distinguish between LED vs. COB LED, COB LED vs. SMD LED, COB vs. CREE LED—products, etc. 

COB LED Vs. LED: Difference in Design

Unlike normal LEDs that are spatially arranged, COB LED lights are compact—that is, they are packed together in close arrays such that you can hardly see spaces between them. Although, this may not be true in some cases, depending on the type of COB light product. 

We imply that their smaller sizes allow you to add as many chips as possible in a single COB LED substrate. When you do, you can hardly see spaces between them. This COB LED arrangement pattern and compactness allows as many light-emitting diodes as possible in one circuit, giving it a higher pixel pitch or lumen density than normal LED. 

The high pixel pitch or lumen density causes COB LEDs to produce higher resolution light and display than normal LEDs. Now, let’s consider the position of COB LEDs when we examine its architecture: you can find the diodes just beneath the surface of the phosphor or resin coating. 

This design makes COB LEDs look like a yellow-painted surface or raw egg yolk when not powered. The resin or phosphor coating enables the COB LED to emit uniform shades and wavelengths of light, unlike normal LEDs that use regular cases, which could scatter the light.

Another surprising thing about the COB LED architecture is that you can hardly separate the phosphor coating from the light-emitting die. Doing so could damage the entire system. It will take precision and a proper understanding of the system to separate both, which shows how tight and delicate the COB LED system is designed.

COB LED Vs. LED: Difference in Size and Form Factor

Generally, LEDs come in various shapes, sizes, and form factors. Common LED models have widths ranging from 2mm, 5mm, 8mm, and 10mm. Usually, these sizes are very small compared to incandescent and fluorescent bulbs. You could also differentiate a COB vs. LED light using their chip sizes.

Typically, COB LED substrates or boards are larger and contain multiple LED chips mounted directly into a substrate. Their chip sizes are also smaller than those of normal LEDs. In fact, their smaller chip sizes allow for a higher pixel pitch (meaning a higher density, the more chips they can accommodate for every 1mm x 1mm PCB board). 

Earlier, we gave an example when we compared a 10mm x 10mm module of DIP vs. SMD vs. COB LEDs and the number of LED arrays each could contain. You can see the illustration below for clarity:

To make it easier to measure the sizes of LED lights generally, many manufacturers subtly include their sizes as part of their product description or number. You can find this number at the base or top or wherever you may find their product description of the LED product. For instance, a COB LED 3528 means it is 3.5mm wide and 2.8mm long. 

Nevertheless, LED sizes do not affect their performance and should not be the only basis of your decision-making, especially if your need doesn’t include size or space. Moreover, COB LEDs, no matter how small they are, would always produce brighter light than normal, SMD, or DIP LEDs.

The chip sizes and form factor of COB LED make them a great choice for indoor aesthetics and decoration. Plus, they emit uniform light, which can also be adjusted to produce different or natural colors as you change their CRI. 

That said, COB LED chip sizes make it easier to fit them into super narrow strips that could fit into tight corners and be used for indoor decorations. The width of such a COB LED strip could measure about 2.0 – 2.7mm, thin and flexible, with a higher lumen density than normal LEDs of the same size.

COB LED Vs. LED: Difference in Brightness

Generally, LEDs produce higher luminous density than other lighting or display technologies. If you want to know how bright they can be, test them against other light technologies on a lumens brightness scale. 

If we narrow down the lumen density of COB LED vs. regular LED, your guesstimate would be that COB LED is brighter than other LEDs. Well, you’re right; they are. Besides, we’ve mentioned this already when we described COB LED in the earlier sections.

We do not argue that other LED technologies are not bright enough. In fact, many experts believe that SMD LEDs provide more brilliant light than COB LEDs, just that they do not provide uniform light like COB. 

This makes SMD a better alternative for larger events and spaces like stadiums where uniformity of light shades is not greatly considered, especially if you’re cutting on cost. For instance, COB LED lumen is about 80 lumen per watt, while SMD (the closest to it in this comparison guide) ranges between 50 and 100 lumen per watt. 

The variation in lumen density for SMD LED means that all things being equal, COB light will always be at least 80 lumen per watt, thus a brighter light on average than SMD or any other LED technology. 

Additionally, when we consider the beam angle of the surface of light-emitting diodes that aid in light interference and determine its uniformity or irregularities, normal LEDs have a beam angle of about 140 degrees. At the same time, COB LED lights have 180-degree beam angles. 

This explains why COB LEDs have higher lumens and better interferences or uniformity. So to speak, both lights are great options and produce very bright light with high luminous density. 

Nonetheless, if brightness alone is what you need, then SMD or probably normal LEDs might be a good fit, as they are more cost-effective than many COB LEDs. However, if you’re in the entertainment or media industry, COB LEDs are better suited for you because of their uniformity and consistent light wavelength.

COB LED Vs. LED: Difference in Energy Efficiency

The energy efficiency or efficacy of LED technologies is another criterion that sets them apart. Normally, LED lights are designed to be as efficient as possible without compromising the quality of the light. However, not all LED technologies have equal energy efficiencies. For instance, in a COB LED vs. LED SMD, COB LEDs would have higher energy efficiency than normal LEDs.

The illustration above neglects the difference in watts or lumen, differentiating one luminous LED bulb from another in a particular product line. Now, the energy efficiency we mean is simply the ratio of power input to light output. Or how much energy per watt is required to produce light or lumen (emitted lumens divided by the power input lm/w).

COB LEDs are top-performance LEDs with one of the highest luminous efficiencies ranging from 80 to 250 lm/w. One of the key contributors to this radiant power is the phosphor and diode material used in manufacturing COB strip light vs. LED.

Another criterion to consider in this COB LED vs. LED difference in energy efficiency is their lumen output in a battery-powered LED system. When you connect a COB vs. LED strip to a battery cell, you can measure their energy efficiency to tell which would have more output per energy input.

Usually, COB LED lights will shine brighter and offer a higher quality light than normal LED in the same given battery conditions. Plus, COB lights would last longer than normal LED lights in the same battery setup. 

In fact, a small lithium-ion battery could even power a COB LED light for longer periods than a normal LED light. The reason is that normal LEDs use higher energy than COB LEDs, which can drain the battery runtime faster than COB lights. So, you see why COB is more energy efficient in this setup?

COB LED Vs. LED: Difference in Longevity

Another point of view that further explains the energy efficiency of a COB vs. LED panel is the difference in their longevity. Usually, LEDs have longer lifespans than other traditional light systems. Some reports estimate LEDs to last between 35,000 to 50,000 hours of useful life; during this period, they undergo gradual lumen depreciation. 

While this estimate could be true, other factors may lead to a faster lumen depreciation, especially if it involves an unconducive environment—like excess heat and electricity leakages—for the LED technology.

Regarding the lifespan of LED vs. COB, COB LED lights have an impressive lifespan, mainly because of their enhanced thermal conductivity and improved product material, which can handle heat and electricity distribution better than normal LED lights. 

So if a normal LED offers 20,000 hours of useful life, COB LED will probably provide higher—at least 30,000 more. This is a guesstimate and does not represent how much lifespan a COB LED may offer compared to any other LED technology. We are only trying to paint a mental picture of how COB LED trumps normal LED lights regarding usage and lifespan.

COB LED Vs. LED: Difference in Thermal Performance and Heat Dissipation

Recall that LED systems do not depend on heat to emit light like their competitors. So, they must have a heat dissipation system to improve their thermal performance. That said, this could be a criterion for choosing between LED vs. COB LED systems as it could determine which likely has a longer lifespan than the other in unconducive systems.

Meanwhile, in the previous COB vs. LED light difference section, we mentioned that the thermal conductivity of COB LED is one of the reasons why it lasts longer than normal LEDs. Let’s expand on that in this section and show why thermal performance and heat dissipation are directly proportional to the lifespan of COB strip light vs. LED.

Suffice it to say one of the unique features of every LED system is the heatsink attached to the PCB or substrate to dissipate the heat away from the LED system into the environment through conduction, convection, and/or radiation. 

In fact, this heatsink is modified in COB LED products because of its designs and architecture (including compactness and flat surface structure). Additionally, we have properly designed heat paths that move heat away from the junction point to the solder point. 

The solder point is located at the point between the die and the heatsink. In contrast, the junction point is between the die and the substrate. They all work together to bring about proper heat dissipation and improved thermal performance in an LED system such as a COB or regular LED.

From this description, you can deduce that COB LEDs will have better thermal performance and heat dissipation than normal LED lights. This modification also increases the durability of COB LEDs in systems with limited ambient temperature because they tend to withstand higher temperatures than most regular LEDs.

COB LED Vs. LED: Difference in Color Range

Regarding the color range for COB vs. LED strip lights, normal LED wins. COB LED diodes usually give off blue light, which can be adjusted with the phosphor coating during COB light production. 

Afterward, the color range for COB LED becomes limited. You can only adapt its white light and brightness between natural, warm, neutral, daylight, etc. The natural color and adjustment they provide make them a great option for media and entertainment niches. 

In contrast, normal LED lights use regular casing, which can be coated with different colors to give off corresponding random colors. That said, normal LED lights can give you multiple color options like red, blue, green, etc.

COB LED Vs. LED: Difference in Cost

At the end of the day, cost could impact your decision-making significantly. In terms of cost, COB LED lights are costlier than normal LED. Many manufacturers produce them on-demand, depending on their usage and need.

Cost contributes to the reason why normal LEDs are called normal. This is because you can find them in the market faster than the COB LED. In fact, chances are that your home or office’s LED lighting or display system is a regular LED. 

The same may not be said about a photography or video studio, where natural and uniform/consistent lighting is greatly needed for production. Moving forward, many factors can influence the prices of a COB LED light. 

Some of these include the material used in producing the COB LED package, the strip length, the chip size, the wattage or lumens of the chip or die, etc. With that said, a 110W, 2700K to 6500K COB video light would cost between 200 USD and 250 USD. Moreover, a 3.2 feet 3000K 10W COB LED Strip would cost between 7 to 10 USD. 

COB LED Vs. LED: Difference in Packaging

In terms of packaging, COB LED uses the Chip-on-Board packaging model. The Chip-on-Board packaging model is a system in which a semiconductor wafer or printed coating is divided into segments with dies. Each die is then soldered onto a PCB with conductive tracings. 

Afterward, the structure is coated with phosphor to induce white light emission when connected to a power source. Every other packaging, including labeling and boxing, is secondary.

Conversely, normal LEDs follow a similar die-on-top-of-PCB structure, only that the die or chips are mounted on the PCB as in SMD LEDs or visible as in DIP LEDs. Then, they are placed inside a low-heat epoxy resin plastic or glass casing. For clarity, you can see the graphics below:

COB LED Vs. LED: Difference in Application

In this section, we’ll look at the different LED lighting systems and their applications in relation to the COB LED. Starting with the COB LED application, let’s see some of their applications and how they represent their advantages over other LED systems.

COB LED Applications

A COB LED produces consistent and uniform light. So, any business or industry that needs such a stream or beam of natural white light would probably go for COB LED lights. Another way to look at it is consumers that need steady light with a longer lifespan and a short lumen depreciation index. Some of these consumers are scattered into the following categories:

  • Street lights powered by solar panels: COB LEDs are energy efficient and would do well in solar-powered street lights. Certain environmental conditions, like weather, can often interfere with solar energy sources. However, COB LEDs would give a higher light quality than other LEDs with the same condition.
  • Cinematography and photography: Media, journalism, entertainment, and content creation niches always need natural light to create various content. COB LED lighting systems can come in handy in these sectors. Ring light is gaining popularity in the content creation space because of the natural light and longevity it provides.

DIP LED Applications

DIP LED lights have a shorter lifespan and emit more heat. So you can use them for exterior decorative purposes. You’ll probably find DIP LED lights on display signage boards of supermarkets, hotels, trains, buses, etc. Also, you may find them in festive decorations like Christmas trees, etc.

SMD LED Applications

SMD LED is the closest to the COB LED, and the CREE LED in this article. To an extent, you may find them closely related. The only difference is that the LED chip or die of SMD is mounted on the PCB board, while the COB LED is soldered into the circuit board.

So, apart from the advantage of SMD vs. COB LED strip, they can be used interchangeably in various use cases. Mainly, you’ll find SMD in indoor and outdoor lighting or decoration because of the multi-color options—an advantage they have over COB LED.

CREE LED Applications

For LED SMD vs. COB vs. CREE, CREE LED is similar to the others. They have identical use cases, which include indoor and outdoor lighting, video screens, display signage boards, automotive lighting, etc.

You read more about CREE LED in our COB LED vs. CREE comparison.

CSP Applications

Chip Scale Package (CSP) is another LED variant worth considering if you need a low-cost and high-resolution lumen density. Although we did not mention CSP LED lights in this comparison guide like the other variants, it is still another close option to COB due to its chip size and compactness. So, LED COB vs. CSP lighting and display applications would be similar.

Conclusion

COB LED technologies are still evolving and disrupting the LED display and lighting space. When compared to normal LEDs, you can see that they offer better lighting and display, notwithstanding their cost. However, in an LED SMD vs. COB vs. CREE comparison, you can see that they are all competitive. 

Fortunately, we have other comparison guides to help you decide which LED display technology to choose. Moreso, you can check out our product catalog to discover our competitive LED display products and packages designed to meet your lighting and display needs.

FAQ

Does COB light consume more electricity?

No. In fact, COB light can use less electricity to produce brighter light compared to other LED lights under the same conditions. This makes them more energy-efficient than many different LED variants.

Why are COB LED lights physically yellow?

COB LED lights are physically yellow because of the phosphor coating, which helps to induce white light when the die is powered. COB LED chips naturally produce blue light, and the only way to convert this blue light to white natural light is to add a yellow phosphor coating, which disperses the light emitted from the diode, transforming it into white light.

Is COB light brighter than normal LED?

The simple answer is yes. COB lights have higher lumen density and pixel pitch, producing brighter light than normal LEDs. Plus, they can be customized to have as many chips or dies as possible, thus increasing their luminous capacity.

Do COB LEDs get hot?

Yes, they can get hot. However, they have improved heat resistance, dissipation paths, and thermal performance compared to many LED variants. However, this doesn’t completely make them immune to heat changes. If there happens to be a heat problem that eventually destroys the chip, repairing a COB LED would nearly be impossible as it has low reparability compared to other LED lights.

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