What are the differences between LED chips (SMDs)? Which type should I choose?
What does the number of an LED chip mean?
Each type of LED chip (also known as surface mounted diodes or SMDs) is identified by a four-digit number. This code is less complicated than it looks – it simply indicates the size of the LED chip. For example, the dimensions of SMDs on 5050 LED strip lights are 5.0mm x 5.0mm.
Which is the best LED chip?
LEDs like 3528s, 5050s, 2835s and 5630s aren’t really different types of chip at all – they’re simply different sizes. Each has its own spec: different power requirements and output brightness. The best choice depends on what’s right for your project.
You can find out more about each LED chip below.
The 3528 LED chip explained
Measuring 3.5mm x 2.8mm, the 3528 SMD is a smaller chip than the 5050 LED strip SMD. 3528 chips are most often found on 12-volt LED strips, drawing 4.8 watts (also known as 4.8w p/m or 5w p/m LED tape) with 60 SMDs per metre.
These strip lights output around 330-360 lumens per metre, depending on colour (equivalent to a 40w halogen) – enough to produce a smooth, bright effect when shining onto any surface.
Standard colours available in the 3528 SMD range are red, green, blue, amber, and both warm and cool whites. (Any other white colour temperature you need can be made to order.)
3528 60 SMD p/m LED strip lights are typically used for feature lighting – such as plinth or coving lights, in homes, bars, restaurants, hotels and other locations.
Though less common than standard 60 SMDs p/m LED tape, 3528 SMDs are also used on LED strip lights with 120 chips per metre. Pulling 9.6 watts (known as 9.6w p/m or 10w p/m LED tape), these tapes are available in the same range of colours. Light output is exactly double that of 60 SMDs p/m tape – they have twice as many LEDs – so that’s around 660-720 lumens per metre, depending on colour.
3528 120 SMD p/m LED strips are used for the same kind of feature-lighting applications as its standard alternative. They’re ideal for locations with more ambient light, where a higher brightness is needed than the 4.8w p/m can produce.
The cut points for our 60 SMD-per-metre 3528 LED strips are 50mm apart. The 120 SMD p/m strips have cut points at 25mm intervals. Both types are also available in waterproofed versions (IP67-rated).
Double-power 3528 SMD explained
Double-power 3528 SMDs are the same size as standard-power LEDs. They are available in the same colours, drawing twice the power to give twice the output. LED strip lights manufactured using double-power SMDs have 120 LEDs per metre and pull 19.2 watts per metre (also known as 19.2w p/m, or 20w p/m).
Double-power 3528 LED strips use a 2-ounce 10mm wide PCB to disperse heat effectively, in order not to require an extra heat sink when installed. These LED strips are only available for 24-volt systems, as this carries current better. Lumen output is around 1320-1440 lumens per metre (depending on the colour). Because of its high brightness, this LED tape is ideal as general lighting or to replace fluorescent tubes and halogens.
The 5050 LED chip explained
At 50mm x 50mm, the 5050 SMD is a larger LED chip than the 3528 SMD. The 5050 chip is most often used for 60 LED-per-metre strip lights, pulling 14.4 watts at 24 volts (commonly called 14.4w p/m or 15w p/m LED tape). With an output of around 990-1080 lumens per metre, depending on colour, this tape gives you a smooth, bright effect when shining onto a surface.
Available colours are:
- warm and cool whites (other Kelvins requirements can be manufactured on request)
- red, green, blue, and amber single-colour
- and also colour-changing – either RGB or RGBW (red, green, blue, white), using ‘tri’ / ‘quad’ chips (three or four LED chips in one).
5050 SMDs used in RGB LED strip lighting
The 5050 SMD is actually a ‘tri’ chip, meaning it has three smaller chips in every SMD. So each white LED actually has three white chips inside.
This means 5050s can be used for colour-changing LED tape, with red, green and blue chips inside each LED. By linking this type of RGB LED strip light to a controller, you can mix any shade of any colour you choose. (RGBW tape is similar, but uses ‘quad’ LEDs, with an additional white chip.)
RGB 5050 LED strip lights are available in two types:
- 30 LEDs per metre (known as 7.2w p/m or 7.5w p/m LED tape) outputs up to 500 lumens per metre and is ideal for feature lighting such as covings, plinths in homes, hotels, restaurants and bars.
- 60 LEDs per metre (aka 14.4w p/m or 15w p/m LED tape) produces up to 1000 lumens per metre, perfect for full wall-washes such as bar frontage, back bars in restaurants, clubs, or the home.
The 2835 LED chip explained
A new choice on the LED market, the 2835 SMD has now been fully tested by Instyle LED to confirm reliability and efficiency.
2.8mm x 3.5mm in size, the 2835 chip is so far only available for white LEDs.
In practice, this SMD can be viewed as a more efficient replacement for the 5050 – producing 20% more light but drawing less wattage. It pulls 0.2w per LED (a 5050 SMD pulls 0.24w), so that’s around 12 watts per metre compared to 14.4w for the 5050 SMD, based on 60 LEDS p/m. Because the 2835 SMD is smaller and doesn’t get as hot, it’s possible to mount up to 120 LEDS p/m – that’s 24w p/m – giving up to 2600 lumens per metre!
- Cool white 5050 SMD 60 LEDS (14.4w p/m) = 1080 lumens per metre
- Cool white 2835 SMD 60 LEDS (12w p/m) = 1300 lumens per metre
- Cool white 2835 SMD 120 LEDS (24w p/m) = 2600 lumens per metre
The 5630 LED chip explained
With dimensions of 5.6mm x 3.0mm, the 5630 SMD has been around for several years, but has only recently become an option in the LED tape market. (Until now, these LED chips have mostly been used in thick PCB rigid strips rather than LED tape, as they require a very good heat-sink.)
A larger LED doesn’t always mean brighter – but in this case, the 5630 chip outputs far more light than the more common 5050 SMD. High-quality 5630 chips on 60 LED p/m tape can produce up to around 2700 lumens. (To give an idea of the importance of component quality, lower grade 5630 SMDs output less the 2000 lumens per metre.)
Because of the heat they can generate, InStyle recommend that LED tapes mounted with 5630 SMDs should be installed with an aluminium extrusion and/or heat-sink backing or a thicker and wider PCB. Without these, your LED strip lights may work initially – but brightness will likely reduce quickly, because overheating is the biggest adverse contributor to the brightness and lifespan of LEDs. Used 8 hours per day, overheating could see you lose up to 20% in brightness per year!
Instyle LED always uses thicker, wider PC boards and A-grade Epistar-branded SMDs, so you can always rely on the quality of our 5630 LED tape components. We offer this product in all shades of white.
We don’t advise the use of heatshrink to waterproof 5630 SMDs, as it can lead to overheating issues.
Summary of LED chip types
In the end, the type of SMD chip doesn’t matter – as long as it can meet your requirements. InStyle recommend branded Epistar LEDs for the reasons we discussed above (brightness, reliability and colour batching).
|White LED Tape|
|Choose||5-watt tape for feature lighting|
|10-watt tape for feature lighting (where there is a lot of ambient light)|
|15-watt tape for general lighting or replacing fluorescent tubes etc|
|20-watt tape for general lighting or replacing fluorescent tubes etc|
|RGB LED Tape|
|Choose||7.5-watt tape for feature lighting|
|15-watt tape for ‘washing’ surfaces|
|When purchasing LED strip lights, you should ask yourselves these questions:
InStyle LED products that use the 3528 SMD chip
InStyle LED products that use the double-power 3528 SMD chip