LED strip lighting can be manufactured with a variety of LED chips. The numbers you see such as 3528 and 5050 refer to the size of the chip. The older style strips that have been popular for a few years now are the sizes seen above. Currently, there are even smaller and more efficient LED chips on the market with the sizes of 2835, 3014, 5630, and 3020. Each have benefits when used properly. No “one” chip can rule them all.
So, what is the difference between SMD 5050 and 3528 LEDs and why should you care?
SMD 5050 LED Flex Strip light
Simply put, these LED chips are called SMD 5050 because the dimensions of the chips are 5.0mm x 5.0mm. They have 3 LED diodes in one housing (sometimes called tri-chips), and are a lot brighter than individual 3528 LED chips.
These are examples of 5050 LED light strips:
They are used when you need slight illumination for your project area and especially RGB color changing lights. Theoretically, comparing the same number of chips, SMD 5050 LEDs can offer a light output 3 times that of the 3528 strips, and therefore the 5050 LED is well suited for lighting up areas that may be subject to high levels of ambient light. However, since they are larger in size, there are only so many you can fit onto the PCB. There are some brightness restraints when using the 5050s in this way.
Though they produce more heat than smaller chips, it is still drastically lower than other lighting options. These types of LEDs require a thicker PCB to draw the heat away form the chips.
The 5050’s are different from the 3528 LEDs in that 5050s can combine the three different chips to inside the housing to create millions of color variations.
While the 5050 chip can be used in single color applications, we have found the 5050 LEDs to be better for the RGB and the 3528 SMD LEDs in high density better for single color applications.
SMD 3528 LED Strip light
They are called SMD3528 because the dimension of the chip is 3.5mm * 2.8mm. These LED chips (one LED per chip) are bright but not as bright as the 5050 side by side. However, when used in higher quantity can be brighter then a comparible strip of 5050s.
These lights are great for TV backlighting, color splashing walls, accent lighting for crown molding and pictures, under tables and cabinets, bars, etc.
3528 LEDs can be most cost effective, but will not be as bright when compared individually to a 5050 chip, but when there are 600 of them on a reel, they can be brighter than a 5050 strip.
Pay attention to how many LEDs there are per foot or meter. When searching for a bright LED strip light, make sure you compare apples to apples, as not all LED strips are made in the same way.
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