What are Pixel LEDs?

Traditional LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) accept power and output light. Typically, these are packaged in groups of three coloured LED emitters (Red, Green and Blue). By varying the perceived brightness of these coloured emitters by dimming them, it’s possible to change the LED’s colour mixing and light output.


Pixel LEDs (or ICs as they’re often referred to) regulate their brightness based on a data feed. Provide power and a data signal, and you can change the colour without having to use individual dimmers on a per-LED basis.


Populating a flexible PCB with this type of LED provides the end-user with the ability to control every single pixel LED on the strip individually to create more creative visual effects than simply dimming all LEDs on the strip at once.

 

Pixel Strip vs Pixel Dots

Pixel Strip (or Pixel Tape as it’s sometimes called) is a flexible circuit board that’s populated with multi-coloured, addressable surface mounted (SMD) light-emitting diodes (LEDs). The flexible circuit board usually has an adhesive backing, which aids with quick and easy installation.


Pixel Dots are a cluster of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) arranged to form a fixture; in the case of the DOTs, all LEDs within the body of the dot are controlled as one. Multiple dots are used per chain.


Pixel Strip and Dots each have their own unique advantages. Often the choice comes down to aesthetic requirements, environment, and space availability.

Advantages of using Pixel Strip:

Advantages of using Dots:

  • Steady and consistent light
  • Lightweight
  • Takes up less physical space than dots
  • Easy to make unobtrusive beneath a diffuser
  • Good for temporary installations on a small budget
  • Higher IP rating than pixel strip
  • More visual appeal as a conspicuous feature
  • Greater light output
  • Robust construction: hard-wearing and longer-lasting
  • No extrusions required or heat management issues
  • Can be installed into virtually any conceivable shape
  • Wide variety of designs to choose from


Working with non-ENTTEC Pixels

If you choose to use non-ENTTEC Pixel Strip, please ensure that our compatible protocols list contains the Pixel ICs protocol.


Why Choose ENTTEC Strip

ENTTEC strips are designed to surpass industry benchmarks, not merely conform. We make it our mission to use better substrates and thicker copper than other pixel strips on the market. Manufactured to the highest standards using our PCB designs, our strips are then quality checked and tested by our team of engineers to ensure optimal compatibility with our popular range of pixel controllers.


Thicker copper tracks offer more durability, better heat dissipation and improved current flow, vital to a long-life installation grade pixel strip. Heat dissipation, in particular, is a critical safety issue when it comes to high-density pixel strips, so we pay serious attention to the amount of copper we use on our strips.


Inferior PCBs commonly have a copper thickness of around one ounce per square foot.

ENTTEC Pixel Strip

OUNCES OF COPPER (PER SQUARE FOOT)

8PL30

3

8PL60

3

8PX60

3

8PL60-12

2


5V vs 12V Strip

It’s essential to look at your wider installation before making this decision. Remember that the Pixel Strip and the Power Supply must be the same Voltage, and the Pixel Driver must support that Voltage range.


5V Pixel Strip is more susceptible to Voltage Drop’s effect than 12V Pixel Strip. This means that you can run more 12V Pixel Strip without the risk of a dip in performance furthest aware from the Power Supply.


Previously 12V Pixel Strip was grouped by 3 Pixels; however, since the release of ENTTEC’s 8PX60-12-B 12V RGB individually controlled Pixel Strip the demand for 12V strips has increased considerably.


If you want RGB Pixel Strip, then the 8PX60-12-B is a fantastic solution. If you require something other than RGB, then a 5V strip is the only solution since the 12V individually controlled Pixel Strip technology hasn’t expanded into RGBW (or different configuration) Pixel Strip.


If you are after a bright strip, the grouped 12V Pixel Strip provides the most lumens per meter. The 5V Pixel Strip remains the brightest individually controlled LED Pixels.


RGB vs RGBW Strip

This depends on the application.


RGB Pixel strip uses a 3-in-1 colour (red, green and blue) LED IC. By having the three colours, red, green, and blue, the end-user can obtain a nearly white colour at full brightness. RGB pixel strip also uses three channels per led, which means fewer DMX universes are needed for control.


RGBW Pixel strip has a 4-in-1 colour (red, green, blue and white) LED IC. Although RGB can produce a colour close to white, the dedicated white LED of the RGBW pixel strip provides a much purer white tone. RGBW strip uses four channels per LED, which requires a higher number of DMX Universes for control.


Controlling different types of Pixel Strip

Most pixel types feature three terminals to drive them:

  1. VCC
  2. 0V
  3. DATA (DI)

However, with advancements in technology, manufacturers have developed chips that require four terminals. An example of tape that uses this technology is ENTTEC’s 8PX60-12-B pixel strip. This is based on the |WorldSemi WS2815 IC with a standard data line plus a backup data line to allow the data to still carry on down the strip if a pixel gets damaged or removed. These four terminals are:

  1. VCC
  2. DATA (DI)
  3. BACKUP DATA (BI)
  4. 0V

In the WS2815 protocol, it is possible to connect just VCC, GND, and DATA to your 3-terminal pixel driver. Better yet, you could splice the data output from the pixel controller to connect to both the Data and Backup Data terminals from your driver.


Another variation of 4 terminal pixels is for clocked protocols (i.e. APA-102). These separate the pixel data and clock data (usually embedded in the single data line). In these pixels, the terminals are as follows:

  1. VCC
  2. DATA (DI)
  3. CLOCK (CLK)
  4. 0V

In this system, the pixel receives data via the data line and then receives information via the clock line, which tells the pixel when to check for data. This helps overcome issues in very long runs of pixel strip, where the pixels might be slightly out of sync from start to end of the run and allows faster refresh rates (2 data lines = twice the bandwidth). If the Clock line is not connected, and if it is not receiving appropriate Clock information, the pixel will not be able to respond to the data it receives.


It is essential to remember that the data line and clock line do not carry the same information. You cannot splice the data line out from a 3-terminal controller to connect to the Data and Clock terminals. The pixels will not respond correctly if this is done. Using a Data + Clock protocol requires a controller that supports clock data.

Can the PWM Rate be adjusted

The short answer is no.


The PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) refresh rate for all pixel ICs is part of the chip’s design and, therefore, cannot be altered (it’s part of each LED chip design). 


If intending to film your LED pixel strip or install it in a TV studio, it’s worth looking at specifying an IC with a high PWM rate to reduce the chance of flicker on camera. Pixel ICs come in varieties that typically vary from 400Hz to 1200Hz.


A list of pixel ICs compatible with ENTTEC products can be found here