LED Strips, Cheaper vs. Cooler

LED strips are growing in popularity and ease of use. I’ve been playing around with them lately (with my Arduino), and, for the uninitiated, here’s an overview of what’s available, and how much it costs.

The strips are flexible ribbons of PCB material, with LEDs periodically fixed on them. They come in two basic varieties: addressable and non-addressable. With an addressable strip, you can control each individual light independently, but with a non-addressable strip you control the whole strip together.

Addressable Strips
These are the cool ones. You can individually control each pixel, and can program some cool effects. I haven’t seen many projects using these, though. There are two different versions that I know of: LPD8806 & HL1606. Both use RGB LEDs, which let you display a variety of colors.

Addressable Strips: LPD8806
These are awesome. They have built-in pulse-width modulation (PWM), which gives you access to more colors than are differentiatable by the human eye (7-bits for each Red/Green/Blue). These are the priciest at $30 per meter (if you buy 5 meters). You can pick some up at adafruit. In the video, you can see that there is a gradual transition between the colors.

Addressable Strips: HL1606
These are not as cool as the LPD8806, because they don’t have built-in PWM. You can do some manual (CPU-intensive) hacking to get it to work, but without that you are limited to 1 bit for each channel (so 8 colors total). The big win here is that you can get it cheaper (around $20 per meter, on ebay). In this video, you can see that there’s a much rougher transition between colors, because you don’t have as many to play with.

I’d imagine these are good for car effects, under-cabinet lighting, and similar projects. These are two basic types that I know of: RGB and single-color. You can get some RGB ones at adafruit ($25 per meter). I haven’t picked up any single-color ones, but it looks to be around $5 per meter.

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Patrick Schless

I'm a (mostly) ruby/rails developer, living in Chicago. I work at Braintree, and I have lots of side-projects.

9 thoughts on “LED Strips, Cheaper vs. Cooler”

  1. greetings
    How do I order the tapes LEDs and their accessories such as transformer device commands to change color. Liked to know all products have led to lamps and accessories and prices. thanks
    Yours sincerely
    Jaime Lourador
    Note – if possible send catalogs or by email to: Jaime Lourador Av D João Garcia Bacelar 2 º C 3060-701 3837 Queixada fox Torch

  2. I thought I’d better chime in on this as I recently read the post by “adafruit.cc” and took the chance myself based on that post. I ordered 15 meters of the same 5V RGB LED strip that you can find on Adafruit.com and got them for something like $13 per meter. I was a little concerned about the process since I’d never ordered from China before or used Western Union but it all went smoothly. Just tested them a minute ago and they work perfectly. This is not an add. Just wanted to say thanks and give others a little confidence in buying from the same place. Yay! Thanks.
    Here’s where they have them listed: http://gree-leds.com/productshow.asp?ArticleID=TS7X2X7VTP

  3. I’m no longer certain where you’re getting your information, but good topic.
    I must spend some time studying more or figuring
    out more. Thanks for excellent information I was in search of this information for my mission.

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