Comparison And Differences Between LED Technologies: DIP vs. SMD vs. COB vs. MCOB

Choosing an LED technology is like choosing the right winter coat to wear: there are different models that provide more or less features depending on what you might need. Once you decide the features you want from your LED, you can easily choose the package type accordingly. The “package type” refers to the way an LED’s semiconductor die–similar to the filament in an incandescent–is ­packaged inside LED devices for different applications. The LED package can be very basic, like with the DIP LEDs, or it can be very versatile to handle lots of different needs, such as with the SMD package. Modern LED technology as we know it was developed in 1962 by Nick Holonyak with his invention of the DIP LED, and the LED industry has been innovating it ever since. The following article is meant to be a brief overview of the major types of LED package technology that are commercially available today.

DIP LED Diagram and anatomy

Dual In-Line Package LED technology has been around for more than 50 years, and is likely what you think of when you picture an LED. Though it is old, DIP LEDs are far from outdated as they are still used extensively today for large signs and displays.  The widespread use of DIP LEDs came about due to their long life-span and intense brightness. DIP LEDs are highly recognizable by their “pill” or “bullet” shaped design (≤5mm wide), and the long contacts that extend from the bottom of the LED which can be easily soldered or inserted into a bread board. The LED’s plastic and epoxy casing actually serves as a lens that can focus the light coming from the diode. The shape of the outer casing also includes a flat edge on one side that always indicates the cathode side of DIP LEDs.


These lights, when used for residential or home use, are typically found in electronics as indicator lights because of their low cost, high brightness, and ease of install. DIP Diodes can be bought in bulk by electronics manufacturers to fulfill many purposes; and because of their plug-and-play nature, can be easily soldered to any kind of circuit board. This gives electronic devices the ability to send information to the user without the need for an actual display on the device.


These LEDs will typically produce between 3 and 4 lumens per LED. They typically run at between 5v to 24v, with 12v being the most common voltage. They individually pull between 0.05 and 0.08 watts. This generates between 35 and 80 lumens per watt, depending on the actual LED.

SMD LED Diagram and anatomy

The SMD chips, or "Surface Mounted Device" chips, have become very popular due to their versatility. SMD LEDs have been used to create everything from light bulbs to strip lights, and even missed call indicators on cell phones. These chips are much smaller in comparison to the DIP technology, which tends to give them the added versatility over DIP diodes. SMD technology also supports chips with more complicated designs, such as SMD 5050 chips (depicted to the left), that have RGB capabilities on a single chip.  This is very powerful for color combinations, as opposed to the DIP technology, which can only display one color per device. The technology does not take the bullet shaped design from DIP LEDs, and is closer to that of a flat, square computer chip. It is also worth noting that SMD chips can have more than just two contacts (one anode and one cathode). SMD chips can have 2, 4 or 6 contacts, depending on the number of diodes on the chip. With the SMD design, there is an individual circuit for each diode.  For example, SMD 5050 chips have 3 diodes on the chip, which translates to 3 circuits and a total of 6 contacts.


SMD chips have been a very important development for the LED industry because of the ability to put 3 diodes on the same chip. When a chip includes a red, green, and blue diode, you have a chip that can create any color you want by adjusting the level of output from each individual diode on the chip. Because they are very bright and can change colors, these chips are used extensively for LED strip lights and light bulbs. SMD LED chips come in a wide variety of sizes, the most common of which are SMD 3528 and SMD 5050S.  SMD 3528 chips are only 3.5mm wide, and SMD 5050 chips are 5 mm wide.  SMD LEDs can also be made much smaller than the 3528 and 5050 chips. Some of these chips are made very small, to go in high end electronics such as cell phones and laptop computers as indicator lights. Any cell phone you see that has a little light that stays on after the screen turns off is powered by a small SMD LED.


SMD chips that we see in light bulbs and strip lights will typically produce between 4 to 5 lumens per diode on a chip (such as a 3528, single diode chip). These chips will typically run at either 12v or 24v, with 12v being the most common. Individually these chips can pull between 0.05w to 0.08w (single diode, 3528) up to between 0.15w to .24w (three diode, 5050). This means these chips can produce between 50 and 100 lumens per watt depending on the particular chip.

COB diagram and anatomy

The most recent LED development has been "Chip On Board" or COB technology. COB and SMD can be similar because like SMD, COB chips have multiple diodes on the same "wafer" or chip. However, this is where the similarities end. In fact, on every COB chip there are multiple diodes; typically 9 or more. The other big difference between COB and SMD technology lies in the fact that while SMD requires a circuit for every diode included on the chip, COB devices only have 1 circuit and 2 contacts for the entire chip regardless of the number of diodes. This single circuit design, regardless of the number of diodes on the chip, leads to simplicity for the rest of any COB LED device. Perhaps even more important than the simplicity aspect, COB also leads to improved lumen-per-watt ratios in comparison to other LED technologies such as DIP and SMD. Unfortunately, the big draw back from the single circuit design of COB chips stems from the fact that multiple channels are necessary to adjust individual levels of light output to create color changing effects. What this basically means is that COB technology, while very powerful and efficient in single-color applications, cannot be used to create color changing bulbs or lights.


Before COB technology, LED spot lights and flood lights were historically considered "non-standard lamps" because they required multiple LED sources to produce a high lumen output. Since the advent of COB chips in the LED arena, a large lumen count can be produced from a single source using a COB chip. This was never possible before COB, but has been a revolution for people who want to lower their energy bill but also need a standard lamp. Besides spot lights and floodlights, COB chips have been put into all kinds of bulbs and used for a number of other applications as well. In fact, COB technology is used for any small device with a flash such as a Smartphone or camera. The principle is that COB chips produces a large amount of lumens for very little energy, which is very important for any device that runs on a battery. Many Smartphones have a small 2x2 or 3x3 COB matrix to produce their camera flash. Point-and-shoot cameras similarly support a small COB chip that will use little energy and produce a large amount of light.


COB chips vary widely in their applications and thus different chips will require different wattage, voltage, and will produce vastly different lumen counts. However, it can be said of COB chips that the ratio of lumens per watt is very high, typically 80 lumens per watt minimum to well over 1oo lumen per watt.

MCOB diagram and anatomy

Since the creation of COB chips, a variant has come along called MCOB or "Multiple Chip On Board". MCOB devices are very similar to COB chips in their application and are more or less just multiple COB chips together in series. MCOB devices differ from COB because they are better for low wattage situations. They also do not fulfill the standard lamp requirement for spot light and floodlights, as mentioned earlier in the COB section of this post. While MCOB devices do not meet the requirements to become a standard lamp, they produce a lot of light and are great for low wattage situations like A19 bulbs. In fact, A19 bulbs are currently the most common use of MCOB technology. If you buy an LED A19 bulb in the near future, it will likely be an MCOB bulb.


MCOB is a very new technology at this point that not many manufacturers are producing, but it will likely catch on for much more than just A19 bulbs. There are many applications for a high lumen count that MCOB can fulfill, and likely innovators will use the technology to create new products that the market has never seen before. The world of LED lighting is exciting when we see that it is changing and evolving right before our eyes. Soon we may have yet another technology that is a contender in the LED market!


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  • bruno

    I have read your post and find it very interesting

    how ever i do have some questions i wish you can answer

    What is the difference between COB and MCOB chips ?

    if i wear to buy a COB system and a MCOB system how can I tell the difference between them ?

    if you could please elaborate on this I would appreciate it


    • Hello Bruno!

      Glad to see you're interested in different types of new LED technology!

      It should be very obvious whether a device is either COB or MCOB. If it is a COB device it will have only one circular light source in the middle of the device. On the other hand, an MCOB device will have multiple circular light sources and is actually multiple COB chips that are connected in series around the device.

      If you look at the pictures in the article again of the COB chip and the MCOB device, you can see that the MCOB device has what appears to be multiple COB chips on one single device.

      Hope this helps!
    • MCOB is not widely used yet as it is a new technology and there is not standard for this yet in LED industry. suggest you take COB product.
  • I see your post when I as looking for the difference between COB and MOCB, thank you, it is a very good article
  • Christine Mok
    Christine Mok
    Very useful for the detailed description in my learning curve about LEDs. Thank you John.
  • Michael
    I want to find out how much light to expect from a 100W RGB COB fitting. Google led me here.

    Your statement that "COB technology, while very powerful and efficient in single-color applications, cannot be used to create color changing bulbs or lights" is incorrect. RGB COB lights are now available. For example:

    I know that white COB lights produce at least 80 lumen/watt. I have not (yet) been able to find a figure for RGB COB technology.
    • I could be wrong, but in my understanding from the research I have done on the subject, "COB RGB" is not a true COB technology. When you see COB RGB bulbs or spot lights it's really easier to think of it as a really big SMD chip rather than a COB chip. Manufactures often refer to there high wattage single chip RGB devices as a "COB" device because it is easier for consumers to understand how it functions in that way rather than explaining a different type of technology. We also offer a "COB RGB" device ( but we don't brand it as a COB device because that is not really the proper way to identify the device.

      To your point though, a COB device is typically considered a single chip that has a large array of diodes that are powered by just two contacts for the entire chip. So the RGB COB can be a sort of quasi COB chip depending on how the chip is fabricated. If the RGB COB chip has just 4 contacts than I'd be happy to call it a quasi-COB chip or a semi-COB chip, but not all RGB devices you see are fabricated this way and have 6 or more contacts.

      Also, regarding your question on the lumen output for RGB devices, this is a hard question to answer. The way that lumen output is measured makes it very hard to find an accurate measurement for RGB devices because to make white light you simply turn on red, green and blue to produce what we see as white. However, the devices that measure lumen output have a hard time because they see the 3 different wavelengths. It's really not a very good answer but most of the time you just have to kind of eyeball the lumen output for RGB devices when it comes to measuring white output(as far as I know). The typical rule of thumb we use is about ~55 lumen/watt for RGB devices.
  • Bruno Fialho
    Bruno Fialho
    Hy John. Your article is very interesting. Congrat. Tell me one thing. I'm gonna buy some led tube T8. I wonder to buy SMD, COB or MCOB. I have suplier for all of them... They told me that SMD can reach 110lm/W, COB can reach 85lm/W and MCOB can reach 130lm/W. I thought that COB coud get more lm/W that SMD but i was wrong... What do you think? The MCOB and the COB are the same price but the SMD is half the price of the others...
    • Bruno,

      I apologize for getting back to you late, I was on vacation much of last week. I would say that they are likely not lying to you, and that it is probably OK to trust the specs they are giving you. I would agree with you however, that does seem like a very high lm/W ratio for an SMD chip. With that being said, LED technology is constantly improving and maybe their engineers have figured out a way to squeeze more lm/W out of SMD chips than other manufactures are producing. Unfortunately, past that I really can't give you much more advice without having actually handled their product or have talked with their engineers.

      Another bit of advice I can give you is that if you are making a very large order ($10,000+) most manufactures will be happy to send you a few samples. I don't know if you're going to be making an order that large, but you might be able to ask them to send you one of each tube to compare and see what is best for you in your specific situation.
  • ali
    Dear john
    let me appreciate your clear and usefull article , my question is: " is there any difference between SMD and COB in kind of generated light?
    when i see the COB light i fill more natural light than SMD light. is it related to the technologies or not?
    • Ali,
      The color between SMD and COB should be essentially the same, although the close proximity of diodes in COB technology allows them to be much brighter. All things considered, the brightness and diffusion of your light should look better with COB, but the actual color will be the same as the color from a comparable SMD source.
  • Jose Pineda
    Jose Pineda
    I am converting the stop lamps in my car from incandescent to led using led strips. I would like to use a single strip for both functions of a stop lamp, i.e. similar to a brake incandescent bulb in which the same bulb performs both functions. My question is: Is this posible with led technology?
    • Jose, you can definitely use our strips to replace the lights in your car. They run on 12V DC, so the power from your cars battery should be just fine! Simply remove your bulbs and install your strips, connecting the +/- wire from your strips to a +/- terminal in the cars wiring. Thanks for the question!

    • As a disclaimer, we neither sell nor manufacture individual LEDs. It is my understanding that in general, SMDs are used for indoor displays and DIPs are used for outdoor displays. But there are outdoor SMD displays as well. Look at recommended ambient temperatures given from the chip manufacturers. If you can find an SMD that will fit your temperature needs and is rated for outdoor use, then it's probably the way to go.
  • Iggy
    I'm not sold on LED's yet, just so you know. But, does any LED technology have better or longer reliability or life-span than another? I ask because I've seen the manufacturer's "improvements" have been to DRAMATICALLY kill the LED life-span for future profits. For example, LED light bulbs started out with up to 100,000-hr life-spans & now most LED's are touting a VERY PITIFUL 10,000-hrs. Thus, since 1996, CFL's are still at the top of my list, as they work flawlessly in enclosed fixtures. Yeah, there might be UP TO a 10-watt savings per bulb with LED's, but that's next to nothing & I'm not the typical idiot that has a dozen ABSURDLY STUPID recessed lights "lighting" a single room. I have 25 total bulbs, which includes all interior & exterior lights. Being a bit smarter with my CFL wattage, I could knock that 25 down to 18-20 while keeping the same light levels & still losing easily 100-watts. However, I am considering LED's for a few spots on the car. Any insights on SMD, CANBUS OR COB being the best or longest lasting in that setting?
    • The older lifespans on LED bulbs were incorrect, and even now they are just estimates. The life listed on the bulbs was for the LEDs inside the bulb and not the life of the bulb overall. The newer, lower numbers are a more accurate estimate of how long the bulbs will last. CFLs are an OK alternative for lots of people, as long as they can accept the nontraditional form factor, higher energy consumption, shorter life span and the mercury content. We do sell some LED bulbs, but HitLights specializes in LED strip lights. So, I probably won't be much help on recommendations for car lighting unless you're looking to install strip lights in your vehicle.
      • Iggy
        Thank you very much. Unfortunately, my CFL life-spans have always been under-rated at 10,000-hrs. & I've begun to get 20,000-hr CFL's. At 1/10th of the price of comparable LED's & LED's don't have the throw, so they really don't compare to CFL's...lumens matter much more than wattage. And, a 2nd or 3rd fixture & LED bulbs with the cost of wiring it all is no deal to beefy CFL's that flood the entire room. I guess it'll be yet another decade or 2 until LED's are the final answer & I won't be waiting or caring by then.
        • I'm glad you've found a solution that works for you. Feel free to drop us a line if you ever need any help with LED strip lights.
  • Tuan - VN
    Tuan - VN
    I want to know different between round cob and squre cob
    • :) They're shaped differently. As far as I'm aware, the only real difference is how the chips are laid out on the board.
      • Old schools new school
        Old schools new school
        Your response just made my day! Very tactfully done stated.

        I love the LED strips, BTW.
        I have installed a centrally- located 5v/12v dc power supply and distributed low voltage wiring through my home. After installing individual "master" switches for each room, and for particular areas of rooms, as well as PIR sensors, dimmers, LDRs, a couple small, inexpensive 10 watt solar cells and a motorcycle battery, I have light where I need it when I need it i.e., light follows occupants as they move and use various areas of the home - per day/night/shade of natural light.
        This also provides for charging devices, and powering many bluetooth and RFID modulesfor audio/video, locks and security.

        This all began with a simple purchase of 5 meters of your LED strip.
        I haven't touched a light switch or even seen a light bulb or wall wart charger in a couple years, and my electric bill has decreased easily by 30%.

        I should add that, in my experience, LEDS very much DO have the "throw" of CFLs. They do not however, share such characteristics as being dim when first switched on, humming, or overheating and burning a house down.
        As well as the mercury you mentioned..

        LEDS: just nice, bright, uniform, true light at my bed side table, the sink, my patio, around the yard and down the driveway, the ladies love it for work in the mirrors too. You do not get any of that with CFLs.
  • Nick
    Hi John my is nick. Thanks for a very educated information. I would like to know that the listed life span of LED is counted as continuously used or intermittently used? If a 10,000 hours life span, it would die in about 27 months for 12 hours of usage per day. Thanks and Merry Christmas to you.
    • Rated lifespans are for total time used. It doesn't make much of a difference if the lights are used continuously or not.
  • Joseph Green
    Joseph Green
    I'm wondering if cob technology is used in xml t6 lights or if that is different technology? I have a cob light, it's a long yellow strip and I also have several xml t6 and xml2 lights that are very small squares. I ponder because I just came upon a flashlight for sale that says it's an xml with cob technology but it gave no type of xml such as t6 or 2 so i thought it to be contradictory as I have a cob light that says nothing about xml anything, but I'm also stupid when it comes to new technologies lol.

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