What Is the Difference Between SMART LED Strips and Regular RGB Strips


Modern lighting technologies have left far behind incandescent lamps, whose effectiveness is minimal compared to LEDs. The market of LED products is growing at an extremely fast rate, and almost every day new products appear. When users search for a product they need, they often find descriptions containing phrases "SMART strips" or "RGB strips". You need to know that despite a formal resemblance between these two products, they have different characteristics.

The main difference between SMART strips and regular RGB LED strips is quite simple: all SMART strips are equipped with digital drivers (microchips). These drivers receive data through a digital bus and individually control one or several LEDs independently (which is not possible for regular RGB strips).

RGB strips SMART strips

Controlling Regular RGB LED Strips

You can control regular RGB strips with a simple LED dimmer. The simplest of these controllers have three dimmable channels: R (red), G (green) and B (blue) channels of the LED strip. This function is essential if you want to ensure adjusting the brightness of emitted colors.

RGB controller and connection diagram

Controlling SMART RGB LED Strips

You will need to use a digital LED controller to control SMART LED strips.

You may need SMART strips if you are willing to create interior decorations. Moreover, information boards and video screens both inside and outside buildings also use them. In general, there are several types of digital LED controllers to control these strips, that is, standalone (offline), slave (online), music-and-lights and programmable (remote control).

SMART controller Dimmer

Digital LED controllers allow you to adjust each pixel individually, without affecting the rest of the pixels. Control programs can be either stored offline (i.e., on an SD card) or online, that is transmitted via Ethernet protocol. To create such programs we use LedEdit and LedBuild applications.

Digital Controller Connection

Digital controllers are not equipped with dimmable channels. Instead, they have a digital IC bus: DATA (DAT) for WS2811/WS2812B strips, and also Clock (CLK) for WS2801. These digital buses are used to transmit information for every LED of a SMART strip. As a result, digital LED controllers read information from the SD card and send it through the bus to the SMART strip.

SMART controller connection diagram

SMART strips are equipped with LED IC drivers (microchips) for controlling LEDs. At present, quite a few SMART strip models exist, e.g., WS2801, WS2811, WS2812B.

A new WS2813 SMART strip has recently entered the market. It is an updated WS2812B strip with double data transfer line. Due to this very nifty feature, all remaining LEDs will continue working if one of LEDs goes out of order. WS2813 strips can be controlled with the same digital controllers as WS2811 and WS2812B. WS2813 connection diagram and its difference from the WS2812B strip are shown below:

SMART strips connection Differences between WS2812B and WS2813