Up until recently, LCDs just couldn't compete with plasmas when it came to showing blacks or colours. They weren't just bad, either: they sucked, at least in comparison to plasma. But then came LED backlighting, and things changed.
Backlighting is where an LCD stores all its mojo. It controls the brightness, the contrast, and the overall performance of a display. Not all LED backlighting is created equal though. Fortunately, there's this great post explaining the intricacies of the different LED backlight types.
According to Wikipedia, the first commercial LCD TV with LED backlighting was the Sony Qualia 005 back in 2004. It used RBG LED backlighting, although it lacked the more recent ability to dim different sections of the screen that many current LED backlit TVs do. This means that these televisions are able to show blacks as true blacks, rather than a dull grey colour, thanks to the ability to turn off the backlight altogether.
Yet despite LED backlit TVs launching five years ago, it's only in the past 18 months that the market has really started to offer LED TVs. Now, almost all TV manufacturers are promoting LED as the next big thing in TV technology. And until OLED becomes big enough and affordable enough, it probably is...
History of TV is Giz AU’s month-long look back at the development of the world-changing medium and its influence on our daily lives.