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What’s The Difference Between RGB and RGBW LED Lights?

Views: 0     Author: Anny Tang, Jessica Liu     Publish Time: 2021-04-16      Origin: https://www.suntechleds.com

1. What is RGB?

2. What is RGBW?

3. RGB vs. RGBW

4. Frequently Asked Question

In fact, from the name, we can also see that the biggest difference between RGB and RGBW is that RGBW has an additional "W". What does "W" mean? It's actually "white", which allows RGBW LED lights to provide a richer color palette, more precise performance, and better full-spectrum lighting than RGB lights. Table 1 briefly explains the difference between RGB and RGBW.

Table 1. Difference between RGB and RGBW LED Strips-SuntechLED


RGB LED Lights



3-in-1 LED chip

4-in-1 LED chip




Full Spectrum




General functional lighting

Precise functional lighting










The most critical factor in deciding whether it is RGB or RGBW is the LED chip. Figure 1 shows the key difference between the RGB aand RGBW LED.


Figure 1. Difference between  LED chips of RGB and RGBW

RGB VS RGBW has always been a hot topic for many people. They have been appeared for various lighting applications for many years and also had an impact on lighting design. When you need to purchase a colorful LED strip and send an inquiry to the LED strip supplier, you may be confused about RGB and RGBW, so what's the difference between RGB and RGBW?  Now, this article will help us to see the difference between RGB and RGBW in detail.

What is RGB?

RGB is based on multiple combinations of three optical primary colors, Red, Green, and Blue, and is designed from the principle of color light emission. To put it simply, it can be regarded as three lights of red, green, and blue. When their lights are superimposed on each other, the colors are mixed, and the mixed brightness is equal to the sum of the two lights. The higher the mixing degree, the higher the brightness, which is additive mixing.  

RGB LED strip

Figure 2. DC24V RGB LED strip

What is RGBW?

RGB appeared earlier than RGBW and has a long history of development, which has brought more possibilities for achieving more LED lighting effects. In principle, pure white can be obtained by mixing the three primary colors of red, green and blue at a ratio of 1:1:1. But in fact, this kind of mixing is more complicated, and the white obtained is not up to the desired effect. You may have seen in advertisements or heard from marketers that RGB LEDs can produce "full-spectrum light" through the mixture, now we can tell you that it’s not true. 

In fact, RGB color mixing can indeed produce a variety of different colors. But just using the red, green and blue wavelengths is not enough to achieve cool, changeable functional lighting. Even if the standard RGB LED strip lights up in a ratio of 1:1:1, these three colors cannot produce white light. These three primary colors can only produce other colors similar to white by causing gray fading. There are no RGB LED lights that can achieve a true "full-spectrum" effect.

With the development of the lighting industry and market demand, the requirements for color richness continue to increase. Therefore, a new and upgraded version of RGBW LED has appeared! RGBW actually adds a white light-emitting chip on the basis of the previous RGB 3 in 1 chip. Or it can be said to be RGBW adds a white sub-pixel on the basis of the original RGB three primary colors to form a RGBW four-color pixel LED. 

RGBW LED strip

Figure 3. DC24V RGBW LED strip


It is not difficult to see from the table 1 that the difference between RGB and RGBW mainly lies in four aspects: chip, CRI, function and application.

(1)RGB(3-in-1 LED chip): RGB LED lights is made up of Red, Green and Blue three primary colors.

    RGBW( 4-in-1 LED chip): RGBW LED lights is made up of Red, Green and Blue and White colors. The extra white color chip is not only added one white color but also can mix with the other 3 colors to produce more precise and vivid colors. Figure 1 clearly demonstrates this.

(2)CRI: RGBW has higher Color Rendering Index, so RGBW LED lights can reflect the original color of the object more truly. That means higher color reproduction using RGBW.


Figure 4. Difference between CRI of RGB and RGBW

(3) Full Spectrum: With the added white color, RGBW LED can display more kinds and precise colors to achieve a full-color lighting.

Full Spectrum

Figure 5. Difference between spectrum of RGB and RGBW

(4) Application: RGB LED strips are usually used for lighting projects without special requirements. RGBW can achieve more kinds of color mixing and has higher color reproduction. RGBW LED lights are suitable for complex and precise lighting scenes, like shipping mall and hotel.


Figure 6. Difference between application of RGB and RGBW

(5)Foot: There are 4 pins on the RGB LED strip and 5 pins on the RGBW LED strip, The fifth foot of RGBW exists for “W”, so it is very easy to identify which one is RGB or which one is RGBW.

Foot of RGB and RGBW

Figure 7. Difference between foot of RGB and RGBW

(6)Brightness: RGBW is based on RGB by adding white pixels W to form RGBW four-color pixels. RGBW is brighter than RGB, with better light transmission and lower power consumption.

RGB VS RGBW & Brightness

Figure 8. Difference between brightness of RGB and RGBW

(7)Price:  The RGBW LED strip has a larger application space because of the addition of a white light chip, and The manufacturing process is also more complicated, so the price of RGBW is also higher than ordinary RGB lights.

Price for RGB LED strip

Figure 9. Difference between price of RGB and RGBW

Frequently Asked Questions

(1)Which is better RGB or RGBW?

If you just want basic RGB color and don't need pure white light, then a basic RGB LED strip is better, more efficient, and more cost-effective for you. However, if you're looking for a white light option for mixing RGB lights, then RGBW is a great option for you. The RGBW LED offers different bright whites and it also has a special RGB+WW+W controller.

(2)Why do you need an extra white chip?

Although RGB can theoretically produce white light, in fact, it does not produce pure white light. But a dedicated white LED chip can provide a purer white and allows you to choose additional warm or cool white chips. The additional white chip also creates greater possibilities for color mixing with the RGB chip, presenting more and richer color changes.

(3)Can RGB make black?

RGB works with additive color mixing, it cann't produce black. Maybe you're confused by CMY, where you add colors together to get black, but those colors are used for paint, so it doesn't apply in your case.


Figure 10. RGB and CMYK

(4)Which one to choose between RGB and RGBW?

RGBW LED strip has two technical advantages:

a. The same brightness consumes lower power consumption, the same power consumption can achieve greater brightness.

b. The same power consumption can achieve greater brightness.

If you only need basic RGB colors and do not pursue further white adjustments, standard RGB LED strips are usually more cost-effective. However, if you really need white for some project lighting, then RGBW is a better choice, but you will get more powerful application functions.

(5)How do I operate the addressable RGB/RGBW LED light strips?

Both have to change the color through the DMX512 protocol controller. The RGB line lamp achieves a colorful effect through three-color mixing, and the RGB mixing becomes white light.

The difference is: RGBW lighting controller has five outputs, and each color control requires one output and one for the power supply. Since RGB has one chip missing, only four are needed. The functions of the controls must also be different to control the white part of the LED in RGBW.

Need more knowledge or acquire professinal inquiry about about LED light , please click here to connect Suntech Team, There are professional sales staff to provide you with product consultation, and senior engineers to provide you with technical support.

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