Types of LED Strips

There are two large category of LEDs: analog and digital.

The analog ones are often referred to as dumb LED strips. All LEDs on these strips are always the same color.

Examples of analog LED strips (top is single color, bottom is multi-color/RGB):

Analog LED strips - Single color (top), Multicolor (bottom)

The digital ones are often referred to as smart LED strips or individually addressable LED strips, because you can control individual LEDs (or groups of them) to have different color.

Examples of digital LED strips:

Digital LED strip - WS2812 (top) and WS2801 (bottom)

There are close to a dozen different models of these LED strips out there. Sometimes it could be very confusing to understand the difference. So I put together a table to help you distinguish the differences.

 

Model

Voltage Pins Properties Learn More Datasheets
WS2801 5V 4 - An early model of individually addressable LEDs. Has a separate channel for clock. WorldSemi
WS2811 12V 3

- Inexpensive and one of the most prevalent.

- Control group of 3 LEDs.

- Most cheap WiFi LED strips on Amazon uses this model.

WS2812 5V 3

- Individually addressable.

- 5V means your controller and the LED strip can share same power source.

- Also very prevalent. Perhaps the most popular individually addressable LED strip.

Tweaking4All
WS2812B 5V 3

- Intelligent reverse connect protection.

- Drop-in replacement for WS2812.

WS2813 5V 4

- Breakpoint transmission (i.e. a dead pixel does not stop data from getting passed forward.)

- Resistors and capacitors inside of IC

LIT Controller Normand, WorldSemi
WS2815 12V 4 - Breakpoint transmission The Hook Up
APA102 5V 3

- Improvement over WS2812: higher frequency, flicker-free

Tim's Blog

Shiji
SK6812 5V 3

- Upgrade of WS2812B, shares the same data interface and color order, and thus can be used as a drop-in replacement.

- Voltage-independent color and brightness over a wide voltage range. This means that the color of the LEDs should not be affected by voltage drop.

SZLed
SK9822 5V 4

- Drop-in replacement for APA102 with lower frequency.

- Extra clock pin to allow for better synchronization.

- Programmable current source.

Tim's Blog OPSCO
CS2803 - Cheaper version of WS2813 with resistor outside of IC