LED Tape comes in two primary chip sizes; 5050 and 3528. There is no secret to these numbers as they simply denote the length and width of the individual LED chips. 5050 refers to 5.0mm x 5.0mm chips while 3528 refers to 3.5mm x 2.8mm chips.
Slightly more difficult however is deciding which to choose and, unfortunately, it can be hard trying to tease some objective, impartial advice out of your retailer. Ultimately, the chip size you choose should be suited to your application, but it should also fit within your budget, so make sure you strike a decent compromise.
The chief difference between these two types of chip is their brightness. Due to their larger surface area, 5050 chips produce a lot more light than a 3528 chip. For that reasons 5050 chips generally serve better in applications that require a lot of light. An example of this may be a shop window display where the LED Tape has to compete with the light of the sun during the day in order to remain visible.
3528 chips are usually sufficient for most domestic applications, such as under cabinet lighting and so forth. However, this is not a rule of thumb. The amount of light a strip light produces is also determined by the number of LEDs per metre, so don’t forget to factor this into your decision making process as well.
The larger size of the 5050 chip also means that it consumes more power than the smaller 3528 chips. The overall power consumption of your LED Tape is important when it comes to selecting a suitable power supply, and larger power supplies generally cost more. If you find that you can save money this way by using the 3528 it may be worth doing so.
The final point of comparison is cost. Understandably, 5050 chips, with their higher light output, cost more than 3528. You may find yourself paying up to five pounds per metre more for a strip that utilizes 5050 chips and, particularly in larger setups, this could end up costing you more money. This is worth considering for anyone who is working top a tight budget.
If all else fails you can contact your retailer. Most will be happy to advise you on which chips may be more suitable for your application. Just make sure you are clear on what you are using the LED Tape for and what effect you are trying to achieve.