What is the difference between COB LED and SMD LED?

Light Emitting Diodes, commonly known as LEDs, are an artificial light source which is great for indoor growing. Published in 2019, “An Update on Plant Photobiology and Implications for Cannabis Production” explored the different electrical lighting systems used in cannabis production, listing LED as a light source with abundant advantages(1). Not to brag but its pride lies in its long lifespan and adjustable light intensity and quality necessary for indoor growing.


Over the years, more types of LEDs emerge in the market. The focus of this article is COB (chip on board) and SMD (surface mounted device) LED lights. Both are suitable for indoor plantation through different aspects. COB can generate more light with lesser energy while SMD is known for its ability to change colors.


Why do these matter in cannabis cultivation and production? Let us find out.

What are COB LED lights?

COB (chip on board) LED lights, based on its name, are sets of multiple small LED chips bonded into a single board(2). These interconnected chips function together to produce a well-distributed yet focused light for your Cannabis plants.


Small but terrible.That is how we can sum up the beauty of COB LED lights as grow lights. There are multiple advantages we can get from utilizing these lights. For one, COB has more chips or diodes. Though they are physically smaller than the usual LEDs, these diodes produce a higher amount of light with such a small amount of energy. Their small size can also be considered as an asset as they would consume smaller space in the greenhouse or wherever you choose to grow your plants indoors. Space saver and efficient? Sign me up!


In addition, COB LED lights emit minimal heat as their components already control the heat generation and distribution inside the device. There is no need to buy external cooling systems to avoid overheating. These lights also provide a uniform amount of light throughout the coverage with no need to check whether one side receives more light than the other. COB got your back!


Let us look at the other side of the coin. What are the disadvantages of using these lights? One of the major cons of COB LED lights is that it only comes with a single color. These lights are designed to emit white light. They cannot provide your plants with intense red, blue, or green colored lights. As compared to other LEDs, COB has a problem with “spreading.” This can be solved by strategizing spacing and all that, nonetheless, there may be plants or spots away from the coverage which could not be reached by the light emitted by the COB.

What is a SMD LED?

Each surface mounted LED contains three diodes: red, green, and blue. These lights then offer a variety of colors and can generate any color output you can think of. As they are probably the most common type of LEDs, they come in various shapes and sizes. They can be installed and used as strip lights or multi-colored bulbs(3). Compared to its precedent LED type which is the DIP, SMDs are more efficient in producing lumens as they manufacture around 50-100 lumens per watt(4). This means it can be a good source of bright light for your Cannabis plants with little energy consumption.


SMD LED main selling point is that it produces red, blue, and green lights with the help of the diodes. With these lights, the growers can customize and tinker a little with the colors to address the needs of their plants. Imagine, the color spectrums can attempt to mimic the sunlight, just like the plants are grown outside, and at the same time, be specialized depending on the phase and growth we are trying to achieve. SMDs are also small like COB, making them suitable for small indoor rooms. For a fact, they are actually smaller and thus, can address the “spreading” problem COB has. The SMDs can be put close together and avoid skipping a spot. Another similarity with COB, they also emit less heat.


For the disadvantages of this type, they cannot be used in huge commercial productions yet as they cannot accommodate higher voltages. Cannabis productions done in bigger greenhouses and thus requiring higher power consumptions is a no-go for SMDs. Let us hope that in the near future, light manufacturers would be able to produce SMD LEDs for larger scales. Another downside for this type is that its costs for maintenance are higher compared to other grow lights. They may be common but their costs are no joke.

In Conclusion: Which is better, COB LED or SMD LED?

LED lights, in general, are one of the best choices when it comes to indoor growing. They use less energy to produce a high amount of light, radiate less heat compared to other types of lights, and have relatively longer lifespans(5). As high light intensity results in healthier and more flourished plants, it is a good thing that LED lights allow you to put the lights closer to the plants. Hanging or situating your lights closer to the plants enables the plants to be exposed better without acquiring side effects such as scorched or dried leaves. Less heat from the lights also leads to less water and nutrient requirements. You can save up money and time from the reduced water and feeding schedules.

These being said, pitting LED against another LED seems counterintuitive as both of them are products of the same technology with tiny bit differences in qualities here and there to cater to different needs.The main difference between COB LED lights and SMD LED is the color variance. COB can only emit white light as compared to the SMD which has three diodes of the primary colors. SMD can give you various light spectrums COB cannot. Another thing to take note is that, though both generate good amounts of light with less energy consumed, COB produces more lumens than SMD. This means that if you are looking for brighter and more intense light, COB is the better choice in this round.

As you can see, choosing between the two types is tough. Both have charms that the other does not. One provides you with brighter light which equates to more yields while the other allows you to tune light spectrums according to the plants’ specialized lighting needs. In the end, it is truly up to the grower which suits his plans and plants more, the COB LED or the SMD LED?