Active-matrix technology is used in high-quality flat-panel displays, such as laptop screens and thin computer monitors. The images on active matrix screens are created by laying diodes, or small semiconductors, over a grid of ultra-small wires. When a current passes through the diodes, they light up in different colors, depending on the strength of the current. Thousands of these diodes next to each other form an image on the screen.

To keep the diodes in an on or off state, active-matrix displays use transistors, which are not found in the lower-quality passive-matrix displays. The transistors help make the active-matrix displays brighter and give them more contrast than passive-matrix displays.

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Definition from the PC Glossary