ARGB vs. RGB — What’s the Difference?

It’s no secret that there are many PC lighting options. RGB, ARGB, addressable LEDs, and more are claiming to be the latest and greatest.

Most of this is marketing, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t understand the difference between these lighting types before buying your next PC light or case. It can help inform your decision and provide insight into the current and future landscape.

With that in mind, we’ll be demystifying and unraveling the difference between RGB and ARGB lighting with this post.

Table of Contents

What Is RGB?

RGB is a lighting mode in which each pixel on your device can emit a different color. The light source can be an LED or small groups of LEDs.

You may have seen RGB lights referred to as “multi-color” before. This is because they can produce any color from the spectrum. In other words, if you had an RGB system that included red, green, and blue LEDs, you could combine them to create any color you desired.

A PC gaming computer has many RGB-specific lights and components for various reasons. For example, some users’ systems are themed to match their favorite games or characters. Others want more aesthetically pleasing lighting in their system cases to create a broader range of colors.

To go into a little more detail about how LED technology works in an RGB setup, let’s take a look at how RGB LEDs work.

RGB stands for Red, Green, and Blue — the primary colors used in all computer monitors and TVs. When these three colors mix, they form other colors on the spectrum. Varying red, green, and blue intensities allow an incredible amount of color potential.

There are two main ways to produce colors with LEDs. One is by mixing red, green, and blue diodes, as these are the primary additive colors. The other way is using white light through different filters. 

When using white LEDs you can either mix the diodes or use yellow and blue LEDs together to create white light. RGB LEDs come in all shapes and sizes — from single 3mm and 5mm diodes to larger 5050 and 5630 clusters that commonly adorn PC cases today. 

Why Do I Need RGB?

RGB lighting is more common than ARGB, so it’s usually necessary if you want to customize the look of your keyboard, mouse, headphones — pretty much anything that doesn’t have addressable LEDs. That’s not to say you can’t use ARGB on RGB products; however, RGB will provide you with more options.

Is There a Downside to RGB?

There is an initial cost involved with RGB. However, it’s less expensive than ARGB and the gap is closing. It’s also worth mentioning that since RGB doesn’t require as much processing power as ARGB, it runs slightly cooler and draws less power.

What Is ARGB?

Addressable RGB or ARGB in short refers to a type of lighting in which each pixel emits its own blend of Red, Green, and Blue colors. It’s also known as “true color,” “32-bit color,” or “high color.”

ARGB allows you to set the color at the pixel level, unlike RGB. This enables each pixel on your device to emit a different color or blend of colors but still add up to white. 

In other words, it’s more precise than RGB lighting from a coloring perspective, allowing you to set exactly how much red, green, and blue should go in specific locations on your light.

Another way to think about it is that ARGB lighting allows each light to emit multiple colors at once.

Why Do I Need ARGB?

ARGB lighting is necessary if you want to define specific colors at the pixel level. We typically only see ARGB used in PC and laptop displays, so if you’re looking for even more precise control over your color than RGB could offer, this is the lighting mode to go with.

Is There a Downside to ARGB?

ARGB does have some downsides compared to RGB. It requires more processing power to work, so ARGB components tend to run hotter and draw more power. There is also a higher initial cost due to the added complexity of the lighting system.

RGB vs ARGB — What’s the Difference?

The concept of “RGB” is nothing new — We’ve all seen it countless times on products ranging from televisions to our desktops. Each pixel on a screen is visible to the human eye, so it’s broken down into several subpixels. These subpixels can emit red, green, and blue light, which combine to create any color we see.

In contrast, “ARGB” or “true color” lighting has been around for quite some time as well, but it’s not as common as RGB. We’d see it mainly on laptops, where the screen doesn’t have individual LEDs for each subpixel so that lighting is simulated by backlights instead.

Is ARGB Really Better Than RGB?

No! They’re just different from one another. Which is superior depends on a few factors. For example, if you have an AMD GPU, you’ll generally need to use ARGB lighting. Otherwise, it’s not really a big deal which one you choose. 

Why Are Some Products Using RGB?

Many products are transitioning from ARGB to RGB to provide customers with better lighting options. Admittedly, RGB is a bit more versatile because of its color combinations. As the technology improves and the price of RGB lights continues to drop, it’s likely we’ll see ARGB phased out in favor of RGB.

Does RGB or ARGB Affect Performance?

Neither lighting type has any effect on performance. They’re both entirely hardware-based. If you want to get technical, ARGB requires a bit more processing power to “simulate” since there are no true-color LED subpixels of that size yet.

With that said, the difference is barely noticeable and shouldn’t affect anything if you’ve got an acceptable GPU.

What Devices Come With ARGB or RGB?

You’ll find ARGB or RGB on almost every PC, laptop, and phone. 

If you want a product that’s “RGB-ready,” it needs to have addressable LEDs. However, even if your device doesn’t have addressable LEDs, you can still use RGB cables on it.

Which Is More Expensive?

ARGB is a little bit more expensive than RGB, but the difference is not very significant. There are many other factors involved when choosing PC lighting beyond the initial cost.

Can I Plug ARGB into RGB?

Technically, you can’t plug ARGB into RGB because they have different pin headers. You shouldn’t attempt to do this, as it could damage your motherboard header and the drove strip.

A 3-pin addressable RGB LED can’t be connected directly to a 4-pin RGB Header. ARGB has three pins compared to RGB which has four pins. The link is additionally incredibly distinctive.

ARGB typically has three strings, whereas RGB has four. As an alternative, imagine a situation where your motherboard does not have an ARGB header, but you still need to use ARGB adornments on it.

That problem can be solved. An ARGB regulator that is not part of your system can be purchased separately. Without having to replace your motherboard, you can still enjoy the benefits of having more ARGB.


Are Digital RGB and ARGB the Same?

No, Digital RGB is the same as “addressable” RGB, where each LED can be lit individually with a signal from the GPU without any interference. It does not need to use PWM, no matter how many LEDs are in the strip. ARGB is commonly used on products that already have addressable LED lighting but require more colors than a standard RGB strip can offer.

Can You Mix ARGB Fans?

Unfortunately, no, as it has different pinouts from RGB. You can also not mix ARGB and RGB strips together.

What Do You Do if You Have a 4-pin Header for RGB fans but an Addressable 3-pin Strip?

You could use a master fan controller to power the RGB fan headers using an RGB splitter, similarly to how it would be done with addressable RGB.

The splitter takes all the power from one source, splits it into four different outputs, and delivers them to the fans. This might be a viable option if you want to avoid having to change your motherboard’s header.

How Do I Know if My Fan Is ARGB?

If it’s an addressable RGB fan, then it will be on the strip itself. If you’re unsure about having an ARGB fan, check the specifications of your case. It may require fans with ARGB support for optimal lighting effects.

What Is the ARGB Header?

The ARGB header is a way to control addressable RGB lighting that may not have a compatible motherboard. You can use an ARGB regulator, for example, Coolermaster’s ARGB regulator, to power your fans using an RGB splitter cable.

Final Thoughts

RGB is great, but ARGB lighting will continue to evolve. As it becomes more popular, we’ll see an influx of products that feature this technology.

In the end, RGB and ARGB are merely a matter of preference. One is not inherently superior to the other in any way.

Did you enjoy this article? If yes, then check out How to Make a Homemade Projector with a Mirror in 2022? & How to Connect a BNC Connector to a CCTV Camera?.