ANALOG VS DIGITAL LED STRIP
There are two basic kinds of LED strips, Analog and Digital. They are controlled differently.
ANALOG LED STRIP
Analog strips come in mono (one color) or RGB (full color spectrum). They can be cut into small segments. The segments are marked by metal contact pads and sometimes have a scissors icon screen printed right on them
For each segment the LEDs are wired in series, which means the operating voltages are added up, giving the higher voltage needed. All the segments are wired in parallel, so they get all get the same amount of voltage all the way down the strip, but the current draw adds up depending on the length of the strip.
All the LEDs on the strip will act as one, they are non-addressable. One way to tell by sight is that they do not have any driver chips that you can see on the strip (that would be digital!)
DIGITAL LED STRIP
Digital strips come with RGB LEDs and have a driver chip on the strip that control the LEDs individually. These are also called individually addressable or just addressable.
They also come in segmented, where they can be cut down to bite-size lengths. These strips take 5 volts, so they can run straight off a microcontroller. They will power up when attached to 3.3 volts, just not as bright.
Addressable LED strips are usually controlled using micro controller to program cool patterns and make them reactive to sensors and switches. Most of the work is in the software. In addition, Digital strips get their information from one data-in pin or two data-in and clock-in pins, dependent of what strip is used. The datasheet for the pinout diagram, voltage ratings and other useful information varies according to the type and the brand.
Article by Ms Jesslyn (Temasek Poly Year 3 Electronics student, 2017)