Plasma or LCD TV? It Depends
If you’re looking to buy a flat screen TV, you’ve probably come across the unending debate involving plasma and LCD TVs. And chances are you don’t care much for ceaseless and complex geek debates, either. After all, both of these widescreen wizards bring the kind of bright, crystal-clear images into your home that were barely on our visual radar just a few years back. But what you do want to know is which of these flat-panel products best suits your budget and viewing habits, right? Plasma technology utilizes small cells containing electrically charged ionized gases, commonly referred to as fluorescent lamps. Plasma TVs work by illuminating these tiny, colored fluorescent lamps to form an image. LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display. LCD TVs display images by sandwiching a layer of liquid crystal between two layers of polarized glass and using the unique characteristics of liquid crystals to both block and pass light through color filters.
Plasma TV: The Pros
Generally speaking, plasma TVs have better image quality than LCDs. They have a higher contrast ratio, making images appear deeper and with a richer color scheme (LCD exceptions noted below). Plasma pictures are often described as “cinematic,” making them great for living rooms and home theatres. And it’s easier for a plasma screen to produce several shades of black. Plasmas have a better response rate than LCDs, which make them the screen of choice for sports aficionados and fans of fast action. They also have wider viewing angles-ideal for rooms in which not everyone watching TV can have a perfectly straight view of the screen. Finally, you will get a better TV at any specific price point if you choose plasma.
Plasma TV: The Cons
Plasma TVs are susceptible to “burn-in,” which can happen when a static image stays on the screen too long and etches in permanently. However, since the chance of burn-in is greatest during the first 100 hours of use, this risk can be minimized by keeping contrast at less than 50 percent during this time and avoiding showing static images on the screen for extended periods. Many models now have burn-in reduction features. Also, plasma screens tend to reflect room light more than LCDs. Finally, while they’re improving, plasmas still gobble up more energy than LCDs, especially when the contrast control is turned up.
LCD TV: The Pros
Compared to plasmas, there is much greater market selection of LCDs. Other advantages include the fact that PC connectivity is more common on LCDs than on plasma TVs and that LCDs conveniently come in a variety of sizes. One definite advantage of the LCD is the matte screen, which generally reflects less ambient light than plasma’s glass screens. LCDs with matte screens work very well on smaller screen sizes and in bright rooms, making them ideal for daytime viewing, or in any situation where there will be a lot of light in the room. Finally, LCD power consumption is more efficient than plasmas. If you are trying to cut down on energy use for, go LCD.
LCD TV: The Cons
As noted above, plasmas generally have a better contrast ratio than LCDs. A quick side note: the Sharp Elite LED is an LCD television that uses an advanced local dimming backlight to produce a contrast ratio that rivals plasma TVs. That particular television is an exception to the general rule. LCDs also have a relatively narrow viewing angle.
Whichever technology ultimately wins this geek debate is not really relevant. It’s more a question of how you plan to use the technology. Both plasma and LCD TVs are rated to typically last about 60,000 hours, or about 20 years, if used 8 hours per day. To maximize life, it’s recommended that you use an LCD or Plasma TV case if you ever move the TV. Which product design best fits your situation and budget? Figure that out first, and your buying decision will be that much easier.
Jeff Fields writes for Allcases, a company that provides cases for many uses, including TVs and other electronics. When he’s not writing or working, he loves playing his acoustic guitar and hanging out with his two black labs.