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If you’re ever in a need of a conversation starter, try the good ‘ole Plasma versus LCD debate—you’ll surely get a fun dialogue going over these competing technologies. There are many things to consider with this battle—picture quality, type best suited for viewing, size, price, energy cost per year—but what you really need to figure out, is what HDTV panel best suits you and your lifestyle. To complicate this issue further, price and size have been leveling out the playing field this year as LCD TVs are now being made in larger sizes and at competing prices with plasma. Here are some comparisions and facts to help you win which ever side you choose to argue and assist you in deciding which HDTV technology is best for you.
Picture contrast is considered the most important aspect of HDTV performance by some industry experts. The main reason for the differences in picture contrast, motion resolution, and viewing between the two panel types is because LCD and plasma TVs use different methods to illuminate their screens. LCD screens are typically brighter than plasmas and tend to produce less glare in a brightly lit room. Plasmas produce deeper black levels making them a better choice if you do a lot of viewing in a home theater type atmosphere, with your room’s lights dimmed. Some LCD TVs also use LED backlighting, giving it a better picture contrast. The LEDs switch on and off rapidly, achieving an outstanding contrast and deep black levels.
Plasma and LCD are very close to in this category. They both produce excellent picture contrast quality—although, plasmas traditionally have a better contrast. Also, another thing to keep in mind is that it would probably be more useful to compare models from the same manufacturers because most manufacturers measure picture contrast differently from each other.
The viewing angle of a TV is more important than you think. All TVs have great picture quality when looking at the screen straight on, but what about during those crowded Super Bowl games, when you’re the one stuck on the far left side of the room, or laying on the floor looking up at the screen—kind of hard to see the game from that angle. LCD TVs have more issues with viewing angles than plasmas do. This is because most LCDs use a constantly shining fluorescent backlight. The LCD pixels act like window shutters, opening and closing to let light through. It’s this shutter effect causing the viewing distortion and limitations as you moves more “off-axis” from the direct view of the TV. The plasma TVs tend to win with viewing angles.
A LCD display will last as long as its backlight does, since the majority of the wear and tear is happening to the backlighting. Some experts say that as the fluorescent backlighting ages, the color change, throwing the whole TV off. The best solution is to recalibrate the TV. Of course, with LED backlight LCD HDTVs, there is far more stability and also more protection for the white balance over time.
Plasmas TVs on the other hand use electric currents to stimulate gases like xenon and neon—so these elements fade more naturally over time and last about as long as an LCD would. LCD used to have a leg up on plasma in longevity, but with these current plasma models, we’d say it’s pretty even right now. Plasma and LCD are tied for the longevity win. Certain makes and models of these differing products may attest this tie, but as a general statement—these two technologies are about the same in this category.