The death knell was tolled last year when Panasonic announced that it would no longer produce its award-winning plasma televisions. At the time, videophiles and TV enthusiasts in general let out a collective sigh of disappointment, though some solace could be taken in the fact that Samsung was still producing top-notch plasma TVs. Samsung’s excellent F8500 series in particular is generally considered to be the last truly high-end display readily available to consumers outside of wildly expensive OLED televisions, which remain hard to come by.
Though Fujitsu gets credit for producing the first full-color plasma display panel in 1992, it was Philips in 1997 that produced the first plasma television to be sold to consumers – the display was 42-inches diagonally and begged a premium price of $15,000. Pioneer quickly followed with its own plasma television line later that year, and thus the “flat-screen” TV craze was born.
Plasma televisions work by sandwiching electrically charged gasses between two panes of glass. Early versions of the plasma television were heavy, bulky, extremely power-hungry, and suffered from screen burn-in problems. By contrast, LCD-based televisions were thinner, lighter, and far more energy efficient. As a result, LCD-based televisions began overtaking plasma in 2006. Though plasma TVs are now lighter, brighter, thinner and more efficient than ever, the technology’s poor standing in the public’s eye has relegated it as a second-string choice for all but the most tech-savvy – or budget conscious – buyers.
While low-end plasma models will continue to be sold in the coming months, premium, high-performance plasma options are expected to dwindle quickly. After Panasonic announced it was ending plasma TV production, its award winning ST60, VT60 and ZT60 series televisions began flying off store shelves. Today, it is nearly impossible to find a new, in-box ST60 unit, and availability of the two higher-end series are all but gone as well.
LG now stands as the last major manufacturer still producing plasma televisions, but it is highly likely the company will bow out soon enough, since plasma televisions no longer make sense from a financial perspective. Regardless, it is safe to say that the best plasma televisions are now behind us.
At this point, those looking for the best possible picture quality must look to OLED, a TV technology that remains prohibitively expensive for most, though prices have come down in the past two years. Currently, LG leads the charge in premium OLED production, introducing five new models at CES 2014 earlier this year. Samsung also offers a single OLED TV model, which was introduced 2013 and stands as the most beautiful television we’ve ever reviewed.