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Home arrow Blogs arrow The Miller Channel arrow Should I buy an LCD or Plasma HDTV? Which is better?

Should I buy an LCD or Plasma HDTV? Which is better? Print E-mail
Written by Kevin Miller   
Monday, 03 November 2008
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Should I buy an LCD or Plasma HDTV? Which is better?
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lcdvsplasma.jpgShould I buy a plasma or an LCD flat panel HDTV? That is the question for many would-be HDTV buyers in today's flat panel dominated HDTV world. Plasma panels, or PDPs as they are referred to, are still considered by most display experts, me included, all things considered, to produce better pictures then LCD flat panel HDTVs. That, of course, is a generalization. Let's define it for the purposes of determining what is better for a particular application. Strictly speaking, if picture quality is the primary priority, then the best plasmas will outperform the best LCD panels. This is due mainly to the fact that the better plasma panels have superior black level performance, which in turn gives them greater contrast ratio. Contrast ratio is the single most important component of a video picture to the human eye. We refer to this as the "Snap" or "Pop" of the picture. Additionally, better black level performance also equates to deeper more saturated color.  

Plasma Pros: 

·     Better blacks means better contrast ratio

·     Better color saturation due to better black level performance

·     Better motion tracking (little or no motion lag in fast moving images)

·     Bigger screen sizes for less money


Plasma Cons: 

·     Reflective glass screens mean distracting reflections when light is bouncing off the screen

·     Not as bright as LCD panels

·     Potential burn-in problems from static images

·     Draws more electrical current then LCD panels

·     Does not perform as well at higher altitudes

Since we have already covered plasma's superior contrast ratio due to better black level performance, let's look at the other factors. If the set is designed properly with accurate color decoding, and accurate primary (Red, Green, and Blue) and colors, then, the better black levels will also contribute to more saturated and richer color reproduction. There are no speed issues with plasma so motion blur is not an issue. This means any fast action material whether film based entertainment on DVD or Blu-ray, Sports, and even video games will likely look better on a plasma panel. As far as pricing is concerned the playing field is getting to be more level now between the two display technologies, but plasma is still more affordable when it comes to screen sizes of 50-inches and larger.

Now let's go over the negatives behind plasma. Reflective glass screens can be distracting when there is direct light hitting the screen. Manufacturers have, in recent years, refined the coating they apply to their screens to reduce this issue so it isn't as big a problem as it used to be. It is true that plasma panels are not capable of as much light output inch for inch as their LCD counterparts. This would be an important consideration if the room has little or no light control, and you plan on watching a significant amount of the time during the day. Another issue or problem that is nowhere near as prevalent as it used to be is phosphor burn. This is still a potential problem, but it can be avoided and for the most part is no longer a permanent issue. We refer to it as "Image Retention" as it usually dissipates over a short period of time if you play 16:9 material that fills the screen.

LCD Pros: 

·     Extremely bright and therefore better able to compete with ambient light, which makes them a better choice for bright rooms.

·     No burn in issues.

·     No high altitude use issues.

LCD Cons: 

·     Generally poor black level performance, which also reduces contrast ratio.

·     Poorer motion tracking (potential motion lag in fast moving images).

·     The really large screen sizes from 52-inches and up are still generally more expensive than plasma.

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 04 November 2008 )
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