Once the playthings of the rich and technologically obsessed, flat screen TVs are now becoming commonplace, with certain models costing no more than a large CRT television did ten years ago.

Though technologies such as OLED and laser TV are making their way into the marketplace, the television buyer today is usually faced with one question – LCD TV or plasma TV?

What’s the Difference?

Plasma TV

The screen on a plasma TV is made up of hundreds of thousands of pixel cells. Every one of these cells is subdivided into three pockets, each of which contains a red, green or blue phosphor (a substance which gives off light) and a gas (the plasma). When electric pulses are passed through these cells, each of the phosphor components is excited to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the colour required, and light is produced. In effect, plasma TV screens are enormous collections of microscopic lamps.

LCD TV

LCD TV screens use cells too, but rather than phosphor/plasma, these cells contain liquid crystal. When electricity is passed through these cells the crystals untwist and filter white light from a central source behind the screen. Depending how far they untwist, they filter out differing wavelengths and create different colours. The cells themselves do not produce light.

Comparison

Choosing between a plasma TV and an LCD TV may come down to nothing more than price, as both offer great quality, big-screen pictures in a slim case. If you do want to make a slightly more informed decision, though, read on…

Contrast

Contrast is the difference between the whitest white and the blackest black. The greater that difference, the richer and more realistic the picture will be. The ability of a TV to display black, then, is integral the to quality of its contrast.

Plasma TV screens have an advantage here by the very nature of their technology. As each plasma pixel is a “lamp”, simply turning off those lamps is a very efficient way of creating black. To create black in an LCD TV screen, however, increased voltage must be passed through the liquid crystals to untwist them as far as possible, thereby blocking the greatest amount of light.

Though LCD TVs have made significant advances in the last few years, Plasma TV screens, with their better blacks, still have the edge when it comes to contrast.

Colour and Brightness

As each pixel, with its red, green and blue phosphors contains all the elements needed to produce every colour in the spectrum, plasma TV screens generally reproduce colours more accurately and realistically. LCD TV screens, on the other hand, produce greater levels of brightness and are known for their vivid colours.

Making a choice between the two will be a matter of personal preference, though if you plan to view the TV in a room which admits bright outside light, the LCD TV’s extra brightness might be an advantage.

Response Time

In fast moving scenes, LCD TVs can exhibit a slight “trailer” effect where individual pixels lag behind the image on the screen. Though LCD TV manufacturers have worked to combat this problem through faster refresh rates and software advances, plasma screens still have better response times. If you watch a lot of sport you might want to consider this factor.

Viewing Angle

Plasma TV screens generally have a viewing angle of 160 degrees, which means you can sit at virtually any angle to the TV and still see the picture clearly. LCDs offer narrower viewing angles, often around 130 degrees.

Resolution

Resolution refers to the number of pixels on your screen. You’ll see it written, for example, as 1024 x 768 where 1024 is the number of pixels along the horizontal axis of the screen and 768 is that along the vertical. Multiplying these two numbers gives the total number of pixels. All things being equal, the greater a screen’s resolution (i.e. the greater its number of pixels) the better it’s picture will be.

Resolution is of particular interest now with the advent of High Definition broadcast TV and Blu-ray DVD players. “Full High Definition” (Full HD) requires a resolution of 1920 x 1080. While high definition television broadcasts may require a lesser resolution of 1280 x 720 (standard TV is 720 x 576), it makes sense when buying a new TV to ensure it has Full HD. Both the new high definition DVD players and the latest gaming consoles require it to fully exploit their capabilities.

Different models of both plasma TV and LCD TV screens have different resolutions, so check this feature before buying.

Lifespan

In an LCD screen, as the pixel cells do not produce light themselves, the only thing to age is the light source at the back of the screen. These have a lifespan of around 60,000 hours.

In plasma screens, the phosphors actively produce light and will fade over time. This fading is referred to in terms of “half-life”. The latest plasma screens claim a half-life similar to LCD lifespan – 60,000 hours. This means that after 60,000 hours use, the pixels will be half as bright as they were when new.

Power Consumption

As every pixel is active, plasma TV screens use more energy than LCD TV screens, consuming about 30% more electricity for the same size panel.

It’s Your Choice

Though plasma TVs have an edge over their LCD brothers in a number of areas, the gap is becoming smaller with every new model that is introduced. Where LCDs were once restricted to the sub-46 inch range, they now match plasma TVs size for size. Their greater brightness and more saturated colours have made them attractive to a large sector of the population and advances in technology are continually improving their contrast and colour accuracy.

At this point in time, choosing between a plasma TV and an LCD TV is not so much a matter of technological superiority, as a matter of taste. The TV you buy should be one that meets your viewing needs and satisfies your own, personal aesthetics.

Learn more about Plasma and LCD TVs here.

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Comments

  1. r4 dsi says:

    mind blowing post it contain all parts of LCD and Plasma tv It help me lot while i plan to buy new tv.Thanks for this nice post.

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