TV Buying Guide: LCD vs. Plasma
By Anne Ahira
As the popularity of big-screen television and home theaters has grown over the past few years, there is really only one question on the minds of consumers who are shopping for a new set:
Which is better Plasma or LCD TV? This argument has become particularly heated as both sets have only recently become direct competitors.
You see, for years Plasma sets were the unquestioned leader when it come to big screen TVs, but as the technology improved, LCD sets got bigger and bigger until they finally challenged Plasma sets in this all important market.
Why is it so crucial to gain a lead in this market? As we mentioned, the trend in home televisions is quickly moving away from the stand alone set and toward wall-mounted big screen sets that are a part of a home theater.
If you have never heard of them, a home theater is really nothing more than a big screen set that is connected to a surround sound speaker system. In this article we are going to take a look at the TV buying guide to determine which new technology is actually superior.
The question of which is better can be a difficult one to answer since these sets have many similarities, such as high resolutions, bright screens, and colorful images. But for the first few years of their existence they did not compete directly with each other, since the technology prevents plasma sets from making small screens and LCDs were generally of average size.
Then the LCD suddenly got bigger and people were left with a difficult decision. It is important to note before we take a look at the TV buying guide that there are really no significant differences in these two technologies, which is why they are such fierce rivals.
When it comes right down to it, picture quality is the main reason that consumers have made the transition away from traditional sets and toward Plasma and LCD sets. For years the Plasma set was the uncrowned ruler when it come to picture quality, much of which is determined by contrast ratios.
This is a simple measure of the blackest and the whitest parts of the screen. Though the ratio does differ, many of the top Plasma sets in the TV buying guide claim an amazing 40,000:1 ratio.
While LCD sets have certainly come a long way over the past few years, they still cannot compete with Plasma sets when it comes to contrast ratio. This is especially true when you look at the mid level sets, which often have much lower contrast ratios.
However, when it comes to the top of the line LCD screens, the difference is much closer than it has ever been. This leads us to believe that someday LCD sets may actually surpass Plasma sets with regard to contrast. But that day has not yet come.
Plasma sets are famous for their claim that they can display 16.77 million colors. Can you imagine how long it took to count them all! Just kidding! The truth is that Plasma screens offer an incredible range of colors and that the richness of these color combinations is the envy of the industry.
LCD sets, on the other hand, are known for having a higher number of pixels per square inch than Plasma sets, which helps produce comparable color quality. However, when consumers compare sets with similar pixel count, they quickly discover that Plasmas produce cleaner, more vibrant colors.
For years this factor was the only significant technological advantage that Plasma sets held over LCD screens. According to Plasma makers, their sets allow for near perfect 180 degree viewing angle, which means that anyone that can see the screen can see it clearly wherever they might be sitting.
Again, LCD makers have made significant progress in this area. In fact, years ago you could not clearly view an LCD screen unless you were right in front of it. But nowadays many of the top manufacturers have produced televisions that offer a full 120 degree viewing angles. Of course, this still puts them at a significant disadvantage to Plasma sets.
When you are making a substantial investment in a new piece of technology for the home, there is really no more important consideration than longevity. And both technologies make simply astonishing claims.
Many LCD makers state that their sets can be watched for an average of 60,000 hours. That means that you could keep your set on for 24 hours a day for more than seven years without experiencing an interruption in service.
For the LCD set, really the only consideration is the backlight, which can become a problem when it ages. It is a little known fact that when these sets get on in years and the backlight begins to wear, the colors can change a bit.
Believe it or not, the TV buying guide Plasma screens can also last for 60,000 hours. Whether this is true or not is difficult to say. After all, who has seven years to waste away in front of the tube? What we do know is that many industry insiders are skeptical of these claims and most concur that LCD sets hold an edge when it comes to longevity.
Screen Burn In
LCD sets are seldom prone to burn in, which is a kind of premature aging of the pixels. This may be why they last a bit longer than Plasma sets, which have long been known for this dreaded condition.
However, just like LCD sets have done in other areas, Plasma makers have worked long and hard to correct this deficiency. In fact, with most new Plasma sets the TV buying guide tells us that the likelihood of a burn-in is extremely small.
Although there are a number of other factors to consider in the TV buying guide, such as cost and availability, we did not mention them because the technologies were about equal in those areas.
In the end, we believe Plasma still hold a slight lead when it comes to large screen sets, though they would be wise to watch their backs because LCD sets are clearly closing the gap.