Difference between Plasma and LCD TVsplasma versus lcd

Editorial by SoMuchEasier

Everyone seems to be wanting to buy one these days, but what's actually the difference between plasma and LCD TVs? This editorial tries to tackle this question, and is based on information gathered from a number of sources, including TV buyer guides and brand websites.

When you're comparing plasma and LCD TVs, you're actually comparing their two competing technologies. Both technologies achieve similar things (i.e. crystal-clear, color-filled pictures) and come in similar designs (i.e. super-thin housing). However, there're some key differences, and the following table will summarise these:

Table: Difference between Plasma TVs and LCD TVs

Feature Plasma TVs LCD TVs Difference / Advantage
Screen Size Screen sizes range from 32 inches to 65 inches. Sizes range from 13 inches to 46 inches, but larger screens are coming out soon. Plasma TVs can be larger, but LCD TVs are catching up.
Thickness As thin as 3 inches deep. As thin as 2 inches deep. LCD TVs can be just a bit thinner.
Viewing Angle Up to 160°. Up to 165°. Not too much difference these days. Plasma TVs used to have a better viewing angle, but the high-end LCD TVs have caught up.
Burn-in Plasma TVs can suffer from burn-in produced by static images. After extended periods, stationary images 'burn in' the screen and produce an after-image ghost which remains permanently on the screen. LCD TVs do not suffer from burn-in. Newer plasma TVs have addressed burn-in and reduced the issues of older models, but LCD TVs are obviously better here.
Screen Refresh Rates (i.e. how do they handle fast moving video images) Plasma TV displays refresh and handle rapid movements in video about as well as normal CRT TVs. LCD TVs were originally designed for computer data displays, and not video. Refresh rates have therefore been improved. LCD TVs with refresh rates of 16 ms or higher show very little noticeable difference. While the LCD TVs have markedly improved in this area in the last couple of years, they still suffer from a very slight 'trailer' effect - so plasma TV technology slightly edges it here.
Colour Saturation In plasma TVs, each pixel contains red, green, and blue elements, which work in conjunction to create 16.77 million colours. Colour information is more accurately reproduced with plasma TV technology than it is with any other display technology. LCD displays reproduce colours by manipulating light waves and subtracting colours from white light. This makes it more difficult for maintaining colour accuracy and vibrancy. But, LCD TVs have colour information benefits from the higher-than-average number of pixels per square inch found in their displays (especially when compared to plasma TVs). Plasma TVs are better here than LCDs with similar pixel counts and for moving images. LCD TVs are better at displaying crisp static images (as they were initially developed for computer users).
Contrast Ratios Current plasma TVs can measure contrast ratios of up to 3000:1 (which is the measure of the blackest black compared to the whitest white). Current LCD TV contrast ratios can measure up to 1000:1. The way this ratio is calculated is however slightly different than with LCDs, so it's difficult to compare them like for like. For scenes with a lot of dark and light images shown simultaneously (such as with content originating from DVDs and video games) plasma TVs will normally outperform LCD TVs. However, this is debatable and many of the best quality LCD TVs display sufficiently dark blacks to please even the most discriminating eyes.
Product Life-span Typical plasma TVs have a life span of 25,000 to 30,000 hours, which equates to about 3 years of 24/7 usage before the TV fades to half the original brightness. LCD TVs life span is typically 50,000-60,000 hours, which equates to about 6 years of 24/7 use. However, LCD TVs will actually last as long as its backlight does, and those bulbs can be replaced - so in essence there's nothing which can wear out. LCD TVs run about twice as long as plasma TVs. LCD TVs are therefore preferred for long-haul applications like 24/7 signage in shops.
Weight Plasma displays are fairly heavy. When mounted on a wall or ceiling, these need to be able to bear the weight and may require additional supports. LCD TVs weigh less than similarly sized plasma TVs, and can be more easily installed. LCD TVs are considerably lighter and as such easier to mount and install. Plasma TVs will almost certainly require a professional installer.
Transportation and Shipping Due to their fragile nature, plasma TVs need to be shipped by specialty carriers. Overnight or fast delivery options are not recommended. Special shipping methods and their heavier weight might add to higher shipping costs (although most UK retailers don't differ the shipping price). Shipping LCD TVs is not difficult, and is not as expensive as shipping plasma displays. LCD TVs are lighter and far less fragile than plasma displays making shipping easier.
Production Costs and Price Plasma TVs are easier and as such cheaper to produce in large sizes (40 inches upwards). The substrate material for LCD TVs has proved difficult to produce in large sizes (over 32 inches) without pixel defects owing to faulty transistors. Although prices for both technologies have dropped significantly over the years, plasma TVs are still significantly cheaper for sizes over 32 inches.
Power Consumption Plasma TVs are fairly power hungry and use a lot of electricity lighting each and every pixel you see on a screen (even the dark ones). LCD TVs use florescent backlighting to produce images, and as such require substantially less power to operate. LCD TVs use on average half of the power from Plasma TVs.
Performance at High Altitude High altitudes can affect the performance of plasma TV displays because the gas held inside each pixel is stressed, and has to work harder to perform. This means you may get a buzzing noise, which sounds rather like the humming of an old neon sign. LCD TVs are not affected by high altitudes. LCD TVs are better at high altitude (6500 feet and above).

So, hopefully this table was useful in explaining the difference between plasma and LCD TVs. In essence, your choice will have to depend on the value you attach to the different features. If you want a large screen size at reasonable price, than plasma TVs are your best option. If you're going to leave your TV on a lot, and want to use it to display computer applications as well, than go for a LCD TV.

As we said, it's up to you to decide as quality wise, there's not a lot of difference between them. If you want to browse a bit further through the available plasma and LCD TVs on the market, then we can recommend the following retailers: John Lewis (top branded products and never knowingly overpriced) and Currys (good selection and useful site features).

Happy shopping and good luck with whichever choice you make.

This concludes the editorial on 'the difference between plasma and LCD TVs' by the SoMuchEasier editorial team
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