LCD vs plasma vs LED TVs buying guide

Plasma vs LCD? What do the new LED TVs offer? We walk you through the process of picking up a new flat panel LED, LCD or plasma television.

This Samsung Series 7 television has LED edge-lighting to cut down on power consumption.

This Samsung Series 7 television has LED edge-lighting to cut down on power consumption.

LCD, LED and plasma televisions may seem identical when you're in the store, but the similarities end once you look past the thin form factor and big screens.

Want to learn about 3D TV? Take a look at our 3D TV buying guide.

LCD vs plasma vs LED

Plasma TVs use a sheet of miniscule individual plasma cells that create a picture when an electrical charge is applied — examples of plasma televisions include the Panasonic TH-50VX100W, LG 50PS80ED and Panasonic TH-P50G10A.

LCD televisions, on the other hand, use liquid crystal compressed between two glass plates; an image is created when electricity is applied to these crystals. LCD televisions can range from cheap models like the Changhong LT4268TA to more expensive sets like the Sony Bravia KDL40W5500 and the Toshiba Regza 42RV600A.

LED TVs use liquid crystal, but unlike regular LCD televisions they use a backlight made of hundreds of LEDs (light-emitting diodes) instead of a fluorescent lamp. The LEDs can be evenly distributed around the back of the television’s panel or situated in the edges of the screen to create a very thin display chassis. LED televisions include the Sharp LC40LB700X, Samsung Series 7 (UA46B7100) and Sony Bravia KDL55XBR45.

How well an image is displayed on a television panel — whether it is a Blu-ray movie, a HDTV broadcast or a high-definition video game — depends on a television's display technology and its image processing capabilities.

Contrast ratio

A television's contrast ratio represents its ability to show detail in high contrast areas of the screen, in the form of minute gradations of colour and blacks or whites. For example, a panel with a low contrast ratio will struggle to show the higher or lower extremes of an image. In layman's terms, this means detail will be lost in bright areas as well as in dark scenes. In a Blu-ray movie, for example Batman Begins, the loss of detail in dark scenes will quickly become apparent.

Most manufacturers increase the contrast capabilities of their screens by dynamically altering backlight brightness. This allows extra detail to be shown in dark scenes and can be a life-saver for a panel with a low static contrast ratio. Some manufacturers have taken their estimations of this dynamic contrast ratio to excess, rating their screens at contrast ratios of 1,000,000:1 — and even higher. While these figures demonstrate the advantages of dynamic contrast ratio alteration, they don't need to be a big factor in your buying decision.

It is generally accepted that plasma televisions have better contrast ratios than LCD panels, due to the fact that a plasma television can completely deactivate the light source for individual segments of the screen. This means sections of the screen can be completely dark while others are displaying bright colour, unlike a traditional LCD screen which has a single backlight array that can only alter brightness levels for the entire screen.

The latest LED backlight technology allows the television to individually control backlight segments. This technology allows for contrast ratios similar to those produced by plasma television panels. However, edge-lit LED televisions — usually available in an ultra-slim form factor — will have lower dynamic contrast ratios than the backlit LED models so be sure to check this detail before you purchase.

Viewing angle

The narrower a television's quoted viewing angle is, the smaller the range in which it produces a 'perfect' image with no loss of contrast or colour. Many manufacturers quote an unrealistically high viewing angle — close to a full 180 degrees in some instances — but the best way to test this is to test the screens in person.

Tags lcd tvshome entertainmentplasmaled tvs

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Campbell Simpson

Campbell Simpson

Good Gear Guide

33 Comments

Anonymous

1

Samsung LED Series 7

We paid for one of these on Dec 15th. It still hasn't arrived....very dissapointing. By the time we get it the "new technolgy", wont be very new!

arrrrggggh

2

How much is too much?!

Leonard

3

Great guide, I've been looking around for some good information on this topic for a while now and almost drowned in a sea of unhelpfulness; "This one sucks, this one is the best" to which someone else replys "No that one sucks, this is the best" This has really helped make up my mind, cheers.

Leonard

4

Then again... I guess that's what I get for checking yarhoo answers first...

John

5

Great article. Had a plasma and sold it with the house when I moved. Now want to replace. Much of the information conveyed here matched the information from a salesperson I met today, so makes me feel better about buying there if I do.

Nacholibreband

6

LED is good but we need cash :)
http://www.nacholibreband.co.nr

Mark

7

You might mention too, as pointed out to me that in stores most TV's are running a DVD or Blue-ray movie on screen
the quality is far different to normal TV it would be good to see normal Tv running through them I hear quality is a lot different.

Michael Mihajlovic

8

which is the longest lasting TV and how long is its average life span?

Bob

9

I would like to install a flat screen in my motor home and am curious as to which type would take the shaking caused by riding down the road.

Liz

10

For god sale it's a simple enough question which one is better all I want it's a simple answer not more jargon and tech info. Plasma, LED or LCD is all I needed not 5 yes 5 pages of info

Bill

11

Liz,

Plasma.

Bill

Ti

12

Bill - 10+++++!! LOL

Mike

13

The biggest issue with plasma is the reflections it produces. Next time you compare LED or LCD notice the fluorescent light in the showroom reflecting off the plasma. No so with the others.

Mike

Joffa

14

For someone like me just starting out to upgrade to HDTV, Campbell Simpson's clear and uncluttering comparisons are a revelation compared to so much of the writings of others on this subject. Congrats to Campbell on a very good job.

Joffa

James Keyes

16

Excellent article, Campbell. Simple explanations for increasingly complex consumer products. Thanks.

frustrated shopper

17

comparison shopping and adjusting the settings is a great idea, and the way it used to be. But at least in the Atlanta metro area there is virtually no where to do that. I have been to several Best Buys, and no one there can find a remote for even one of the TVs, let alone for multiple comparison. the popular practice of store pricing and then buying on line is eliminating the ability of stores to survive with competent sales help.

Carter

18

We supply DVB-S Set Up Box compliant with TV. If this TV comes with this Set Up Box will be perfect. Come to me here http://www.huaren-tech.com/en/contact.asp

Achint

19

I want to know which television is good LED or plasma

Nathan

20

We have recently purchesed a Samsung series 6 LED TV 50inch. We are very dissapointed with the quality and picture sharpness. Do not buy this product!!!!

ramesh kumar

21

I want to know which television is good LED or plasma, please suggest me.

Geoff

22

Ramish
LED in well lit room and uses less power than Plasma.
Plasma gives better picture for viewing motion e.g. motor racing etc. Horses for courses as they say.
As a motor racing enthusiast I prefer Plasma, but, be aware that new technologies are on the horizon. Soon (I hope) we may see the introduction of AMOLED technology (as per phone screens) used in TVs. If phone screens are any indication those TVs should be brilliant.

Bala

23

This article is not so good as this provides much of information that a layman cannot understand. All I want to know is which tv is good for what reasons in a simple table format.

Bala

24

the below site seems to be good:
http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-33199_7-57344058-221/led-lcd-vs-plasma-vs-lcd/

Moni

25

Thank you very much Bala for the link for TV review

Cheech

26

I am planning to put a flat screen tv out side in a new out door bar and entertaining area but I am concerned about reflection. It is under cover on one side of the house, then with awning coming out.
What type would best suit this situation.

Andy

27

Never have I ever used a forum for my resesarch so please forgive if I break the techno rules... I am looking to buy about a "32 tv and i would prefer to have a built in DVD player. I know that TV/DVD combos do not come with WIFI due to differences in techno generations but i would like to know if i can make the TV/DVD combo into WIFI capable with a usb WIFI antenna. If so what make and model will allow me to do this.

avlisk

28

I can only speak to my 42" LED LG 120HZ set. Great picture, great performance, great price. I couldn't ask for anything better. 100% happy with it. I got the LED instead of plasma simply because I needed a matt screen due to a window right behind my seating. Zero window glare to report. Did I mention I love my LG LED TV?

sujit

29

i want to buy 32 inch HD LED TV, mu budget is Rs. up to 35000.
pls suggest me model number from SONY, SAMSUNG nad LG brand only.

i have not require smart tv.

i have some research about samsung model.
i want to share i also this.
SAMSUNG EH series closed now.
only one model continue.
1) it is UA32EH4003RMXL (Rs. 28,500) but in this model sound is poor.

now we search in F series only.

2) UA32F4100ARLXL - picture quality not good. as per user review on samsung site.(Rs 32,500 )

3) UA32F4800ARLXL - i dont like TV design (RS. 36,500 )

Now two models are left.
I)UA32F4500ARLXL - LED HD SMART TV - Rs 38,500

II)UA32F5100ARLXL - FULL HD LED TV - Rs 38,500

i think no require full hd tv in 32 inch and watching distance is already 10ft or above.

now pls suggest me which model i purchase ?
if i am wrong in any above statement then pls let me tell.

you can suggest me any other brand tv in my budget.

pls help me. i am confused.

Moni

30

Excellent information and inpeccable comments, which are still relevant in 2013!

Andrew

31

Must admit I'm a Panny plasma man, but gee! the LED/LCD's are not bad - the LED, rather than that cold, morgue like fluorescent backlight of the original LCD's really helps. The current Sony Bravia, although limited in its picture controls, is quite a beautiful tele to watch.

sathyanarayana

32

Hi sir this is sathyanarayana from hyd i am planing to purchase led tv this diwali please suggest me the best model and best features of led tv our budjet between 30k to 35 k,we are not use more internet on tv's .samsung and sony which one is the best and latest model ,please give me the suggestion ASAP

Lee Cox

33

Don't forget gaming. Plasma is far better at gaming than LCD. In high action games the superior refresh rate wins every time along with the far far far better contrast for games like COD.

I have a 50 inch LG plasma and its been great and continues to be so. Had it 5 years and can't fault it in any way. Watch lots of movies, sport and PS3.

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