LCD vs Plasma TVs: What screen technology is best for you?

We explain plasma and LCD TV technology including 100Hz, Dynamic Contrast Ratio and more specifications.

New plasma panels have high contrast ratios such as the 1000000:1 rating of the Panasonic TH-50PZ850A plasma television.

New plasma panels have high contrast ratios such as the 1000000:1 rating of the Panasonic TH-50PZ850A plasma television.

TV screen lifespan

In the past, plasma panels suffered from a short life-span before they lost significant amounts of brightness and image quality degraded. This has been overcome in recent plasma generations, with manufacturers rating their screens with a half-life of 60,000 hours. This means that after 60,000 hours of use, the screen's brightness will degrade by half — and with five hours of use per day this amounts to approximately 33 years. Put simply, plasma screens no longer suffer from a short life-span.

The life span of an LCD televisions depends on the life of its backlighting bulb. These bulbs are often rated to above 60,000 hours in regular fluorescent-lit LCD panels, whereas new LED-backlit televisions have expected life spans of over 100,000 hours.

Previously, plasma television screens were hounded by image burn-in issues. Leaving a static image on the screen for a long period of time (such as a computer's desktop or a network broadcaster's logo) led to the plasma cells retaining the image after the image was removed. Plasma technology improvement, the addition of functionality like screensavers and image-shifting, as well as power saving shut-down features, means the issue burn-in on new plasma televisions effectively no longer exists. LCD televisions do not experience any of the problems previously found in plasma TV technology.

Price vs screen size

More than any other determining factor, it is tempting to simply pick the cheaper of either a plasma or LCD television when considering any given size. In screen sizes below 42 inches, we believe LCD screens are your best bet — you can pick up a 37in LCD for under $1000 if you shop around and look for special offers. Contrast and brightness shortcomings are less apparent in smaller screen sizes, while you will also generally find LCD screens below 42 inches have a higher resolution than their plasma counterparts.

If you are considering a large screen — 42inches and above — as your home theatre centrepiece, be sure to check out plasma technology. Plasma panels do have the edge in terms of contrast and overall picture quality at these sizes, and are ofter cheaper than an equally-sized LCD counterparts.

No matter what screen technology you select, nake sure you test it against its competitors — store-fronts with multiple panels set up next to each other are great for this purpose — and be sure you are able to adjust settings to your own liking in store. While specifications and technology are important buying considerations, it is advisable to not buy blind, and physically confirm that the picture and other elements of the television are satisfactory. If you go through this process correctly, you should be pleased with your purchase.

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