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.

A wide viewing angle is important if the television will be placed in a large living area or will be regularly watched by multiple people simultaneously — most of us will have family and friends around to watch the TV at some point!

In general, plasmas have better viewing angles than LCD and LED TVs, with their images remaining solid and colourful at wide viewing angles while LCDs suffer from colour shift and loss of brightness. This is not always the case, though, so it is best to compare panels directly against each other if possible. LED televisions have superior viewing angles compared to LCDs due to their decentralised backlight distribution.

Colour

Colour is an aspect that is largely independent of the television's type, relying on the processing technology independent to each manufacturer and specific screen model. However, it is important to note that plasma televisions can in theory produce brighter colours overall. LED-lit televisions using either a white or RGB LED backlight also offer a larger colour gamut than traditional LCD screens, due to an improved brightness source. Colour accuracy can be adjusted on almost all screens, whether you choose a plasma, LED or LCD TV.

Motion

There is much discussion as to whether plasma or LCD screens are better at handling fast motion — sports or action movies are a great example of video footage that moves across the screen at a fast rate. A plasma screen's ability to refresh each individual cell at a much faster rate than an LCD pixel refresh means that plasma panels have an inherent advantage in displaying fast motion free of blur and jitter.

New LCD screens can now update the image displayed 100 times per second — the often touted '100Hz' technology — which is double the standard 50Hz rate. This removes significant amounts of jitter from the LCD screen's image, resulting in a smoother and more visually pleasing picture. It is a great feature when watching sports where both the players and camera move often. The next generation of this technology doubles the refresh rate again to 200Hz but screens with this technology is not incorporated into all LCD TVs on the market.

At present, our tests reveal that plasma TVs are still superior in handling fast motion, but the motion-handling of LCD TVs has improved greatly over the last five years.

LED televisions use the same motion processing technology as LCD panels, with all panels currently on the market using 100Hz refresh rates. As LED televisions are leading the market in technological innovations, they will usually employ the latest generation of motion processing technology available, making them a good choice for watching fast motion video.

Power

Most LCD televisions require a single fluorescent backlight to be lit. Plasma televisions, on the other hand, require every sub-pixel to be lit individually. When you compare screens of equal size plasma televisions consume more power than their LCD counterparts. A 42in LCD consumes around 200 Watts in normal use while a plasma panel consumes approximately 300W. In a year of use this means the power bill for running a plasma will be 50 per cent higher than an equivalent LCD panel. Also consider the power-saving features of individual models — power-reducing features may make a plasma screen just as affordable in the long term.

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Campbell Simpson

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