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How Plasma TVs and LCD TVs Differ – Pros and Cons – Plasma and LCD Technologies Explained


To the uninitiated, LCD TVs and Plasma TVs look like they’re essentially the same thing. Nothing could be further from the truth! Once you look past the slim profiles and pancake-flat screens, the similarities end. In fact, the two technologies have considerable differences, so lets quickly take a brief look at both.

LCD Televisions (Liquid Crystal Display)

LCD TV’s utilize liquid crystal display technology for its visual output. An LCD is made up of numerous monochrome or colored pixels that are illuminated by a reflector or light source. Color LCD TVs feature three cells (known as sub-pixels) for each actual picture. There is one sub-pixel for each of the colors red, green and blue, the TV has fine control of each individual sub-pixel resulting in millions of possible colors. This makes for a much higher definition picture when compared to legacy television systems.

The pros of modern LCD Televisions include:

  • Lighter than Plasma screen TVs
  • Slim Profile, can be mounted on a wall
  • Outstanding color range (millions) to a high degree of accuracy
  • Inherently progressive. With millions of miniature transistors within an LCD Television system that can be controlled individually by the “brains” of the display controller, LCD TVs can handle progressive-scan sources with ease.
  • No Burn In. Other TV models rely on phosphors which can experience a state called “burn in”. This is where ghost images are permanently burned into the screen.
  • A large range of connectivity options such as High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI), Composite Video, PC In and S-Video
  • High Resolution – LCDs can handle much higher resolutions than legacy television systems with the highest resolution 1,920×1,080 pixels.

Incidentally, 1080p is known as “Full High Definition” (1,920×1,080) and 720p “High Definition” (1,280×720).

Cons of LCD Televisions:

  • Poor black color, black is shown more as a a grey in LCD TV’s
  • Low Contrast ration – This is the ratio between the lowest and highest intensity. Plasma TVs perform better in this area.
  • Limited Viewing Angle – LCD Televisions feature a poor viewing angle, although there has been some significant improvement in this area recently
  • LCDs depend heavily on thin-firm transistors that are easily damaged resulting in defective pixels
  • Slow response time – LCDs suffer a longer response time than their plasma competitors. This is particularly problematic on LCD Monitors where the mouse can be seen multiple times when moving quickly. This problem is also being addressed.
  • LCDs are expensive, but coming down in price

Plasma Televisions

Plasma screens feature millions of tiny gas-filled cells trapped between two layers of glass. Each cell acts like a single image pixel. They work by running an electric current through the cell to create an ionization of the gas (ionized gas is plasma – which is the meaning behind the name). The gas that has been ionized causes a layer of phosphor on the viewers side of the glass to illuminate creating the image.

Pros of Plasma TVs:

  • Slim Profile, can be mounted on a wall
  • Acheives an even greater and more accurate color than LCD TV (in the billions)
  • Achieves a much better black color than LCD resulting in a much superior contrast ratio.
  • High Resolution – Plasma TVs have exceptional resolutions and amazingly smooth images
  • Naturally Progressive – All pixels on the screen light up at the same time. It is possible to have both HDTV sources and non HDTV sources displayed on plasma HDTV
  • Outstanding brightness – the light is generated by the ionization inside each cell and not some light source reflecting off something. The lighting of a plasma TV is much more even than an LCD or legacy television systems.
  • Wide viewing angle – plasmas have a superior viewing angle compared to LCD Televisions. This makes them ideal for home theaters where a lot of people are watching in a room.
  • Almost non-existent motion blur due to ultra high refresh rates and good response times

Plasma Television Cons:

  • Shorter Lifespan. Phosphors eventually “wear out” and lose their brightness. It is a slow process and newer technology advancements have extended the lifespan of plasma TV’s in recent times
  • Poor black color. Plasmas generally do a better job than LCDs in the realm of black reproduction, but do a weaker job than CRTs and other projection systems.
  • Susceptible to “large area flicker” (mainly a problem in 50 Hz Plasmas)
  • Do not generally come in sizes smaller than 32 inches
  • Suffer from reflection glare in rooms with other bright light sources
  • Suffer Burn-in. Plasmas utilize phosphor to display their images which can cause ghost images to be permanently burned into the screen.
  • Damage to the glass screen is very difficult to repair

Other Factors:

  • LCD TVs use a lot less electricity than Plasmas
  • LCD TVs are much lighter than Plasma TVs
  • High altitudes of plasmas effect the display due to stress incurred on each pixel

Both Plasma and LCD technology is continuously improving, which may serve to bring these two technologies closer together. This article barely touches the surface of what these popular viewing technologies have to offer, but serves as a general guide.



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