PLASMA VS LCD Flat Screen TV - The eBay User's Guide

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Plasma vs LCD - Which is Right For You?



Plasma and LCD screens may look similar, but that is really where their similarities end.

What are They?


By (layman's) definition, Plasma TV's are a matrix of tiny gas plasma cells charged with precise electrical voltage to create a picture.

LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) TV's are, simply put, 'sandwiches' made up of of liquid crystal pushed between the space of 2 glass plates. Images are created by varying the amount of electrical charge applied to the crystals. Each type of TV has it's own strengths and weaknesses, and they will be outlined below.

Is There a Difference in Picture Quality?

You will find that opinions on this vary, and the best thing to do is go to your Electronics Store and decide for yourself. The beauty is in fact in the eye of the beholder. At one time, the plasma screens handled contrast (darks) better than the LCD, but this is, by and large, no longer the case.

What, if any, are the advantages of Plasma have over LCD? Historically plasma screens had better viewing angles than LCD. You would tend to see color variations with side viewing of the LCD's, while the Plasma screen colors remained more solid. This has largely been overcome by LCD screen manufacturers. Make sure you test this [visually] when looking for a new flat panel. Plasma's at one time, would produce a brighter color - LCD screen manufacturers have since overcome the problem of 'light leakage' with the LCD's that effected color saturation. At one time, LCD TV's had a problem with fast moving images being somewhat blurred - another problem the LCD manufacturers have since overcome. (HINT) - when shopping for a LCD TV, look at the refresh rate, the less this number is, the better the image quality of fast moving scenes. You wouldn't think that a lower number would be better, but it is. Plasma screens, in general, handle faster moving images better than LCD's. Plasma screens are a bit 'softer' and are more easily scratched. Because of this, manufacturers cover all Plasma screens with protective glass. This is very important because if you have a room that has a primary light source opposite the screen, THE PLASMA SCREEN WILL HAVE GLARE ISSUES!  Remember this if you are considering purchasing a plasma screen TV online, sight unseen. Plasma screens tend to use more electricity (run hotter), and are heavier, making wall mounting a bit more of a challenge.

The biggest advantage a Plasma TV has over LCD is in the price of larger flat panel TV screens. Any cursory investigation into prices of larger screen Plasma vs LCD TV's will illuminate this fact.

What advantages goes LCD have over Plasma?

Several...

LCD's tend to have higher 'native resolution'. In other words, higher definition. If you are a 'high resolution' junkie and you have a source that produces 1080i/p images, and you want that reproduced, pixel by pixel, then LCD is the way to go.

When Plasma TV's were first produced, their life expectancy (at full brightness), was somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 hours. The LCD screens have always been guaranteed for about 60,000 hours. With the newer generations of plasma screens however, their 'full brightness' life span is more in line with the 50-60,000 hours seen in LCD's. So the old myth of Plasma TV's having half the life span of LCD's doesn't really hold water anymore.

The one issue not adequately resolved with regard to plasma TV's is 'Burn in'  problems. This is very important - If you are planning on using the Plasma screen for something that has the same image displayed over and over again or the same image is held on the screen for a long period of time (fixed dashboard of a gaming screen), then you might run into a problem with 'burn in' on some plasma screens. This can happen with LCD's as well, but most experts agree it is less likely with LCD's than it is with plasma screens. If you are using your Plasma TV for general purposes, then it should not be a problem.

Which is better for you?


If you are looking for a larger screen (43" or above) and have somewhat of a limited budget, then the plasma screen is most probably the TV for you. It will give you excellent picture quality at an affordable price. If you are a hi-def junkie and have deep pockets, then the larger LCD's is most probably your best bet. 

For the 15"-36" screen, LCD is the way to go. They offer better resolution, and the best thing is their prices are going down all the time.

Summary

Screen Size:
Plasma offers more [physical] screen for your dollar
Viewing Angle:
Even though this guide gives the advantage to Plasma on this, LCD still provides decent viewing angles at 160-170 degrees.
Screen Refresh Rates (handling fast moving scenes):
Plasma wins out handling fast moving images, in fact it about as good as a standard CRT television.
Burn in or Stuck Pixels:
As long as your plasma utilizes a technology called ' Pixel orbiter', then you should not have a problem with burn in with your plasma. Make sure the plasma you are looking has this technology. Otherwise the edge clearly is with LCD's not to suffer burn in.
Product life Span:
With the newer 2006 models, plasma screen half life is just as good as the LCD's. At 4-6 hours a day, a Plasma/LCD tv user can expect about 10-15 years of good picture quality.
Weight:
Plasma TV's are heavier than LCD's. If you are keeping your TV on a table or stand, then you have nothing to worry about with regard to this. If you are looking to mount a Plasma to your wall, make sure your mounting bracket can handle the extra weight, and if mounting yourself, make sure you secure the bracket into 2 studs with the Plasma.
Durability:
LCD's are far less fragile than Plasma screens.
Shipping:
LCD's, again are lighter, and far less fragile.
Installation:
For the above reasons, LCD's are much easier to install.
Brightness/Contrast:
Although the experts favor Plasma, many swear the LCD has similar quality with regard to darker images. The truth, as is almost always the case with two sides of a story, is somewhere in the middle. It really depends on the model.
Thickness:
The LCD TV's are a bit thinner.
Performance at High Altitude:
LCD TV's perform better at high altitudes.


Overall, our suggestion is for the LCD in 90% of the buying scenerios, unless you are looking for a larger screen, and have limited funds.

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