Thursday, December 9, 2010

Which type of HDTV - Plasma or LCD?

(Information is compiled from Internet sources such as Wikipedia, CNET, etc. but opinions are my own.)

The heart of the HD world is undoubtedly the HDTV and this is very often the first HD item to be purchased. This blog will hopefully point you in the right direction when choosing a HDTV.

Choosing a HDTV is not that confusing or difficult so we'll break it down to small bits so it will be easier to make a decision. There are basically two main types of flat-screen HDTV, the earlier Plasma TV and the latter and now more popular LCD TV both employing very different technologies. For those interested in the technical details, refer to Wikipedia.

Below are some general information about the main advantages between the two as a guide but this may vary from model to model and subject to change with new improvements from time to time.

Plasma - better Viewing Angle, better image quality (blacker black and better contrast), superior motion resolution for fast action.

LCD - no screen burn-in effect, lower power consumption, matte screen reflects less light, can get sizes below 40", a wider choice of manufacturers and models, more common PC connectivity, most models are full-HD.

A little more detail on some of the items mentioned.

*Viewing Angle - For Plasma, image will look the same at all viewing angles but for LCD, image will look faded or washed out if viewed at an angle from the sides or from top and bottom.

*Screen burn-in. An image permanently etched onto the screen, say when you pause a picture for too long. This will never happen for LCD but for Plasma, there is a possibility but not likely for normal usage.

*Motion blur and trailing - negligible on Plasma but noticeable on LCD for fast action movement e.g. a soccer game or other fast sports. Newer, fast LCD models has reduce this somewhat.

*Image quality. For purists, Plasma has better overall picture quality, especially blacker blacks and more natural colours. But many prefer the bright and saturated "larger than life" colours of LCD.

*Glossy and matte screen - Plasma glass screen reflects more light so not that good when view in a bright or well-lit room. LCD will look better than Plasma in these conditions.

*Power efficiency. LCD TV consumes less power than a Plasma of the same screen size, due to the different technology employed. Also LCD is less bulky than Plasma.

*Screen size. If you need a screen size of 32" or less, you can only get an LCD. Plasma is available from 40" or 42" upwards.

*PC connectivity. If you need to connect a PC to the HDTV, you'll be able to do it for most (if not all) LCD TV. This is less common for Plasma TV so need to double confirm if this is one of the usages.

*Full HD or HD Ready. Most LCD TV models are Full HD with resolution of 1920x1080 pixels while many Plasma TV at the lower end are just HD Ready with resolutions of 1366x768 pixels or 1024x768 pixels. (I am very surprised by this as I thought all Plasma TV are Full HD.) According to many reviewers, it is difficult to see the difference in practice so it is more psychological that Plasma is inferior in this area. And because of the lower resolution of Plasma TV (except for the higher end models) and possible image burn-in, it is better to choose an LCD TV if PC usage is intended.

*Choice of Manufacturers. Plasma TV brands are limited to Panasonic, Pioneer, Samsung, LG and NEC. LCD TV are also produced by them in addition to Sony, Sharp, Toshiba, Philips, Sanyo and many others. Thus there is a much wider choice in LCD TV.

In the early days, you get get Plasma in larger screen size and cheaper than an LCD for similar screen size but this may no longer be true as LCD are available now in comparable sizes with prices similar to Plasma. The lifespan of Plasma and LCD are about the same so there's little to choose here. It would seem that LCD TV is more popular than Plasma TV maybe because there are more manufactures and more models to choose from. In addition, more people are attracted to the bright, saturated and flashy colour of the LCD TV (some call this artificial, but hey, are we not attracted by artificial boob jobs and the like?)

So deciding between LCD and Plasma will depend on the primary purpose of your HDTV and the environment it will be used in but in the end it boils down to personal preference. Nothing like seeing for yourself and as long as you like what you see, then go for it after considering the major differences mentioned above if they are important for you. And of course get one within your budget.

My next post will be on other factors to consider like screen size and other features.

Ronald Kwok

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