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Purchasing a Television: Plasma or LCD?

If you’re ready to make the leap to a flat-panel television set, you may be overwhelmed by the plethora of options available on the market today. Not only do you have to select a brand and size, but you’ve got to determine whether you want 1080 or 720p and wade through a wealth of features and options, such as Internet connectivity. Another big decision you’ll need to make is whether you want a plasma or LCD TV.

Very simply put, plasma and LCD are two different technologies used in the manufacturing of television sets, similar to Windows PCs and Macs in the computer world. There are many similarities and differences, and each type of technology has its pros and cons. To determine which type of television is right for you, you’ll want to think about what you plan to use the television for and consider several factors to find the technology that meets your needs.


One of the most noticeable differences between plasma and LCD TVs is the color quality. Plasma TVs are known for producing a truer black than LCD TVs. Color contrast is also typically superior with plasma screens. The LCD technology still delivers a crisp, clear picture, but if you’re looking for top-notch color quality, plasma is still the best option. Some LCD manufacturers have started using LED backlighting on their televisions, which produces a truer black. While it is an improvement over standard LCD displays, only the higher-end models can rival the black produced using a plasma display.


Another important factor to consider before selecting a television is where it will be placed. You probably already know whether you’ll be placing it in the family room, bedroom or somewhere else in your house, but you should also consider whether it will be mounted on a wall or set atop a TV stand. Will there be people throughout the room that might watch the television or will it be viewed primarily from one spot? If you’ll mainly be watching this particular set from one position, both LCD and plasma will work, however, if people will be viewing the television from a variety of spots within the room, plasma may be the better choice. Plasma TVs have a full 180-degree viewing angle, which means you’ll get a great picture regardless of where you are in the room. This also applies vertically, so a viewer sitting on the floor will see the same quality picture as someone sitting on a sofa. LCD television manufacturers have improved their viewing angles in recent years, but you’ll still only get a viewing angle of about 120 degrees.


One of the main factors to consider when selecting a new television is cost. You want to get the most bang for your buck, so along with all the bells and whistles, make sure you compare the prices of the models you’re considering. There’s not too large of a difference in price between plasma and LCD, but plasmas tend to be a bit cheaper, so you may be able to get a larger screen if you go with plasma over LCD. Manufacturers typically estimate the lifespan of a plasma television at 60,000 hours, whereas LCDs are estimated to last to 100,000 hours. If you watched your plasma television for four hours every day of the year, it would take more than 40 years to wear it out. Considering how much more advanced technology will be at that point, the difference in lifespan is negligible.

While this seems to all suggest that plasma is the way to go, there is one important factor to consider: Plasma TVs, if left on a still frame for too long, will run you the risk of permanently burning pixels onto your screen. While many models are taking measures to combat this with automatic screensavers, it nevertheless means that plasma televisions aren’t recommended for video games, and certainly shouldn’t be used as computer monitors.

I hope this helps you make up your mind when shopping for your next television!

~ Chad Stetson