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Do LCD TVs Burn In?

Learn the truth behind LCD technology and image persistence

What Is Burn In?

Burn in is one of the most commonly misunderstood concepts in regards to modern television displays. "Burn in" is a phenomenon associated to television products, in which a static image left on the screen, over time, can permanently wear itself into the display. This issue is generally associated to phosphor based television displays like tubes, CRT rear projection, and plasma displays.

A common question asked is if alternate, non phosphor based television products, such as  LCD and DLP televisions, are susceptible to burn in. The most common answer given to this question is no, LCD amd DLP televisions are immune to burn in.

It's generally accepted that DLP TVs are generally immune to burn in. For LCDs, however, immunity is somewhat of a half-truth.

The Truth About LCD and Burn In

It is a fact that LCD displays are immune to phosphor wear, simply because LCD televisions do not use phosphor to create a television image. Otherwise, it would be like saying an electric car can run out of gas. That does not mean LCD displays are immune to the effects of static images. On LCD displays, this is kindly referred to as "video memory" or "image retention."

LCD panels use a complicated process of organizing liquid crystal molecules into a twisted or untwisted state, which allows polarized light to pass through the liquid crystal substrate. Over time, it is possible these liquid crystals can "get used to" the state of twist they are in, causing a static image, very similar to phosphor burn-in, to be visible on the screen permanently.

Some say that simply turning off the display for 24-48 hours eliminates this effect, while others have claimed the effect is permanent in extreme cases. Nonetheless, home users of LCD televisions have generally little to fear.

Why Video Memory Is Little Concern To LCD TVs

The nature of LCD products makes them extremely resilient to building up a video memory. In fact, you're far more likely to see this issue on LCD computer monitors. If, for example, the Windows or Macintosh desktop was left uninterrupted on a LCD display, with no screen saver for an extremely long period of time, image persistence could become an issue and (possibly) be permanent.

LCD televisions, on the other hand, typically get enough image movement or power cycles that the buildup of video memory is highly unlikely, although not impossible for those who love channels like CNN. Leaving static images on an LCD display for a relatively short period of time will have no damaging effect to the display.

In other words, you'll only get video memory buildup on an LCD television if you either try to do it on purpose or step well outside the norm when viewing static images.

What's outside the norm? Viewing a large amount of 4:3 programming on a widescreen display with static bars on the side can, as community members have pointed out in the comments area below, increase your risk of video memory or image persistence... even on LCD displays. While I still don't find it 'likely' that this commonly occurs, it's always prudent to limit viewing of static images whenever possible, so do yourself a favor and take advantage of the various formatting modes your television provides.

In recent times, TVs are shipping with a vast number of smart features to do things like playback media from a NAS device or stream content from the web. These displays spend a much greater period of time in menus with static elements than the TVs of yore; the likelyhook of seeing issues with image retention on LCD TVs are increasing. Smart TV owners need to be increasingly cautious regarding how long static images (like a TVs audio player) remain on the screen.

Better To Be Safe Than Sorry

There isn't a huge need for the typical television watcher to concern themselves with video memory and image persistence on LCD televisions; it's not likely under normal viewing conditions. Still, it never hurts to be safe than sorry. Follow these tips to ensure a video-memory-free experience with your LCD TV:

  • Limit your viewing of 4:3 material on widescreen TV with static bars. Use the formatting modes on your TV to reformat 4:3 material to fit the 16:9 screen. Also, don't watch 1000 2.35:1 ratio DVD or Blu-Ray movies in a row. 
  • Be careful of channels that maintain a static, never moving, logo somewhere on the screen.
  • Be careful when playing video games that contain a static graphics, like a life meter or HUD. Make sure you vary your gaming or watch other things between gaming sessions.
  • Be careful of channels with stock tickers and other non-moving images
  • Be cautious of media features and menus in smart TVs.

[Updated from original version; re-phrased to make it clear that while video memory is unlikely, it's not impossible. Thanks to WA6ATI for his comments.] 

[Rewritten on May 6th, 2011. Originally published on December 14, 2004 at 9:13 AM]

Tags : 101burn inimage retentionlcd tvtips and trickstv

Discussion:    Add a Comment | Comments 1-25 of 44 | Latest Comment | 1 2 Next »

October 3, 2008 11:10 PM

Sorry to say that burn-in is alive and well for LCD TVs. My Toshiba has thin dark lines where the black bars are aligned on each side of the screen, obviously from the times when there is no HD signal present. The lines are exactly where the normal screen width is located.
The lines only show up when an HD scene is showing a light blue, gray or sandy color. It's like someone has drawn thin lines where the black border ends and the picture begins on a normal 4:3 legacy picture. We only view legacy 4:3 pictures when the originating signal is is not broadcast in HD, usually around 50% of our viewing.
Toshiba service center is currently looking at it for repair under warranty.

January 25, 2009 12:55 PM updated: January 25, 2009 10:19 PM

Respectfully, I do not agree with Matt Whitlock's final statement, There is no need for the television user to concern themselves with video memory because it's just not possible under normal viewing conditions.

I guess the operative word to consider here is "normal". What is normal? Not one vendor has stepped up and defined this variable. I have been in the service business for over 42 years and I have seen everything. What is normal in a lab environment is not the same, as John Q. Public understands it. We have seen hundreds of these LCD panels with this Image Persistence symptom so sever the panels require replacement.

This is nowhere near the tens of thousands of Projection TV CRTS, or Plasma TV's with image burn in. But to say that it is not possible for the LCD to have Image Persistence caused by a static graphical image, or running the set in the 4X3 mode for more than 50% of the time is unreasonable. It does happen and the consumer needs to be educated on how to prevent this.

Avoid static, stationary images on the screen d\for long periods of time.

Avoid running the TV in the 4X3 mode for more than 10% of the time.

Complain to your cable provider and broadcast stations to either move, eliminate, or otherwise alter their Logo that stays on the screen all the time.

Yes even these innocent logos from your friendly TV station, or Q V C Pricing logo have cost customers millions of $$ because of these logo burns.

As far as I know DLP was completely immune to Image Persistence or burn in.

Dennis

http://wa6ati.com

January 26, 2009 5:01 PM

WA6ATI said: Respectfully, I do not agree with Matt Whitlock's final statement, There is no need for the television user to concern themselves with video memory because it's just not possible under normal viewing conditions. I guess the operative word to consider here is "normal". What is normal? Not one vendor has stepped up and defined this variable. I have been in the service business for over 42 years and I have seen everything. What is normal in a lab environment is not the same, as John Q. Public understands it. We have seen hundreds of these LCD panels with this Image Persistence symptom so sever the panels require replacement. This is nowhere near the tens of thousands of Projection TV CRTS, or Plasma TV's with image burn in. But to say that it is not possible for the LCD to have Image Persistence caused by a static graphical image, or running the set in the 4X3 mode for more than 50% of the time is unreasonable. It does happen and the consumer needs to be educated on how to prevent this. Avoid static, stationary images on the screen d\for long periods of time. Avoid running the TV in the 4X3 mode for more than 10% of the time. Complain to your cable provider and broadcast stations to either move, eliminate, or otherwise alter their Logo that stays on the screen all the time. Yes even these innocent logos from your friendly TV station, or Q V C Pricing logo have cost customers millions of $$ because of these logo burns. As far as I know DLP was completely immune to Image Persistence or burn in. Dennis http://wa6ati.com

After re-reading the artice (which I wrote a long time ago), it did come off as "it's impossible." While I still feel that this issue is highly unlikely, saying it's impossible simply wouldn't be true. I've updated and re-written sections to make it more accurate and useful to the reader thanks to your input.

May 12, 2009 8:35 AM updated: May 12, 2009 8:47 AM

I'm horribly disappointed now knowing the "possible" problem of "burn in" with LCD TVs. There's a tremendous amount of 4:3 programming out there, and some of us don't like the "fat faces" one gets stretching the width of the image, or the cutoff of the top and bottom one gets in zoom mode. Given the scarcity and added expense of HD programming, this is unacceptable.

Rather than saying that image burn is not covered under warranty, like LG, the manufacturers could actually be proactive and do something about it. Maybe the manufacturers should vary the position of the 4:3 image left to right or up and down slowly, but continuously to avoid the static edges of the 4:3 image or letterbox bands for something not 16:9. I, for one, would not mind all that much that the side bars were uneven, or the letterbox bars were not the same size. Simple, simple programming, and a little ingenuity (and ownership of the problem) would be all it would take. Obviously, it is a problem the panel makers are trying desperately to hide.

May 12, 2009 11:15 AM

My TV repair guy was puzzled by the problem and said he had never seen it on any other TV before. He took it to a Toshiba repair center and they had to contact Toshiba. The official buzz word isn't burn-in. The new term for LCDs is persistance. They say it's temporary and to not let the 4:3 ratio pictures stay on the screen for a long time (did not specify what "long time" was). They also said they do not cover it under warranty, even though my warranty hadn't expired.
My experience is that it's not temporary although I don't notice it as much as I did before. Maybe because I know I just have to live with it.
The problem I have is that TV sales people use the no burn-in as a selling point when the manufacturers know there can be a problem - at least Toshiba knows.
I will never buy another Toshiba TV and I encourage those buying an LCD TV to stay away from Toshiba brand.

September 12, 2009 11:23 AM

I sell TVs. I get so many people who see all of the negative things about Plasma who are simply misguided by our media. LCD definately gets burn-in.. I have a 46

September 12, 2009 5:48 PM

My 46" Sanyo 1080p LCD had this, exactly where the 4:3 ration screen edge would have been: a vertical dark band to the right of the screen became apparent watching a DVD.
I am glad to day after about 6 weeks it has completely gone. Here's how.

1. lowered brightness, contrast and colour temperature to medium settings
2. ensuring we watched full-screen TV the while time

We didnt unplug it or anything, but the band DID eventually fade. Maybe we got lucky. I believe we caught it early. Now I have to watch the sports with the scores off-screen most of the time and CNN looks just plain wrong but what can you do. At least I dont have the marks any more. A $1600 TV is saved.

September 14, 2009 11:53 AM

Carlo1,
The thing I don't like is paying all of that money for a TV and it does not work as advertised. Changing the screen size and missing some of the display is something the manufacturers won't tell us we have to live with before we buy the TV.
I have since bought a Sanyo 42" LCD and have had no problems as of two months now. But I haven't noticed the lines as much on my Toshiba lately, I'm wondering if the new digital transmission has anything to do with that even though I get my signal through cable.

View unverified member's comment - posted by apalled

December 20, 2009 9:35 PM updated: December 20, 2009 9:38 PM

My 42" Toshiba Regza 42HL167 has developed 4:3 screen burn. I call it "ghosting" because there are no dead pixels, just a haze exactly where the 4:3 lines would be. The lines are MOST noticeable in darker scenes on my Blu-Ray movies like the nighttime scenes at sea in Pirates of the Caribbean. I'm extremely aggravated but after 2 weeks of no 4:3 programming they seem to be fading. I'm gonna keep my fingers crossed but it doesn't hurt to email Toshiba about paying $1600 for a television a year ago and having this kind of problem when there is virtually no literature about it on LCD's (I had no idea this could happen and the salespeople told me it was "impossible".)

I told one of the salesguys at Best Buy about it when browsing for a new television last week and he pretty much called me a "liar" and assured me that it is "impossible".

December 21, 2009 11:17 AM

Anyone who doesn't believe LCD TVs can have persistance needs to see this web page.
Email this link to your Best Buy guys and ask them when was the last time they designed an LCD TV because they seem to think they know more than anyone else, even the LCD manufacturers.

View unverified member's comment - posted by johnj

View unverified member's comment - posted by scotty42

February 23, 2010 7:27 PM

The really frustrating thing is that equipment manufacturers won't provide for grey bars on the sides of 4:3 content any more. I have Sony Bravia and Fios/Mot 6414 set top box. Sony doesn't provide grey bars because of the

View unverified member's comment - posted by Air America

May 17, 2010 10:07 PM

I have had three big LCD televisions and all have burn-in at the 4:3 margins. For a long time I thought it was a signal problem. Thanks for the article because it does give me some hope that I can get rid of it. I do think you should consider a revision. I mean I barely wath two of my televisions and they still have the issue. Doubt I'm anything special...others must be having as much trouble.

May 18, 2010 3:09 PM

Black Francis said: I have had three big LCD televisions and all have burn-in at the 4:3 margins. For a long time I thought it was a signal problem. Thanks for the article because it does give me some hope that I can get rid of it. I do think you should consider a revision. I mean I barely wath two of my televisions and they still have the issue. Doubt I'm anything special...others must be having as much trouble.
Interesting. What are the makes and models of the three TVs you encountered this with?

May 27, 2010 12:44 PM

I have to disagree with this statement:
"In other words, you'll only get video memory buildup on an LCD television if you try to do it on purpose or step well outside the norm when viewing static images."

I have a 42" HD MediaSmart SL4282N LCD TV that I never watch actual television on. I use it mostly for gaming and movie watching. I've had it since June 2008 and was surprised a couple weeks ago, after pausing a game for only a few minutes to change my daughters diaper, that once I resumed normal game play, image persistance was present. Mind you, this was a new game that I'd been playing for a day or two, pausing it on occasion to do this or that, never leaving the image on the screen for more than 10 minutes or so.

I hoped it was just something with this certain game, but even spending five minutes on the PS3 dashboard will now cause the icons to persist well after starting a movie. Last night we watched a movie fairly heavy in darks and I noticed the dashboard icons for at least an hour into the film. I don't think you have to go outside the norm or try very hard to get what you call video memory. I believe that it actually has to do with the age of the LCD TV and amount of use (manufacturer quality probably plays a role too). I would consider myself a heavy user and would estimate around 2,000 hours of screen-on time since I bought it (almost two years ago, still relatively low considering the "life-time" of the screens). But to have "burn-in" become a problem so suddenly is pretty ridiculous.

Especially since I can recreate it with ANY static image displayed for only a few minutes, and if 5-10 minutes is a "long time" for an image to stay on screen, then I brought it on myself. But I highly doubt that.

Ghosting is also a problem, which I guess could be considered another form of "burn-in." With one game it is very noticeable, because it's a black background with bright solid colors and a little white guy floating around. It's pretty easy to watch my path grow as I make my way through the bright environment. It's basically a "shadow" of the character that elongates behind him.

If I'm having this many issues with an LCD, I'm sure glad I didn't get a plasma.

May 31, 2010 5:06 PM

Please see our article regarding LCD image persistence and how to correct it: http://www.pixeltuneup.com/?page_id=155

View unverified member's comment - posted by RyanP83

View unverified member's comment - posted by AP1

View unverified member's comment - posted by rich bro

April 10, 2011 2:38 PM

I also have screen burn/persistence with my Toshiba Regza LCD. I spoke with a sales person in Sears who also assured me it is impossible. What a bunch of rubbish. Someone needs to re-educate people. Screen burn on LCDs/persistence/memory is a reality.

What I have found helps:

Play a solid white screen for quite a while. It gets rid of most of the screen burn issues on my LCD TVs. I do, however, have some "ghost bar" issues that do not go away on my Toshiba.

View unverified member's comment - posted by Rao123

April 25, 2011 10:36 PM

I'm afraid LCD burnin is a reality. I worked for several years for a company that makes driver chips for flat screen technologies and we engineers all had LCD test displays on our desks for working with the eval hardware boards we developed to sell our products and for our customers to develop with.

A common problem was when we'd overdrive the display by getting the power mixed up on the display drivers so the screen would be driven extra white. You can almost feel the display getting burned :-) However, the long term effect was an overall lightening of the screen. So, driving an all white image at extra bright will for sure burn in (I've seen it). Black is actually a non color, so it's not the color you have to fear, it's the extremes of combinations of Red Green and blue.

As long as you don't have a static image on your display it should be fine. I never tried out any "screen washing" by overdriving the display for 24 hours, as mentioned above, so I can't comment on that, but I do know that you should either have a moving TV image, screensaver or (the preferred) is to turn off the display when not in use. It'll also save on electricity... :-)

The one good point I will say is that LCD's are much less prone to the burn-in effect than regular CRT TVs and often where you'll see the burn-in is when the screen is turned off...but I've also seen ghosting when on.
However, the burnin effect is less when running a video image.

Note that newer LCD's seem to be better than older ones....maybe different manufacturing techniques? LED technologies should not be effected at all. Same for plasma.

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