Categories: Televisions and Projectors
Available sizes: 32" - 76"
Black levels - Plasma displays typically have better black levels than LCD displays
Size - Though LCD displays are emerging at larger sizes, the current max is around 45"
Value per inch - Plasma offers a better value for your dollar at larger sizes
Burn-in - Static images have the potential to burn into the display
Price - Though cheaper than LCD at large sizes, they're way more expensive than other options
Donald Blitzer, Gene Slottow, and graduate student Robert Wilson originally invented plasma display technology in 1964 at the University of Illinois. Though initially conceived for a completely different application, the advancement of plasma technology has advanced to large, full color displays, thanks in part to Weber's continued research, as well as contributions from Fujitsu and Matsushita.
In 1998 plasma TVs were a niche market, but now is a flourishing category with many different makes and model available to choose from. Plasma is most popular at the 42" size, where the prices have come down to affordable levels in the last few years. Additional momentum is growing at the 50" size category, where prices are expected to continue dropping.
Debunking the MythsPlasma has had a roller coaster reputation in the marketplace. Consumers reporting that Plasma televisions last but a few years have made many potential buyers wary of adopting plasma technology. That and many other myths of "tech-lore", like the report that the plasma inside will leak or need to be recharged, has done little to help the sales of these nifty flat displays.
Set aside what you've heard from your friends; it's probably nothing more than rumor. If you haven't heard them yet, you're going to. So here's the top 3, and the information to debunk them:
"Plasma TVs fade, so only last a few years."
True and False... Plasma TVs are based on phosphor, so they will gradually fade over time. However, you can reasonably expect the current crop of Plasma displays to run for 30,000 to 60,000 hours before the panel is half as bright as the day you bought it. This means that if you run it 5 hours a day, every day, it will last 16.5 to 31 years before you reach that point. In other words the image will be great for the 7 to 10 years you actually use it.
"The plasma will leak out if you tip the TV on its side."
False. A plasma display has millions of tiny cells filled with a mixture of Xeon and Neon gas in a neutral state. When an electrical current is applied, it causes the electrons to become free and crash into each other. As the free electrons return to their original state, they release energy in the form of a UV light photon. This photon hits a coating of phosphor in at the back of the cell and causes it to glow. I can assure you that each cell is a sealed environment, so you won't have to worry that it will leak, regardless of the orientation. However, throwing a remote through it during a football game is another story.
"You have to recharge the gas every few years."
Read above to learn the basics on how a plasma works. Since the environment is sealed, you will not have to recharge a plasma.
Evaluating PlasmaPlasma displays have a lot to offer. The image quality doesn't quite compare to CRT technology when it comes to black levels, but they have great contrast, vivid colors, and are razor sharp. The size and weight of the display makes them ideal for any room you couldn't normally put a large screen television since they take up little space.
The real downfall to plasma is the price. A good HD display will cost quite a bit by itself, but it's important to factor in all of the accessories you need to go with it. You may need to invest in a table stand or wall mount, proper cables, surge protection, warranties, etc. Also, you may need to factor in installation costs if you hang it on the wall. When done, the true cost of plasma can add up far beyond the cost of the display.
Another thing to watch out for is what kind of plasma you're buying. There are two major divisions of plasmas - EDTV & HDTV. While anything in the 50 inch and up category will most likely be HDTVs, the 42" size is split between both types. This is where it gets a bit confusing.
EDTVs are low resolution displays; usually 848x480. While these TVs can usually accept HDTV pictures (confusingly referred to as HDTV compatible), the incoming resolution is scaled down to the resolution of the display. Though they still look good, it won't provide the same level of detail as a true HDTV display. The trade off is that the price of EDTV models will be lower than a similar size HDTV model.
Choosing a plasma these days is more difficult than ever since the market is saturated with different models. It's important to keep in mind that not all plasmas will yield the same performance. Examine each display's picture thoroughly before deciding.
Return to Understanding the Different Types of TVs