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The Difference Between LCD and Plasma

Updated on January 2, 2011

Much progress has been made in the last few years. Plasma televisions were the frontrunner for quite a long period of time. They showed deeper “blacks” and were the first choice for watching sports and action movies. The LCD television has almost caught up, although they still trail when it comes to the bigger televisions, ones over 52 inches.

So why are they called Plasma and LCD? Plasma screens, or displays, are made up of individual cells. Xeon gas is injected and then captured in its plasma form. An electrical current charges the gas and the plasma hits against red, blue, and green phosphors. Each cell is called a pixel. In the early days of plasmas, there was a possibility of these phosphors “burning” an image on the screen if the screen didn’t change for a long time. This problem is a thing of the past. Also, plasmas used to generate quite a bit of heat, but now they are more “green” then ever and consume much less energy. Plasmas have the ability to produce an excellent image from many angles in the room (such as off to the side), while LCD’s have coloring and brightness issues when viewed from many angles. Plasmas due suffer in brightly lit rooms, but excel at night or in moderately lit rooms. The reverse is true for LCD’s.

LCD’s consist of two plates of glass with “liquid crystals” in between them. The Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) is then injected with a current which either allows or blocks light as it tries to pass through to the individual cells, thus creating the final picture. LCD’s generally use less energy. The one drawback is that the crystals are injected with backlight, and some of this light does escape pass the pixels causing the deep dark blacks and contrast of the picture to be lightened.

Either way, both are excellent choices. In recent years, many of the differences that separated the two types of televisions have been resolved or eliminated. LCD’s have a slight edge in smaller tv sizes (under 42 inch) while Plasmas have an edge in the larger sizes (over 52 inch). Despite which type you choose, make sure that you have an HD signal.

Causes for Concern

As HDTV technology develops, both plasma and LCD televisions have had to face their own hurdles.

For plasmas, the main concern was that they produced copious amounts of heat, and that they would have images "burned" into their screens. Neither are a problem any more. In the early days of plasma, some plasma models did produce enough heat to actually feel. They couldn't heat a room by themselves, but some people became worried about the internal condition of the plasmas. Fans were installed and this problem isn't an issue anymore. In the early days of plasma, if consumers let their television stay on a certain channel for long periods of time, and the picture on the channel remained inert, burn-in could happen. Many times this would leave a faint image on the television as other shows were watched. It would fade away after a few days. This happened to gamers more frequently then not, because their games had such high contrast and bright colors. This problem also reared its head in the first few hundred hours of TV use. This problem is not an issue anymore. New HDTVs have image retention software, tools, screen wipes, etc. During the first 100 hours, the phosphors warm up for the first time and it is "suggested" that plasma owners don't leave their tv's on one image too long during this time because image retention may occur. After the first 100 hours, there is little concern. It's well worth the effort and wait because the colors are so much more vivid than the majority of LCD.

LCDs are cheaper overall and it shows. They used to have severe problems with action scenes: movies and sports. Many sport enthusiasts stayed away from them because of this problem. The problem became even more severe when the HDTV was over 42 inches because this problem was magnified. This isn't really a problem anymore. Processors have been updated and speeds are fairly close to those of plasma.

Either way, both plasmas and LCDs are both excellent buys these days. Your main cause of concern should be what size for your room, what ports and connections it has and how it can connect to your other home entertainment components, and what type of bargain you can get.


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