In Uganda today all entertainment shopping arcades are filled with what most refer to as Plasma and LCD screens; they seem to be the in thing these days both in people’s homes and entertainment centers.
But the puzzling Question is what the difference between plasma and LCD TVs is and which of the two is durable and cost effective considering Uganda’s cost of living.
Plasma and LCD technology — what's the difference?
Plasma and LCD panels may look similar in appearance, but the flat screen and thin profile differ. Plasma screens use a matrix of tiny gas plasma cells charged by precise electrical voltages to create a picture. LCD screens (liquid crystal display) are in layman's terms sandwiches made up of liquid crystal pushed in the space between two glass plates. Images are created by varying the amount of electrical charge applied to the crystals. Each technology has its strengths and weaknesses, as you'll read below.
Is there a difference in picture quality between plasma and LCD screens and normal CRT TVs?
It's not what's happening behind the screen that's important — it's how the screen performs as a television that matters most. , hence plasma and LCD sets produce excellent pictures. Some home entertainment specialists and gamers still say CRTs produce the best overall images (although the latest plasmas are particularly good, and LCD sets are quickly catching up in terms of quality with advances like LED backlighting).
The ADVANTAGES of Plasma over LCD are:
- Larger screen size availability.
- Better contrast ratio and ability to render deeper blacks.
- Better color accuracy and saturation.
- Better motion tracking (little or no motion lag in fast moving images).
The DISADVANTAGES of Plasma vs LCD include:
- Plasma TVs are more susceptible to burn-in of static images.
- Plasma TVs generate more heat than LCDs, due to the need to light of phosphors to create the images.
- Does not perform well at higher altitudes.
- Potentially shorter display life span - this used to be the case. Early Plasmas had 30,000 hours or 8 hrs of viewing a day for 9 years, which was less than LCD. However, screen life span has now improved and 60,000 hour life span ratings are now common, with some sets rated as high as 100,000 hours, due to technology improvements.
LCD television ADVANTAGES over Plasma include:
- No burn-in of static images.
- Cooler running temperature.
- No high altitude use issues.
- Increased image brightness over Plasma.
- Lighter weight (when comparing same screen sizes) than Plasma counterparts.
- Longer display life used to be a factor, but now LCD and Plasma sets both have at least 60,000 hour or higher lifespan.
DISADVANTAGES of LCD vs Plasma televisions include:
- Lower contrast ratio, not good rendering deep blacks.
- Not good at tracking motion (fast moving objects may exhibit lag artifacts) - However, this is improving with the recent implementation of 120Hz screen refresh rates and 240Hz processing in higher-end LCD sets.
- Not common in large screen sizes above 42-inches as Plasma. However, the number is growing rapidly, with 46 and 47-inch screen sizes becoming more common, and some LCD sets having a screen size as large as 65-inches also available to the general public.
- Although LCD televisions do not suffer from burn-in susceptibility, it is possible that individual pixels on LCD televisions can burn out, causing small, visible, black or white dots to appear on the screen. Individual pixels cannot be repaired; the whole screen would need to be replaced if the pixel burnout becomes annoying to you.
- LCD televisions are typically more expensive than equivalent-sized Plasma televisions (although trends are changing), especially when comparing EDTV Plasmas to HDTV-LCD Televisions.
|Size and weight||Generally larger than LCDs, with screens up to 71 inches. Plasma TVs are usually around 10% heavier than LCD screens (meaning great care should be taken when mounting on a wall)||Usually no larger than 46 inches, though larger TVs are in development. LCDs are often slightly thinner than plasma TVs.|
|Quality of Picture||Usually plasma screens have better contrast. Both have excellent quality and sharpness.||LCD usually has a slightly clearer picture in smaller models and a higher resolution.|
|"Image Burn"||Nowhere near as much of a problem now as a few years ago, there is still a slight concern that images left still for a long time could be etched into the screen.||This is not a problem with LCD screens.|
|Brightness and glare||In a fully dark room, plasma TVs have better contrast and brightness than LCD screens.||LCD TVs generally reflect less light and glare, so far better in normal light conditions|
|Lifespan||Usually, plasma screens last for up to 60,000 hours before they dim by half.||LCD TVs usually last 60,000 hours or more before they dim by a half.|
|Energy usage||Plasma uses slightly more power than LCD screens.||LCD TVs often use less power than plasma screens. They can consume 60% less power than a CRT television|
|Viewing angle||Plasma tends to have slightly better viewing angles than LCD.||Some models have a restricted viewing angle, but many allow up to 160-degree|
Which is better value for me right now: plasma or LCD?
If you're in the market for a large screen television — and we're talking 50 inches and above — then we'd suggest a plasma screen. LCDs can give you better resolution; plasma still has the edge in terms of picture quality. One other thing to lookout for, whether you opt for plasma or LCD, is an integrated HD digital tuner — some TVs still have analog tuners, which look pretty terrible on a large screen.
At the end of the day (17-inch to 42-inch TVs), LCD is the only way to go if you want something slim and tasteful. And the best thing is that LCDs are getting cheaper all the time.
There has also been a lot of debate surrounding use in bright environments versus dark, cinema-like conditions. The traditional wisdom is that LCD performs better during the day due to its backlighting system, and that plasma in a dark environment, as it uses a glass front. Nonetheless, products like the non-reflective Pioneer Kuro plasmas and LED-backlit LCD panels with their better blacks completely turn this logic on its head. That said, plasmas do generally perform better in the dark, and models with an anti-reflective coating — such as the new Panasonic plasmas — are the best all-rounders.
If you're a true high-def junkie who's keen to see every pixel of a 1080p source reproduced as is, then LCDs are seemingly the way to go. However, 1080p is quickly becoming the norm, with many LCDs now featuring 1920x1080-pixel resolutions. Budget LCDs and plasmas on the other hand feature either 1366x768 or even 1024x768 (720p) resolutions. If you're buying a screen 50 inches or larger, there's now no reason to get anything less than 1080p.
Despite the current HD buzz, there is still very little content available in 1080p — especially when compared to the infinite amount of SD content like TV programs and DVDs. At present, Blu-ray, and some HD downloads, are the only sources that can do 1080p, and free-to-air is only 1080i.
But it isn't all about the resolution — it's not the pixels, it's what you do with them. Most modern TVs, and even budget ones, will accept a 1080p input, and it depends on the quality of the scalar on-board as to how good a picture you'll get. The big names — Panasonic, Sony, Samsung and LG — usually have very good image processors that can resize the source content — whether it's a DVD, Blu-ray or FTA — to the resolution of your screen without a problem.
Now that you have read about the main differences between plasma and LCD TVs you may have decided which one is right for you. They both have stunning, clear pictures and most models offer amazing widescreen viewing - so you can't go far wrong with either! However, it's worth considering where you are going to watch your TV and for what main purpose you will use it. If you are looking for a smaller screen to put in a TV, bedroom or small living room - LCD is probably your best bet. If you're looking for a home cinema screen, then a larger plasma model may be the one for you.