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March 17, 2011

LCD or Plasma as the Best TV Display Technology?

Filed under: AV question — Tags: , , — Alan @ 6:41 pm

Q. Which TV display technology is best? LCD or Plasma? Some store sales people claim that plasma sets use twice as much power as LCD sets. Others say that plasma screens have better “blacks”. Can you enlighten me?

A. With recent technology advances, both plasma and LCD flat screens are now capable of excellent picture quality; so close that when viewed head on with carefully adjusted picture displays, they are almost indistinguishable even by trained viewers. However, some differences remain. If viewed from angles to the side, all LCD displays show a loss of contrast between black and white areas and degraded color consistency. This will vary from one brand to another and you can easily check that in a store. Just watch a high-quality HD broadcast on an LCD display and walk from one side to the other to see if the image quality deteriorates when viewed at angles from the side. Plasma displays are not subject to this problem; the image quality remains constant in contrast and color even viewed at extreme angles.

Plasma displays have traditionally had better “blacks”—more intense—than LCD displays, but new LCD models that use LED edge lighting and/or “local dimming” driven by image content produce excellent contrast and black levels.

If you view a lot of fast-moving sports, plasma sets are a better choice: their pixels turn on and off faster than LCDs, but new LCDs use multiple refresh rates to limit the “ghost trail” of fast-moving objects visible on some older LCD displays. A hockey or basketball game in HD on a store display will reveal if an LCD set has any “smearing” problems with fast action.

As to power consumption, the early plasma displays did consume a lot more power than LCD displays. New plasma sets, however, have reduced power consumption to almost equal that of LCD displays. You can check the power consumption in watts if you look at the owner’s manual online or check the specs in the store. Be sure to compare sets of the same or similar screen size. Large-screen sets will consume more power than smaller ones.

excerpted from the January 2011 newsletter

Alan Lofft was, for 13 years, Editor in Chief of Sound & Vision, Canada’s largest and most respected audio/video magazine. He edited Sound & Vision (Canada) until 1996, when he moved from Toronto to New York to become Senior Editor at Audio magazine.
Lofft has been writing about hi-fi and video professionally for over 20 years, ever since his first syndicated newspaper column, “Sound Advice”, began appearing weekly in The Toronto Star, Canada’s largest-circulation daily newspaper. In the late 1970s, he became a contributing editor, columnist, and equipment reviewer at AudioScene Canada, the leading national consumer electronics magazine at the time. Find out more about Alan in his bio.

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