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Introduction

Plasma Displays are very large and thin, with high contrast ratios, smooth images and superb colour reproduction. The difference between conventional CRT Televisions and modern Plasma Screens is huge, and with a HD Ready Display, you can watch films in Movie Theatre quality. You can also view television broadcasts in High Definition, and Next Generation Gaming in glorious colour.

LCD Technology is advancing rapidly, and as a result, LCD Televisions are now a viable alternative to Plasma Displays. They have a longer life span and use less power than Plasma and CRTs, and can double as Computer Monitors with their ability to display very sharp images. Like Plasma TVs, LCDs are also very thin, and recent improvements have given them better viewing angles of up to 170 degrees, making them perfect for family viewing and playing games. With the introduction of HD Ready models, the future of home entertainment is brighter than ever before.


Head to Head Comparisons

Size and Resolution

Plasma – Most Common Sizes: 42” – 50”

LCD – Most Common Sizes 26” – 32”

The larger average size of Plasma TVs means that you get a bigger screen for your money, however, LCDs often have a higher resolution, which means that more individual dots of colour (pixels) occupy a smaller space. If you intend to watch the TV from a closer distance than average, or the TV is relatively large compared to its environment, then LCD would be the best bet. If you intend to watch the TV from further back, or the TV is relatively small compared to its environment, then Plasma is the ideal choice.

Brightness and Contrast

Plasma – Typical Brightness Levels (cd/m2): 1,000 – 1,300

LCD – Typical Brightness Levels (cd/m2): 500 – 600

Plasma – Typical Contrast Ratios: 3,000:1 – 10,000:1

LCD – Typical Contrast Ratios: 500:1 – 3,000:1

Taking into consideration the fact that a typical movie theatre will project a contrast ratio of about 500:1, the exceptional levels produced by Plasma TVs is a result of their ability to show very dark blacks, with no light leakage even in a totally dark room. Plasma TVs generally have a more “glassy” screen than LCDs, which gives them their higher brightness levels, but this is misleading as to the human eye, they don’t appear any brighter when placed side by side with LCDs. In high brightness environments, especially where there may be sunlight in a room, LCDs are better, because they won’t reflect as much light and background objects as a Plasma might do.

Life Expectancy

Plasma – Average Life Expectancy: up to 60,000 hours

LCD – Average Life Expectancy: 60,000+ hours

Until recently, Plasma TVs had a much lower life expectancy than LCDs. However, they have now virtually caught up, and as such, life expectancy is no longer a stumbling point for Plasma TVs. If the TV was on for 5 hours a day, it would take 27 years to reach the 60,000 hour mark, and many would keep going strong for years after that. But, life expectancy is measured differently for the two types, because of the way in which they deteriorate over time. An LCD display will work as good as new until the day it dies, whereas a Plasma TVs brightness will fade over time. The life expectancy of a Plasma TV is the time that it takes to reach 50% of the brightness it started with, so in theory it will still keep going after that.

Viewing Angle

Plasma – Perfect Viewing Angles

LCD – Picture can be affected when viewed from sharp angles

With LCD TVs, colour and brightness can be affected when viewed from a tight angle, sometimes noticeably, but usually only within the last few degrees until you’re viewing it side-on. Plasma TVs don’t suffer from this effect at all, and have perfect image reproduction whatever the viewing angle is.

Latency

Plasma – Not Applicable

LCD – Can show slight blurring during fast moving sequences

When an LCD pixel changes colour, it takes time, depending on how much it has to change by. In a fast moving sequence, where they have to change colour very quickly, this can cause the picture to blur, if the response time is too high. Most current LCD screens have a response time of 12ms or 8ms, which makes it difficult to spot an incidence of this effect.

Screen Burn-in

Plasma – Possible

LCD – Not Applicable

Screen Burn-in could happen when a Plasma TV displays the same still image for a long time, and leaves a ghost of that image on the part of the screen where it was. This could be temporary or permanent, and could take 15 minutes to happen, or the image could be displayed for 6 hours and leave no effect.

Colour Reproduction

Plasma – Incredibly accurate colour reproduction

LCD – Second best, but no flickering possible

Plasma TVs have a more accurate colour reproduction, although in certain circumstances the image may be subject to a bit of flickering. LCDs cant flicker because of their latency, but their blacks are not as deep as those of a Plasma.

Power Consumption

Plasma – Average Power Consumption: 250W for a 42” screen

LCD – Average Power Consumption: 150W for a 42” screen


Conclusion

Despite any drawbacks outlined here, LCD and Plasma screens are the best quality display devices you can get for their price. To put their negatives into perspective, they only surface when compared with each other head to head, and scrutinised with far more detail than an untrained eye could notice. They are two technologies that are neck and neck with many differences and no clear winner, while both are a world away from traditional CRT televisions. The decision of LCD or Plasma boils down to individual preference as both sides have done much to address their shortfalls and deliver a stunning public or home entertainment experience.

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