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LCD Panels vs. Plasma Screens: Which One Should You Buy?

LCD Panels vs. Plasma Screens: Which One Should You Buy?

All flat screens are not created equal. Depending on the model, manufacturer, and type of flat screen you choose, you might find wildly different qualities. Of course you ought to research brand names and dimensions when you're shopping for a flat screen TV. But have you thought about the screen itself?

The two most common types of flat screens are LCDs and plasma screens. They have different pros and cons, but one type will probably work better in your living room than the other. Find out which one will work best for you.

Plasma Screens

Plasma screen TVs use an electrical current in the screen to light up an ionized gas (also known as plasma) that creates the image you see. The plasma emits ultraviolet light that causes a phosphor coating to emit a red, blue, or green colour. The process creates coloured pixels that make up the surface of the screen.

Plasma Pros

Plasma TVs tend to have the following advantages:

  • They create rich, saturated colours and deep blacks.
  • They have good picture depth and colour contrast.
  • They work best with low ambient lighting.
  • They uniformly illuminate the entire screen area.
  • They have a wide viewing angle. The picture maintains colour and brightness even at an extreme angle.
  • They display clear, natural motion (no blur). They're better for action movies, sports, and other programs where action moves quickly.
  • They tend to be less expensive than LCD TVs with similar screen sizes and features.

Plasma Cons

However, plasma TVs also have the following drawbacks:

  • Images left too long on the display (usually a few days or more) can get "burned" into the screen.
  • They tend to have a limited screen size, generally less than 65 inches (165 cm).
  • They produce a duller image and have glossy, reflective screens. They don't work as well in brightly lit rooms.
  • They use more energy than LCDs with the same screen size.
  • They generate more heat than LCDs.
  • They tend to be heavier and thicker than LCDs.

LCD Panels

LCD stands for "liquid crystal display." The technology uses two sheets of polarized metal separated by a liquid crystal solution. When an electric current travels through the liquid, it causes the crystals to align. The crystals either allow light through or block the light. This light then passes through an infinitesimally small colour filter of red, green, or blue. The tiny pinpricks of light create pixels.

LCD Pros

LCD TVs provide the following benefits:

  • They produce a bright, clear picture—even in a room with bright ambient lighting.  
  • They have a more matte surface that resists glare.
  • They tend to have ultra-thin frames, making them lighter and less bulky.
  • They are more energy efficient than plasma TVs of the same screen size.
  • They produce less heat than plasma TVs.
  • They have no danger of "burning" an image in the screen.

LCD Cons

Alternately, LCD TVs also have the following disadvantages:

  • They have difficulty producing true blackness and displaying dark scenes. Those that display black well tend to be more expensive than plasma screens of comparable size.
  • They produce weaker colours than plasma TVs.
  • They have a narrow viewing angle. At different angles above, below, and to both sides of the screen, images appear to be different colours than they do when viewed straight ahead.
  • They tend to blur motion when images move quickly across the screen.

So, Which Should You Choose?

Both types of TVs produce quality images. If you care about colour saturation and being able to watch TV at all angles, choose plasma. If you want to watch TV while enjoying the sunshine of midday, choose LCD.