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LCD vs Plasma: Behind the Screens

LCD vs Plasma: Behind the Screens
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First Published: Wed, May 02 2007. 01 00 AM IST
Updated: Wed, May 02 2007. 01 00 AM IST
Choosing a television set can be quite a daunting task especially if you are looking for an LCD or plasma. Choices abound and there are some myths about the technologies, too. Unlike what many believe, there are major differences between the two types and you can’t substitute one type for the other merely on their looks.
What’s under the hood?
To be honest, there isn’t much of a hood to look under. But inside the sleek and thin exterior, plasma TVs employ a matrix of tiny plasma gas cells that are charged by precise electrical voltage to create a picture.
In the case of LCD panels, liquid crystal display make up the screen. Imagine liquid crystal pressed between two glass plates to which varying electrical charge is applied to create an image. That’s an LCD television.
Despite the advances made in LCD and plasma technology, however, there are experts and gamers (they really do use TVs a lot) maintain that CRT (cathode ray tube or your regular TV) still offers the best quality.
To the layman, however, it’s not the technology and how it works that matters too much. It’s the quality of the TV that he is worried about. Both LCD and plasma TVs offer excellent picture quality. But obviously both have their pros and cons.
What’s best for you?
Depending on your budget and your requirements (maybe in that order of preference), the choice of an LCD or plasma TV will vary. One line of thinking insists that for basic home theatre requirements, plasma screens are slightly better since they can render black better than LCD TVs. This means that the contrast and, therefore, the level of detail on a plasma TV would be better. The reason LCDs cannot achieve as true a black as plasma TVs can has to do with the liquid that is backlit and does leak a little. Improvements are happening all the time and in due course, this should be rectified, but by then, plasma may have become the predominant choice.
In addition to the above, one of the major factors in favour of plasma TVs is their better viewing angle. This allows viewers to sit at acute angles and still get a clear picture.
But it’s not all bad for LCD TVs. One of the biggest advantages they have over plasma TVs is the price . But even technically, there are some advantages that an LCD TV offers. For instance, LCD TVs have higher native resolutions than plasma TVs of the same size. What this means is there are more pixels on the screen and if you are one of those who like to see every minute detail, an LCD may offer more. Of course, this also depends on the source and an ordinary cable TV connection won’t let you notice the difference.
The one myth about LCD TVs that doesn’t hold true for new generation models is the ‘blur’ that was noted in fast scenes or when watching sports (more noticeable when watching a car race as opposed to cricket or snooker!). This has improved significantly and the difference between a plasma and LCD in this regard is almost negligible.
The running cost of a TV is something that many don’t consider. With increasing screen sizes, the power consumption will also increase and in this regard, LCD TVs outscore plasma TVs once again. LCD TVs are said to consume up to 30% less power than plasma TVs.
Another downside that plasma TVs suffer from is the screen burn-in. For whatever reason (and we cannot really think of a reason good enough), you leave your TV on with a still image (say you paused a movie), there is a chance that the ghost of this image may get burned in permanently on the screen. Which means that even if you turn it off, a faded image of this will be visible. While newer generation Plasma TVs suffer less from this ailment, it hasn’t been entirely eradicated. And if you are wondering about TV channel logos, they are translucent and don’t leave the same sort of ghost behind!
When you are looking at plasma or LCD TVs, you may come across a piece of information that says “60,000 hours” or some such number. This is the time for which your plasma TV will have optimum brightness after which it will start to fade off. In case of plasma TVs, the accepted duration ranges between 30,000 and 60,000 hours while in case of LCD TVs, it is virtually guaranteed for 60,000 hours. If you actually convert this to days, it works out to about 2,500 days or about six years of continuous viewing.
* LCD TVs offer more pixels and so you can see more minute details
* LCD TVs are said to consume up to 30% less power than plasmas
* Plasma screens render black better than LCD TVs. The contrast and level of detail are therefore better
* Plasmas offer better viewing angles. It allows you to get a clear picture even from acute angles
(Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com)
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First Published: Wed, May 02 2007. 01 00 AM IST
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