Plasma and LCD technology- What is the difference?
Plasma and LCD panels may look similar, but the flat screen and thin profile is where the similarities end. Plasma screens uses a matrix of tiny gas plasma cells charged by precise electrical voltages to create a picture. LCD screens are in laymans 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 strenghts and weaknesses.
Both Plasma and LCD sets produce excellent pictures, although some home entertainment specialists still say that CRTs produce the best overall images. It is the same specialists that will also tell you that for basic home theatre usage. plasma screens have a slight edge over LCDs. This is because plasma screens can display blacks more accurately than LCDs can, which means better contrast and detail in dark scenes. The nature of LCD technology, where a backlight shines through the LCD layer, means it's hard for it to achieve a true black because there is always some light leakage from between pixels. This is steadily improving each year within each new generation of LCDs.
Apart from better contrast due to its ability to show deeper blacks, plasma screens have typically have better viewing angles than LCD. Viewing angles are how far you can sit on either side of a screen before the pictures quality is affected. You tend to see some brightness and colour shift when you're on too far an angle with LCDs, while a Plasmas picture remains fairly solid. This is also steadily changing, with more and more LCDs entering the market with viewing angles equal to some plasmas. Plasmas can also produce brighter colours, once again due to light leakage on an LCD affecting its colour saturation.
Traditionally the biggest advantage plasmas have had over the LCDs, is price. Particularly in the large screen end of the market. Depending on the resolution, plasma are still able to beat most equivalently priced LCD screens.
Apart from becoming increasingly price competitive, LCD has the edge over plasma in several key areas. LCD also tend to consume less power than plasma screens. LCDs are also generally lighter than similar sized plasmas, maknig it easier for wall mounting. This is because LCDs use plastic in their screen make-up, whereas plasmas tend to use glass.
LCD users report that LCDs have a longer lifespan than plasma screens. Howeever, many plasmas available on the market today, report a 60,000 hour lifespan which is the same as the LCD. This means they will last for 7 years if they were to be left on 24 hrs a day. LCD have caught up to the quality of plasma with the introduction of LED Backlighting. Instead of lighting the screen with fluorescent tubes, it uses banks of LED lights. There are two types of LED lighting.-Direct and Edge.
Direct backlighting is arguably better because manufacturers are able to turn sections of the screen lighting off. Edge lighting uses a series of LEDs along the edge of the screen. The light is evenly spread across the screen using a series of mirrors. You might have also heard that plasmas suffer from screen burn-in, an affliction not commonly known with LCDs. Screen burn occurs when an image is left too long on a screen, resulting in a ghost of that image "burned in". Newer plasmas are susceptible to this thanks to improved technology and features.
Plasmas give you more bang for your buck at the big end of town, if you are in the market for a big screen television, i'm talking 50 inches and above! While LCDs give you a better resolution, plasmas still have the edge in terms of picture quality. There has 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.
If you are a true high-def junkie who's keen to see every pixel, then LCDs are seemingly the way to go.
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