LCD versus Plasma TV

Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) and Plasma technologies are two distinct approaches to generating an image, and there is a constant debate surrounding which is the superior of the two.

To get an idea of the difference in pricing between the two technologies, we took a sample from Cats Digital which stocks a good range of Samsung and LG products. Samsung and LG were chosen as they tend to address a wide range of consumers.

LCD Plasma
Size Samsung LG Size Samsung LG
  Cats Digital Cats Digital   Cats Digital Cats Digital
40″+ R9 989 (40″) R10 999 (42″) 42″ R8 499 R7 499
46″+ R17 699 (46″) R21 989 (47″) 50″ R13 999 R12 899
52″ R29 499 N/A 60″ N/A R29 989
60″+ N/A N/A 63″ R54 999 N/A

It should be noted that the 42” and 50” plasma TV offerings used for this table come in a native resolution of 1024×768. Cats Digital do have a 50” Samsung Full HD plasma at a price of R17,899. This makes the TV cheaper and larger than its size rivals in the LCD sphere.

All of the 40” to 52” LCD TVs operate at Full HD resolutions, giving them an advantage over their plasma counterparts, and perhaps offsetting the price difference.

LED backlit TVs were investigated, but they were omitted from this comparison as the pricing for the units was exponentially higher than both plasma and fluorescent options. For example, a Samsung 55” LED TV sits at around R45,000.

LCD panels

A cold cathode fluorescent tube is used to illuminate the LCD panel. The drawback to this is that blacks often appear washed out. The contrast ratio is also not quite as good as in a plasma panel. The LCD panels run at a cooler temperature and consume less power than plasmas however.

LCD panels generally offer higher resolutions on lower screen sizes than the plasma counterparts. The nefarious dead pixel is still a common problem with LCDs though.

Plasma Panels

Plasma panels operate by electrically charging thousands of cells which contain noble gasses. The gasses release energy as a UV light photon, which will cause a phosphorous coating in the cell to glow. Each pixel on the panel will have a sub-pixel cell which emits red, green or blue light, making up the final image.

Plasma’s tend to give better picture quality, with a higher contrast ratio, truer blacks, and greater colour depth. They are also considered to have a better fast motion response, but LCDs are catching up in this area.

Older plasma screens were often victims of screen burn, but this issue has been addressed with newer technologies. It is still advisable to avoid leaving a static image displaying for longer than 10 minutes however.

Altitude also effects plasma TVs, so anyone living in Johannesburg (2000m above sea level) should be sure to check the altitude rating of their plasma TV purchase.

Which technology?

LCDs are dependent on the life of the cold cathode, which can also change colour during its span. The light can sometimes be replaced, but by the time that happens, the cost of doing so might warrant buying a new TV unit altogether. 50,000 to 65,000 hours is the average life of the cold cathode.

Plasma TVs generally have a half life of 50,000 hours, meaning the picture will be half as bright as it was when new. If one were to watch TV for 10 hours a day, it would take over 13 years before a plasma TV reaches its half life.

Judging from the quick pricing comparison, it would appear that on the 50”+ end of the scale, plasma TVs beat LCDs, as they come in at a lower price with Full HD resolutions. Those wanting Full HD in the 40” area should consider LCD.

LCT versus Plasma TV – discussion

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LCD versus Plasma TV