LCD, LED or Plasma TV: How to choose the best Flat Screen TV

Both deliver high quality, high def experiences, but differences remain. Which one is right for you?

When shopping for a flat screen HDTV, you’re quickly confronted with one of life’s great questions: Plasma or LCD? 




Adorama carries both Plasma flat-screen TVs and different flavors of LCD monitors - LCD, LED, and LED-LCD. In fact, there are over 200 models available in the Adorama Flat  Panel Televisions department. Here is the information you need to help you winnow the choice down to the best flat screen TV for your needs and your budget.

5 Top LCD TVs at Adorama


Lighting the Screen

Plasmas, and their HDTV rivals, LCDs, use slightly different methods to create images on the screen. Plasma HDTVs use precise amounts of electrical charges applied to minute gas plasma cells and the result is emitted light.

What can be confusing to first-time buyers is that there are two versions of LCDs, and they act slightly differently because they are based on slightly different technologies. An LCD, or liquid crystal display, uses LCD for the screen but it does not illuminate, so it uses a different light source, backlighting.

This is where the LCD displays veer into two directions. There are the cold-cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFL) backlit LCDs, which use the CCFL technology to illuminate or backlight the display. Then there are LED-LCD displays, sometimes simply called LEDs, which use light-emitting diodes to backlight. Originally, CCFLs were the more common of the two, but it now looks as if LEDs are starting to get the upper hand in terms of the total number of HDTVs that they are a standard feature.



5 Top LED TVs at Adorama




Image Quality
At the onset of the plasma generation they appeared to have a clear advantage in terms of image quality, but as almost always seems to happen rival technologies have continually narrowed the gap. Originally the native colors in plasma looked best but as backlighting technology got more refined, so was the image that they could show, as well as the fine details encased in that image. So you might be wondering: Which is better, LCD/LED or plasma? There really is no simple answer as they can vary from product to product. Companies develop special technologies that they include to help differentiate their offerings and to your eye (and mine) this might make a difference…or it might not.

One area that Plasmas have caught up to LCD HDTVs is in the area of longevity. At one time the LCD camp had a 3 to 1 or greater lifetime on the displays. Over time, the plasma faded, and initially that was around 20,000 hours. Now it is pushing beyond the 60,000-hour mark so they are now becoming on a par with each other.

Image burn
If you are old enough, you might remember the early computer monitors and how if you left them in on a page for too long that image was burned into the screen as a ghostly reminder of Excel spreadsheets of evenings past. That can also happen to HDTVs at one time and plasmas were the primary guilty party. However just as screen savers were invented to save PC monitors, there are now technologies and techniques in use that prevent the dreaded burn in, so that your friends need never know that you secretly watch SpongeBob SquarePants!

Because the backlight in an LCD is always on, it’s traditionally been difficult for an LCD TV to deliver a truly deep black. Plasmas, on the other hand, can offer “blacker blacks” and thus, better contrast (i.e. the difference between light and dark images on the screen). With that being said, new LED technology now allows LCD TVs to catch up. We’ll cover more about LEDs below.


5 Top LED-LCD TVs at Adorama



In-Room Viewing
In general, plasma sets have the widest possible viewing angles, meaning that you can sit further from dead center and still get a crisp, clear image while the colors on an LCD panel will shift as you move away from the center of the screen. LCD manufacturers are now pushing outwards to match this feature, but they have not quite caught up yet.  There’s also a difference in performance depending on room lighting. Plasma TVs generally perform better in darker rooms, while LCD TVs produce a better picture in a room full of bright light.

An Entertainment Hub
HDTVs now serve a great deal more than simply connecting to a cable box and displaying top notch television and movies. They are almost always now designed to be Internet-friendly with a host of features that enable a user to surf the web, update social media and stream video from remote soyrces or a PC. They also have the ability to serve as giant photo viewers by connecting to remote, cloud-based storage.

Is 3D a game changer?
3D HDTVs are increasingly popular as the technology continues to improve and the cost continues to drop. We are not going to delve into the minutia of that here but suffice it to say that one of the issues that is needed for good 3D is fast image processing.

Over the past few years TVs, and particularly HDTVs have started to move away from the 60Hz refresh rate (which is also basically the image processing speed) and has moved to 120Hz, 240Hz and even 600 Hz. This is a battleground where people claim it is perception and others not but it appears that the plasma displays that tout 600Hz, or sometimes another term such as subfield motion technology, do provide a better 3D experience than LCD/LED displays that operate at the slower speeds.

This and that
A few other notes, plasma HDTVs tend to be slightly heavier and slightly thicker than LCD/LED displays. This is important to consider if you are planning on mounting a 60-inch display on the wall, or even a smaller one on an old table. LEDs are also more energy efficient.


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