How to Choose between Plasma, LCD and LED HDTVs

How to Choose between Plasma, LCD and LED HDTVs thumbnail
All HDTVs have a shallow, wide form compared with their CRT ancestors.

Like other high-tech segments, high-definition television manufacturing is a constantly changing world in both technology and pricing. LCD technology has been slowly inching out plasma, the granddaddy of flat-screen television, but it hasn’t vanquished it altogether. LED TVs, rather than being a unique technology, are LCDs that are backlit with light-emitting diodes rather than the traditional cold cathode fluorescent lamps, or CCFLs. Each type of HDTV has pros and cons; choose the one that best fits your particular wants and needs.

Instructions

  1. Viewing Environment

    • 1

      Choose an LCD HDTV if your set will be in a bright room. Whether backlit with LEDs or CCFLs, LCD TVs in general produce a brighter picture that stands up to strong ambient light. Screen reflection plays into this as well; a matte screen on any type of TV will function better in a bright room. If your TV viewing space is dark, a plasma screen’s ability to produce darker blacks will serve you well.

    • 2

      Map where the majority of viewers will be seated before heading out to purchase an HDTV. LCD TVs have narrower viewing angles than plasmas, so viewers who do not face the TV head-on will not experience the same picture quality as those who do. Plasma pictures do not suffer when viewed from the side and work best in a room that has few seats directly in front of the TV.

    • 3

      Consider what screen size will work best in your room. In general, the further the seating is from the screen, the larger TV you should buy. Plasmas do not come in sizes under 42 inches, so if you are buying a small TV the choice is made for you.

    • 4

      Decide how important style is to you. If your room has a modern, sleek aesthetic, you may choose to purchase an LED-based LCD TV, particularly one that has edge lighting rather than backlights spanning the entire screen. These TVs are the thinnest available. Traditional LCDs and backlit LEDs are thicker, and plasmas are the thickest and heaviest of all.

    Performance

    • 5

      Think about the types of programming you will be watching most often. LCD TVs suffer more from “motion blur” than do plasmas. Most viewers probably would not notice, but if you are a sports fan who is very particular about the TV’s picture, this may be enough to sway you to a plasma screen.

    • 6

      Choose a plasma HDTV if you are likely to notice small differences in picture uniformity. Plasma technology does not rely on backlighting and is not susceptible to light bleeding from one pixel to another. LCD technology is improving, but some light is likely to leak from bright areas of the picture to dark areas.

    • 7

      Buy a plasma, or a top-of-the-line LCD, if contrast is important to you. Plasmas in general produce deeper blacks and serviceably bright whites. Expensive LED and LCD screens have narrowed the gap in this area, but in general, plasmas are more likely to deliver theater-quality pictures that show every detail in the scene. Color saturation also is generally better in plasma TVs.

    Budget

    • 8

      Decide how much you want to spend on a new HDTV. Sets with LED edge lighting are the most expensive type of LCD TV. When comparing large TVs of similar size, plasmas tend to have smaller price tags because they are less expensive to manufacture.

    • 9

      Take into account how much energy the TV will use if your budget is tight or green living is important to you. Plasmas use more energy by far, up to three times as much as LCD TVs. LED-based LCDs are the most energy-efficient of all. Don’t rely simply on the category to ensure energy efficiency, however; check the label of the particular TV you are considering, because individual models do differ in their power usage.

    • 10

      Consider how long the TV is likely to last. Plasma TVs once had a reputation for shorter life spans, but the latest models claim to last as long as LCD TVs -- about 60,000 hours, or eight hours a day for 20 years -- before losing their brightness. Read reviews from both consumers and experts to help determine the build quality of any models you are considering.

Tips & Warnings

  • There are many cheap HDTVs out now that are very good quality, try the Vizio model in particular

  • If you are really shopping for a deal on an HDTV, try Craigslist. Used TVs can be a fraction of the cost. I recently got a 22 inch HDTV for 20 dollars and was practically brand new!

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References

  • Photo Credit Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

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