For many years, choosing the right type of HDTV has made many homeowners confused. There are several types of HDTV that you can get from the market, such as Plasma TV and LED TV. Plasma TV was very popular, but is today virtually extinct. Still, you can get a Plasma TV from a local or online store, though the availability has been superseded by LED TVs. So, what are actually the differences between a Plasma TV and LED TV? How do the two compare to each other? Is a LED TV always better than a Plasma TV?
What is a Plasma TV?
A Plasma TV is a television that implements a plasma display panel (PDP), which is one type of a flat panel display. A plasma display panel is named so because it contains and uses electrically charged ionized gases (plasmas). Usually, a Plasma TV would come in a considerably large size. A Plasma TV would be at least 30”. Nowadays, Plasma TVs have lost almost the entire market share because of the competition from cheap LCD TVs and LED TVs. US manufacturers have stopped producing Plasma TVs, whereas the manufacturing in the Chinese market is expected to end in a few years. So, despite the drop in popularity, don’t be surprised if you can still find a made-in-China Plasma TV on the market.
What is a LED TV?
A LED TV is a television that uses an LED display, which is also a type of a flat panel display. Unlike the PDP, a LED display utilizes a series of light-emitting diodes as pixels for an image display. LED TVs are available in various sizes. There are small, medium, and large LED TVs on the market. LED TVs are the most popular TV type on the market right now, and are produced by various manufacturers throughout the world.
There are generally two types of LED TVs. One is lit from the edge of the screen by a line of LED lights; the other has a grid of LED lights behind the whole panel. The first type of LED TV is much more common and cheaper. The second type is sometimes called a direct-lit TV, is less common, and is more expensive.
Pros of a Plasma TV
Since each of the cells is lit individually by the plasma chambers, a Plasma TV produces a black image by not applying any current at all to the cell. The result is an astonishing black level. Even those pricey direct-lit LED TVs cannot match the black levels of a Plasma TV.
Furthermore, a Plasma TV tends to produce more brightness across the screen. Each of its cells is individually lit, thus allowing for incredible viewing angles. You can sit 20-, 45-, or 80-degrees off the center, and you still enjoy the same vibrant colors as if you were sitting in front of the display directly.
A Plasma TV does not need to use dynamic contrast, so it does not produce distracting brightness shifts on scene changes. Its response time is generally faster, allowing fast-moving objects to look sharper and reduced ghosting.
Cons of a Plasma TV
A Plasma TV cannot be put in a very bright room or under the sun; it will be utterly difficult to see the display in such conditions. This is because a Plasma TV lacks peak brightness. While the blacks are deep and all, whites are not very bright. A Plasma TV may also produce shimmers and flickers like an old CRT monitor, especially when displaying very bright images. Another problem is the high power consumption.
But the biggest problem of a Plasma TV is the burnt-in images. If there is a static image that is displayed for a long period of time (for example, a channel logo or the HUD of your favorite video game), the image may burn into the display panel. The image will still be displayed even after the logo or HUD has gone from the actual video source. New Plasma TVs are particularly prone to such effect, so, if you have a brand new Plasma TV, you may want to avoid watching channels continuously in the first few months.
Pros of a LED TV
The edge lighting technology has allowed manufacturers to produce super-thin TVs. A LED TV can produce a wide range of colors (gamut), and some manufacturers even employ cool technologies to create those exotic reds, greens, and blues. Hence, a LED TV can produce very lifelike images with vibrant and vivid hues. So far, LED TVs are the cheapest kind of TVs to run. They consume very low power. A 42” LED TV only need as little as 40 to 50 Watts to operate. In addition, LED TVs can be very bright – you can put it right under the sun and still see clearly what’s going on the screen.
Cons of a LED TV
LED TVs struggle in producing deep blacks. The darkest black level of a LED TV still looks gray. A LED TV also struggles to respond to scene changes. When moving from a bright outdoor scene to a dark indoor one, or vice versa, the delayed brightness adaptation can be annoying.
Backlight unevenness is also a problem with LED TVs. This is most noticeable on a dark scene. Here, you may notice that the scene looks brighter on the edges or corners where the LED lights are located. Finally, a LED TV tends to have a narrow viewing angle. A LED TV may lose saturation when watched from the side and not directly up front.
|Plasma TV||LED TV|
|- Uses a plasma display panel (PDP), which is powered by plasma chambers||- Uses a LED display, which is powered by light-emitting diodes|
|- No longer common on the market||- Very popular on the market|
|- Outstanding black levels||- Great brightness, vibrant and vivid colors|
|- Ultra-wide viewing angle||- Narrow viewing angle|
|- High power consumption||- Low power consumption|
|- Prone to burnt-in images, difficult to see in a bright environment||- The brightness is slow to respond to scene changes, may have uneven brightness across the panel|
Choosing between Plasma TVs and LED TVs comes down to your needs and preferences. If you don’t mind the high power consumption and you somehow need the ultra-wide viewing angle, a Plasma TV can be your choice. Otherwise, an LED TV is generally more preferable; it has excellent brightness and consumes less power.