Plasma vs LCD HDTVs
Which TV type is best for you?

The performance gap of Plasma vs LCD HDTVs is narrowing with each manufacturer's new model line. Plasma TVs formerly held a large edge over LCDs with regard to black levels. Last year Samsung in particular released a line of LCD TVs that have very respectable black levels. Starting with their 650 series Samsung's LCDs offer black levels that are approaching the inky blacks of the better Plasma TVs.

Black is still Plasma's forte
Even with more "respectable" black levels, in the Plasma vs LCD battle, LCD TVs still don't match the "true" black of Plasma TVs. Unfortunately the Plasma ranks are losing their standard bearer - the Pioneer Kuro line. Pioneer recently announced they are discontinuing their production of Plasma TVs. The news came as a shock to the videophile community as the Pioneer Kuro line of plasmas were widely regarded as the absolute best TVs - in fact "kuro" is the Japanese word for black. That leaves Panasonic as the standard-bearer for Plasma panels. Samsung has a few very nice plasma panels as well - but Panasonic (as of this writing) is leading the way now. Just prior to their pulling out of plasmas Pioneer had contracted with Panasonic to make panels for their plasmas.

Even the formerly lowly Vizio brand is now releasing some respectable plasma models. Vizio TVs in the past were just plain cheap TVs - period. With their new XVT line Vizio finally has some respectable specs in the model line. Reliability issues seem to be solved as well from the Vizio camp as their overall cheapness now includes better quality control than past models.

Panel refresh rate
Motion-blur has been a downfall of LCD panels for years - but newer sets are handling motion rather well. Plasma TVs have no issues with motion blur while LCD panels inherently have had issues with fast-moving objects on-screen. LCD manufacturers are cranking up the refresh rates with 120hz pretty much now the norm and 240hz models now being released. If you opt for an LCD set and you watch a lot of sports you'll want at least a 4ms response time 120hz refresh rate on your LCD panel.

LCDs closing the performance gap
On the other side of the Plasma vs LCD TV debate is of course LCD TVs. One of LCD's advantages is brightness of the display. Since LCD TVs use a backlight system they can be brighter than plasmas. That lighting system also has an inherent limitation of viewing angles. Although LCD viewing angles are getting much better - they still cannot match the wide range of plasma sets since the light from plasmas is produced by the pixels themselves rather than from a source from behind the panel. Therefore if you are planning on a wide viewing/seating area keep in mind that inherent limitation of LCD TVs.

LCD TVs also have another advantage over plasmas when it comes to image retention or burn-in. LCD panels do not have any issues with burn-in of stationary on-screen images. Although the newer plasmas have nearly totally eliminated the burn-in issues of the past - they still are susceptible to image retention if one is not careful, especially during the "break-in" period of the panel. I have a Panasonic plasma and if I leave my DVR on pause too long I notice image retention (not burn-in) that is only temporary but still present. If you plan on using your set as a gaming display you may want to explore LCD options.

LCD TVs also hold a "green" edge when it comes to power consumption. Plasmas consume more power than LCDs. My plasma emits a moderate amount of heat - not so much that I don't need a furnace but I have noticed my heater doesn't run as much as it did before. In fact there is now talk of legislation in California to eliminate plasma TVs due to energy concerns. That seems a bit silly to me - but I guess that's "just how California rolls".

Plasma vs LCD conclusion
To sum up the current state of the Plasma vs LCD TV debate lets look at these factors. LCDs hold an advantage when it comes to energy consumption, brightness and (although not mentioned earlier) lightness - they are not as heavy as plasmas. Plasma TVs hold the advantage of better black levels and a wider available viewing angle. I personally prefer the "crisp" look of plasmas as well. When you have to decide on a Plasma vs LCD go out to your local "big-box" store and check out TVs in your price range to decide which is right for your particular tastes. Just keep in mind that TVs in a store will be in "blaze-mode" with picture controls cranked to catch your eye. If a saleperson won't let you adjust a TV to your liking - move along to a store that will. After all is said and done it's your eyes that will be watching your TV.

I suggest you do your research in-store then come back and select your preferred model from Amazon's stable of on-line vendors for the best pricing available. Many TVs offer free shipping and there's no TAX on Amazon purchases - which can really add up. Check the Amazon product "carousel" below for recommended models of Plasma and LCD TVs.

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