LCD vs. plasma TV – here we go again
LCD vs. plasma TV – here we go again
You thought all LCD TV’s were much the same until you saw Philip’s 56-inch masterpiece
By all means ask my tech-savvy neighbour Wolf about new technology. Just don’t ask him about LCD TVs.
Wolf will happily prattle on about any audio‐video topic. Hearing him talk about the sonic differences in the red, white or black suspension used in Ortofon’s legendary 1958 cartridge called the SPU is like sharing a meal and a chat with Albert Einstein.
And don’t get Wolfie started on amplifier and speaker combinations. The man will chat all night about the original Radford STA 25 amplifier and how it sounds driving a pair of 15‐Ohm LS3/5a speakers. Especially if the wee speakers were one of the limited run of 500 pairs made by Chartwell in the UK.
But don’t, what ever you do, ask him if LCD TVs rival the plasma models.
Wolf is a re‐born videophile. An epiphany, which began the moment, he bought a Pioneer 50‐inch plasma TV.
That was five years ago. Time enough for me to hear over and over again why plasma TVs have better colour, better contrast and a smoother picture than any LCD TV I’d care to bring over to his house.
And here we come to the hub of Wolf’s hubristic stance on all things plasma. “Wolf”, I feel like shouting in his tender ear, “that was five years ago mate”.
Five years! For heaven’s sake, the TV world has turned as many times as Mark Weber’s front tyres have on the F1 track since then.
In those five years Pioneer has gone from a top‐of‐the‐pole/tree/mountain Plasma brand to a top-of‐the‐pole/tree/mountain Japanese3 audio‐video brand that no longer makes plasma TVs. Pioneer has vacated the lofty space it once owned in the TV world.
Others also not engaged in plasma production include NEC, Fujitsu or Philips. And it’s also pointless pointing out the number of secondary manufacturers who have all pulled the pin on plasma in the last half‐decade because they’d take up most of this page.
How hard can it be for people like Wolf to understand the heat on plasma came from LCD?
Consumers liked the technology. Because it was easy to buy. Every corner store had ‘em along with an endless range of sizes, makes and models. If Wolf moved out of his time warp and shuffled into a couple of his local audio‐video stores right now what he’d see is LCD everywhere with only a handful of Plasma brands on display. They are: Panasonic, Samsung and LG. Read what you will in that order.
Plasma is certainly no dearer to buy than LCD. But it is limited by a lack of available models, brands and sizes.
Yes, I know one of the Yellow brick road bulk store chains was touting a cheap and cheerless Chinese‐built beastie with a 37‐inch screen a couple of years ago. It sold for well under $800 when a budget plasma was about $1600.
But if you got past the appalling build and picture quality it was obvious the wee plasma barely qualified for standard definition status. Point is, consumers who don’t have a BMW or Mercedes class wallet can buy a 32 or 37‐inch LCD TV that suits their small living area or apartment. What’s more it will be made (or ranged) by one of the established brands and it will be selling for peanuts. Moreover there’s a mind‐numbing array of makes and models on offer.
Statistically it was the smaller sized LCD TVs that stole sales away from plasma. And a concerted misinformation campaign against plasma by some audio‐video retailers in the pocket of the powerful LCD brands sealed plasmas fate.
Despite plasmas claimed superiority for having a smoother picture, more natural colours, deeper blacks and better contrast, LCD rules the TV roost. And why not? The technology has come a long way in five years. Top of the rung LCD TVs handle fast motion better than they ever did. Contrast levels and passable blacks are good enough for most quality conscious consumers. And as for inner detail, the very best LCDs are simply amazing and have a 3D quality without resorting to the 3D gadgetry –or goggles –required by pukka 3D models.
The news gets even better for LCD buyers when price is thrown into the buying equation. Truth is the very good LCD and plasma TVs compete on a level playing field as far as price goes. Technologically LCD keeps developing quickly. Models using LED as back or sidelights consume a lot less power and are slimmer and sleeker.
Plasma is still an obvious choice for a discerning buyer who wants no questions remaining about his new TV’s ability to handle not only fast but fast‐moving complex motion. That’s the reason I bought one of the last 50‐inch Pioneer plasmas.
But my personal choice shouldn’t influence your buying decision. Especially when I use a 32‐inch LCD in the bedroom without complaint.
But the caveat is: be careful what you wish for because there are only a handful of Plasma models I’d award a five star rating for picture and build quality. And most have these three magic words printed somewhere on the chassis “Made in Japan”.
Consumers in the market place for a new TV show no signs of abating. Australians bought nearly two million TVs in the last financial year and they’ll buy plenty this financial year. The nation is migrating away from the venerable analogue TV system and embracing all that digital has to offer. And the exercise will be repeated with Digital Radio.
Buyers who have an open mind should sample LCD and Plasma models preferably with a mix of live to air TV programs such as the News and for consistency a decent Blu‐ray movie. Don’t bother with animations ‘cos they all tend to look good. Take a good action movie along to the store which has plenty of dark scenes. Try Shutter Island, Men Who Stare at Goats or any of the Resident Evil movies.
A final tip. Buy your next TV like you would buy a nice hi‐fi system. Oldies like Wolf are correct when they explain that the most realistic sounding audio systems are not larger sounding than real life.
Should you find yourself drawn to remark about an exquisite treble or powerful bass during the audition, that system is not natural sounding. The great sound systems do not draw attention to themselves.
TVs are really not that much different. The picture they generate needs to mimic the natural. Too vivid colours or explicit detail should signal the set has to be recalibrated or more likely, it isn’t the best around.
LCD versus plasma checklist
Plasma is quicker to refresh its individual pixels than LCD. But newer, more powerful processing in LCD TVs is closing the gap. Not all LCD processing is as good as it’s hyped. In fact bad processing is worse than no processing at all.
GO to an airport and look at the LCD TVs on the displaying arrival and departure times. Tell me what you see. Poor old plasma took a hiding in the early days because if you left an icon or static image on the screen for hours on end you’d see a “ghost” of that image.
Thankfully these days’ manufacturers supply anti‐burn technology such as screen savers. They’re usually available by keying on to thy set’s menu system and selecting the type of screen save that appeals to you.
Small rooms, bedrooms and tiny dens won’t support a large TV. Problem is the smallest decent plasma around has a 40‐inch screen. But the good news is there are plenty of 17 to 37‐inch LCds TVs that will do the trick.
LED LCD TVs use eat up a lot less power than a standard LCD or Plasma TV. But don’t be fooled by the magic word LED. It’s not the technology but the way it’s executed that counts. Trust me there are plenty of LED models that are simply trashy and not worth giving them any house room.
Sane greenies are not against you or I enjoying our TVs. What they’re alarmed by is the growing number of TVs we all seem to stash in our homes.
But before you make power consumption a big issue it’s worth knowing that a big TV consumes a lot less power than a hand drill or electric kettle.
Weight & bulk
LCD and LED TVS win this contest hands down. Some are half as thin as the sleekest plasma. As for weight the LCD brigade is lighter because it outfits thy sets with plastic screens while plasma must have glass.
Cleaning & maintaining your new TV
Follow this three‐part process and you won’t damage your TV’s screen
- Use a feather duster or vacuum cleaner fitted with a soft brush to remove all the dust. If you haven’t either use a brand new paintbrush instead.
- Wipe the screen with a slightly moist lint‐free or micro‐fibre cloth lint
- Follow up with a dry lint‐free or micro‐fibre cloth.
Don’t forget to vacuum the lint and dust from the back of the TV. All flat‐screen TVs have air‐vents which have to be free of debris to keep the set at the correct operating temperature.
Moving your TV
Yes, you can move an LCD or Plasma TV safely but only if you turn it off at the power point and allow he set to cool down for ten to fifteen minutes.
If you need to transport your by car or van and you don’t have the original carton, lay the set with the screen face down on a couple of thick padded blankets.
Peter Familari - Editor, Star Audio Visual Association Inc