Authored by Geoff Vaughan in Gadgets
Published on 01-23-2009
These days, it’s rare to walk into an electronics store and see an old style tube television for sale. With the advent of the latest technology, today’s TV models are slimmer, lighter, and have larger screens than their predecessors. Among flat panel television styles, there are currently two competing types, Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) and Plasma, and each one has its own advantages and disadvantages.
LCD TV screens consist of many tiny cells sandwiched between two sheets of glass. Inside of each cell is liquid crystal (hence the name), which are supplied with an electrical current via thin-film transistors (TFTs). For each pixel, the electrical charge supplied to that cell is adjusted to get the crystal to “unwind” just the right amount. This filters a back light into the desired color for that dot, and this occurs on each cell to generate the picture as a whole.
On the other hand, Plasma screens work via a different process. This technology also uses tiny cells; however, these cells allow electrodes to charge gases such as neon and xenon, causing them to glow. The phosphors in the cells are illuminated by this process, making up the larger picture.
One way to compare the two screen types is by the amount of contrast between colors, and Plasma seems to win this battle. Because of its inherent technology, a Plasma TV can actually reproduce a dark black hue much better than an LCD screen can. In addition, LCD screens use more power to generate a black pixel than a Plasma screen does, in that Plasma screens show black by blocking power to a cell, while LCD TVs do this by upping the power to the cell to unwind the crystal all the way to block the back light.
Plasma televisions also have wider viewing angles than LCD screens. A 160 degree viewing angle can be achieved with a Plasma screen due to the way the picture is generated, while it is common for LCD screens to only have 120 or 130 degree angles. This means that more people can crowd around a Plasma TV during large gatherings, while with an LCD TV, those sitting near the left or right edges of the room won’t be able to see the picture very well.
In the longevity department, however, LCD TVs take the cake. While Plasma screens fade over time due to the nature of the gases used to generate the picture, LCD TVs do not have this limitation. Also, when Plasma screens wear out, there is usually nothing that can be done to fix them – one simply has to throw the old set out and buy a new one. This contrasts with LCD sets, in which the backlight, which is the most common cause for problems, can sometimes be replaced. In all, LCD televisions are considered to be much more durable and less prone to defects than comparable Plasma sets.
So, if you want a TV with a better contrast ratio and wider viewing angle, a Plasma screen is probably the right choice. But, if you want a TV that will last longer and give you less problems, choose one with a Liquid Crystal Display screen.