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The difference between an LCD TV and a Plasma TV

LCD and Plasma TVs look similar on the outside, but are different on the inside

In 2015, the production of the plastic TV is discontinued. However, many are still used and sold on the secondary market. As a result, it is important to understand how a Plasma TV works and how it compares to an LCD TV.

Plasma and LCD TV: the same, but different
Appearances can certainly be deceiving when it comes to LCD and Plasma TVs.


Plasma and LCD TVs are flat and thin and can also incorporate many of the same features. Both types can be wall-mounted and offer Internet and local network streaming, both offer the same types of physical connectivity options, and of course, both let you watch TV shows, movies, and other content on a variety of screen sizes and resolutions. However, how they produce and display these images are actually quite different.

How Plasma TVs work
Plasma TV technology is loosely based on the fluorescent lamp. The screen itself is made up of cells. Inside each cell, two panes of glass are separated by a narrow gap that includes an insulating layer, driving electrode, and imaging electrode, which is injected with neon-xenon gas and sealed in plasma during the manufacturing process.

When a Plasma TV is used, the gas is electrically charged at specific time intervals. The charged gas then hits red, green and blue phosphors, creating an image on the Plasma TV screen. Each group of red, green and blue phosphors is called a pixel (picture element – the individual red, green and blue phosphors are referred to as sub-pixels). Since Plasma TV pixels create their own light, they are referred to as emissive displays.

Because of the way a Plasma TV works, it can get very thin. However, even though the bulky image scanning and electronic scanning of these older CRT TVs is no longer needed, Plasma TVs still use phosphors to create an image. As a result, Plasma TVs still suffer from some of the disadvantages of traditional CRT TVs, such as heat generation and possible screen burn in still images.

How LCD TVs work
LCD TVs use a different technology than plasma to display an image. LCD panels are made of two layers of transparent material, which are polarized and are “glued” together. One of the layers is coated with a special polymer that holds the individual liquid crystals. The current is then passed through atomic crystals, which allow the crystals to pass or block light to create images.

LCD crystals do not produce their own light, so an external light source, such as fluorescent (CCFL / HCFL) or LED, is required to make the image created by the LCD visible to the viewer. As of 2014, almost all LCD TVs use LED backlighting. Since LCD crystals do not produce their own light, LCD TVs are referred to as “transmission” displays.

Unlike a Plasma TV, since there are no phosphors to light up, less energy is required to operate and the light source in an LCD TV produces less heat than a Plasma TV. Also, due to the nature of LCD technology, there is no radiation emission from the screen itself.

ADVANTAGES of plasma over LCD
Better contrast ratio and ability to render deeper blacks.
Better color accuracy and saturation.
Better motion tracking (little or no motion lag in moving images due to the use of subfield disk technology).
Wider viewing angle from side to side.
ADVANTAGES of plasma over LCD
Plasma TVs are not as bright as most LCD TVs. Plasma TVs work best in a dimly lit or dark room.
The screen surface is more reflective than most LCD TVs. More sensitive to surface light – the screen reflects ambient light sources.
Plasma TVs are more prone to burning static images. However, this problem has been greatly reduced in recent years as a result of the incorporation of “track to pixel” and related technologies.
Plasma TVs generate more heat and use more energy than LCD TVs because of the need to illuminate the phosphors to create the images.

It doesn’t work as well at higher altitudes.
Possibly shorter screen life – that was what was happening. Early Plasmas had 30,000 hours or 8 hours of viewing per day for 9 years, which was less than LCD. However, screen life has now improved and a life rating of 60,000 hours is now common, with some ranges rated up to 100,000 hours, due to technological improvements.
There is no burning of still images.
Refrigerator operating temperature.
No problems using high altitude.
Increased picture brightness compared to Plasma, which makes LCD TVs better for viewing in bright rooms.
The screen surface on most LCD TVs is less reflective than Plasma TV screen surfaces, making it less prone to screen tint.
Less weight (when comparing the same screen sizes) than plasma counterparts.
Longer screen life, but the gap is reduced.
For 3D, with an LCD you can choose between units that use Active Shutter and Passive Glasses, while 3D Plasma TVs only use the Active Shutter Glasses system.

ADVANTAGES of LCD TV over Plasma:
Lower true contrast ratio, not as good deep black performance, although the increasing integration of LED backlighting has narrowed this gap.
But this is improving with the recent implementation of 120Hz screen refresh rates and 240Hz processing on most LCD sets, but this can lead to the “Soap Opera Effect” in which film-based content sources look more like video than film.
Narrower effective viewing angle than plasma. On LCD TVs, it’s common to see color fading or color shift as you move your viewing position toward either end of the center point.
Although LCD TVs are not burn-in-sensitive, it is possible that individual pixels in LCD TVs can burn, causing small, visible, black or white dots to appear on the screen. Individual pixels cannot be repaired, the entire screen should be replaced at that point if individual pixel neutralization becomes troublesome for you.
LCD TVs are usually more expensive than plasma TVs of equivalent size (and equivalent appearance), although this is no longer a factor now that Plasma TVs have been discontinued.
The 4K factor
Another thing to note about the difference between LCD TVs and Plasma TVs is that when 4K Ultra HD TVs were launched, TV manufacturers made the choice to only distinguish 4K resolution on LCD TVs, using LED backlighting and edge lighting. , and in the case of LG and Sony, also incorporating 4K into TVs using OLED technology.

While it is technologically possible to build and integrate 4K resolution display capability into a Plasma TV, it is more expensive to do so than an LCD TV platform, and as Plasma TV sales continue to decline over the years, manufacturers of Plasma TVs made a business decision not to bring 4K Ultra HD Plasma TVs to market, which was another factor in their demise. The only 4K Ultra HD Plasma TVs made are for commercial use only.

The bottom line
Plasma has a special place in television history as the technology that started the trend toward the flat screen, the wall-mounted TV, and the video projector that promised from the early 1950s. Developed 50 years ago, its practicality and popularity peaked in the first decade of the 21st century, but it has now passed into Gadget Heaven as a result of advances in LCD TV technology and the introduction of OLED TVs, which have closed the gap with some of the advantages that Plasma TV offers.

For a more detailed look at the LCD and Plasma TV comparison, also read: Should I buy an LCD or Plasma TV? .

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