If you’re looking to buy a flat-screen television, you probably have already asked yourself which is better, Plasma or LCD. We shall attempt to shed some light on this subject for you.
Nuts and Bolts – The technology of LCD and Plasma Systems
While both Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) and Plasma panels look similar there is a fundamental difference in the way they work. Both use precise electrical charges to control a matrix of cells to produce a picture. However, in the case of plasma screens the cell contains plasma gas while the LCD cell is a fine layer of liquid crystal held between two layers of glass. This fundamental difference produces differing results which have advantages and disadvantages depending on their application. So let’s try and find out which system is best for your needs.
Picture This – Comparing Image Quality
If this article was about Flat Screens verses Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) TV sets there would be no contest. Both Plasma and LCD screens produce far superior and accurate images than the older CRT technology can hope to – with a greatly reduced footprint. But here we are interested in the the relative merits of flat screens. There used to be an easy quality distinction to make between LCD and plasma screens based on the amount of light each system produces from its cells. Plasma used to have the advantage of producing a brighter image due to the inherent property of its cells to produce their own light. In order to produce a visible image LCD cells have to be lit from behind – traditionally by fluorescent tubes. This has the disadvantage that even black cells have a little light bleeding through them which reduces contrast. However, backlight technology for LCD has improved significantly in recent years with the introduction of LED banks replacing the older fluorescent tube system. The result is that there is negligible difference in the quality of blacks between the two systems – although purists will still tell you that Plasma rules this roost.
Cooking with Gas – The advantages TCL Google TV of Plasma
We have covered the advantage of better contrast control with Plasma’s ability to produce blacks that are deeper and more true. Another advantage of gas over crystal is that it reacts to electrical stimuli faster. In ordinary terms this means that it can turn on and off faster. This speed advantage reduces the blurring effect that some flat screens produce when displaying fast moving images. As with the backlight technology issue, advances in LCD technology has reduced the millisecond response gap between Plasma and LCD cells to such a minimal level so as to be almost indistinguishable. Of course our purist friends will continue to argue the toss and will be more than happy to produce millisecond response charts to prove their point. For us mere mortals the difference would be hard to find with the naked eye.
Plasma enthusiasts are quick to point out that their preferred system has a better image fidelity at wider viewing angles. We’ve all seen the effect on flat screen pictures as we move farther to the side of the panel. The brightness and contrast begin to significantly deteriorate and eventually we experience what some describe as a ‘solarising effect’ where the darker end of the image spectrum inverts and all sorts of weird effects are produced. Historically this was always more problematic in LCD systems with plasma being able to produce a far more true image at far greater angles. But, we are going to have to say it again; advances in LCD technology…well, you know the rest.