I was convinced(ignorant) LCD was the way to go until getting some well informed information from one salesman who showed me the advantages of one technology over the other and proving it to me with my own eyes. Setting up the latest and best model LCD's (Sony Bravia Series & Samsung Series 6) along side the latest Plasma HDTV (Panasonic Viera TH-PY800) and letting me the consumer decide what produced the best Picture Quality for my personal home viewing. Well there was no comparison in my opinion...Plasma!
I ended up purchasing and upgrading to the latest model 50" Plasma for the same price as the 40" LCD equivalent and for a much better price than the 46" LCD's. Here are some facts that swayed me from LCD to Plasma technology...
1. DARKER BLACKS:
Plasma technology has continued to achieve quite high contrast ratios... this a measure of the blackest blacks compared to the whitest whites. Panasonic has long been the leader in Plasma black levels and is still extremely impressive.
Plasma displays achieve such impressive black levels by using internal algorithms to block the power to particular pixels in order to render a pixel "dark" or black. While this can limit a Plasma television’s gray scaling, it does produce exceptionally black blacks – depending on the manufactured plasma display element (i.e. glass).
As opposed to Plasma, LCD displays consume the most power when displaying a very dark or black image. This is a difficult process, and despite recent improvements in LCD black levels, only the best LCD displays (like those produced by Sharp, Sony and possibly most recently Samsung) have managed to topple the contrast ratio barrier (post calibration). The one continual drawback here for LCD is off axis viewing (angle viewing), when black levels consistently drop.
LCD manufacturers have made great improvements in black levels and in many cases have managed to match the contrast ratio of plasma displays. However, Plasma TVs still maintain a clear advantage in this category due to fading blacks when viewing LCDs from off axis(again viewing on an angle). In a dark room environment the user will notice the hazy effect present in blacks on LCD HDTVs.
For scenes with a lot of dark and light images shown simultaneously - as with content originating from DVDs, video games, and TV signals - Plasma HDTV's still consistently outperform LCDs. This was proved to me instore!
2. ANGLE VIEWING:
Plasma manufacturers have made much of their 160° viewing angles, which is about as good as horizontal and vertical viewing angles get. One consistent area of superiority of plasma viewing angles is demonstrated when viewing dark material content, especially DVDs. Plasma TV holds the black levels from off axis, while LCDs lose black level intensity more as the angle off axis increases. This usually occurs after around 90 degrees. LCD manufacturers have done much to improve their displays' viewing angles.
The substrate material on newer-generation LCDs by Sharp, Sony and Samsung has helped to expand those units' viewing angles, though they still have some ground to cover before catching Plasma. Expect the best LCD displays to have between 120 and 130 degree viewing angles. Due to a deeper pixel cell structure Plasma technology again triumphs in this category. Again proved to me instore. The LCD's lost Picture quality and appeared to be very washed out (grayish). Plasma kept all of its Picture quality.
3. PICTURE DEPTH:
With an incoming HD signal Plasma looks more three dimensional than LCD TVs. LCDs rely more on the effects of lighting for depth characterization and images at times can appear flatter. LCDs have enjoyed such great success from the showroom sales floor due to the extreme levels of brightness they can achieve.
Don't be fooled as your home living area is a much different environment to a showroom floor. Plasma technology has the better picture quality in normal to low room lighting conditions and are better in 4 out of 5 picture quality categories. Plasma technology will almost without exception triumph during night time viewing. LCD televisions are great for sunroom/breakfast room type environments.
Also, LCD monitors generally look better for public display but again this is not where most consumers will be viewing their HDTV. This was proved to me by viewing a HD shot of a forest on all these HDTV's. The LCD's were flat and blurred. The Plasma almost gave a 3D effect. I was impressed with this demonstration!
4. MOTION PICTURE:
FAST-MOVING VIDEO PLAYBACK - Plasma displays get the nod here because of their excellent performance with fast-moving images and high contrast levels.While the "response time" of LCD TVs has markedly improved in the last couple of years, they still suffer from a slight "trailer" effect (Ghosting), where the individual pixels are just slightly out of step with the image on the screen.
During fast moving sports scenes. In all areas of fast motion sports viewing the Plasma clearly out performed the LCD's. Again this was proved to me while instore. Eg..viewing a cycling race but concentrating on passing street signs and advertising banners. The LCD's produced a very blurred picture and I was unable to read the signs that were going past. The Plasma was outstanding! I could read every sign clearly on Plasma which were a jumbled blur on the LCD's. Again an impressive demonstration. All this was something I never considered at all!
5. OVERALL SPECS/PRICE(Value For Money):
Contrast Ratio was a biggie for me. The LCD's produced a contrast ratio of between 18,000:1 & 30,000:1 (Dynamic) while the Panasonic Plasma produced 1,000,000:1. Secondly the LCD's 100Hz motion picture technology was again bettered by the Panasonic with its 480Hz sub-field drive. Finally Price and value for money...
Sony 46" Full HD Bravia LCD X Series: $4999
Samsung 46" Full HD LCD Series 6: $3999
Panasonic 50" Full HD Plasma TH50-PY800 $3999
Don't let me sway your opinion either way when deciding on your HDTV. Let your own eyes convince you of the best HDTV choice for your home viewing pleasure. This is a guide to consider before leaping headfirst into a purchase which may not be the best choice available upon getting it back home.
There are many ill-informed salesman out there that may not give you (the consumer) the correct or factual information on both technology's. This is possibly due to retailers making a bigger mark up/profit% on LCD's due to the fact Plasma are more expensive to manufacture or some other reason the public are unaware of. LCD propaganda I believe is rife! So be careful when making your final decision and get a salesman who can prove to you the facts under equal conditions.
I hope this helps fellow geekzoners when it comes time to purchase your first HDTV. Don't make the same mistake I nearly made and go in blind. Investigate thoroughly!