The Case for Plasma vs LED/LCD HDTV

November 28th, 2012 · 40 Comments · 3D HDTV, LCD Flat Panel, LED LCD Flat Panels, Plasma

The Case for Plasma

Many people dismiss plasma TVs. Their explanations range from “it’s an older technology,” to “LEDs are more expensive, so they’re better,” to “I saw one in a store and it looked terrible.”

Yet every reviewer from every major TV reviewing publication and website praise plasma TVs for their excellent image quality, not to mention their lower prices.

So what gives?

The case for plasma is multifaceted, while the case against them (and for LCDs), is rather finite.

Contrast ratio

The single most important aspect of picture quality is contrast ratio. This is the difference between the brightest part of the image, and the darkest. It’s what gives the image depth and realism. A high contrast ratio can make an image look three dimensional (without even being “3D”). A low contrast ratio will look flat and washed out.

Contrast ratio is also the greatest difference between displays of any type. Detail, noise, color, and other aspects of picture quality have all gotten very good in the past few years. Contrast ratio has gotten better as well, but not to the same extent. There’s still a wide discrepancy.

But wait! You say. LED LCD manufacturers hype 1,000,000:1 contrast ratios! Surely that’s enough. Well, if that were true, it would be. The thing is, they all lie. No contrast ratio you’ve ever seen from a manufacturer has anything to do with what you see on screen. In objective measurements of production TVs, plasmas almost always have a better contrast ratio than any LCD.

The only exception is the very few local dimming LED LCDs on the market. These are able to dim specific areas of their backlight to boost the contrast ratio. This doesn’t look quite as good as a true native contrast ratio, but it’s close. In the case of the ELITE by Sharp, the effect is excellent and the TV looks fantastic. In the case of the HX950 from Sony, it’s still good but not as good as the better plasmas.

This is why so many TV reviewers prefer plasmas. Side-by-side with an LCD, and the plasma will look better. Of all the flat panel TVs I reviewed and measured this year, the one with the highest contrast ratio by far was the VT50 series from Panasonic. This was our pick for TV of the year. This was CNET’s pick for best overall picture quality of 2012. It was Consumer Reports’ highest rated TV under 60-inches (they didn’t test the 65-inch version). So it’s not just us who think it’s the best looking TV on the market, and that’s mostly due to its incredible contrast ratio.

I wrote an even longer article about contrast ratio over at CNET called Contrast Ratio (or how every TV manufacturer lies to you).


One of LCD’s biggest problems is off-axis performance, or how the TV looks when you’re not sitting dead center. Most LCDs, if you move even one seat over on the couch, look dramatically different. In some cases this can be as innocuous as the black level becoming more gray (reducing the contrast ratio). In other cases, the actual color of the image can change.

While LCDs have gotten better in this regard, it is still an issue. The better offenders may be OK for the seats adjacent to the center. The worst offenders will only look good to those sitting direct in front of the screen (“on axis”).

The only LCDs that don’t have this issue are IPS-based LCDs. IPS, or In-Plane Switching is a different method for creating an image with LCDs. However, IPS-based displays have their own issues, the most notable is a contrast ratio even lower than other LCDs.

Plasmas will look the same no matter where you sit.

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Motion blur

The other major issue with LCDs is motion blur. This is as it sounds: a blurring of any object in motion. This can be as simple as a burring runner in a sportsball game, or as severe as the entire image blurring as a camera pans across a scene. Personally, I notice motion blur the most with close-ups of faces. The instant the shot changes to a close-up, the face seems highly detailed. Then the person moves slightly, and the image blurs just enough to obscure details like facial hair, wrinkles, and so on. To an extent, 120 and 240 Hz LCDs address this problem. Which is to say, true 240 Hz LCDs don’t blur as much with motion as basic 60 Hz displays.

However, for them to be fully effective, these higher-framerate LCDs have a process called “motion interpolation.” With video-based content like sports, this isn’t an issue. With 24 frame-per-second content like movies and most scripted TV shows, it can result in an odd artifact with motion called the Soap Opera Effect. The SOE makes everything look like a cheap soap opera, instead of a movie or prime time TV show. Some people aren’t bothered by SOE. I loathe it.

Because of how plasmas work, they don’t have the same issue with motion blur. Some new models, however, incorporate motion interpolation for reasons that escape this writer (marketing? I don’t know). However, in the case of plasmas, you can defeat this “feature,” with no decrease in performance.


Plasmas, with very few exceptions, are cheaper than their like-sized, like-featured counterparts. In the 50-inch range this price difference isn’t too severe. In the larger sizes, it can be significant.

True, there are some new huge LCDs on the market of 70-, 80-, and even 90-inches. These are larger than the largest commercially available HDTV plasma (65-inches). However, they have not all been favorably reviewed. So yes, if you want a 70-inch or larger TV LCD is your only choice, but know that there is a performance penalty for it.

The case against

Of course, this isn’t to say plasmas are some perfect technology. There is no perfect technology. If you have a room with lots of sunshine, and you watch a lot of TV during the day, the added brightness of an LCD can be a benefit. This is one of the only ways an LCD is better than a plasma: light output. Most people would never need the added brightness of an LCD, and at night the extreme light output can cause eye fatigue. But in some cases, it’s useful.

Other than outright brightness, the days of LCDs just inherently being better able to handle reflections has passed, though. Nearly every LCD on the market has a glossy screen, making them susceptible to the same reflections that plague plasmas and CRTs before them.

So if you know you’re going to get reflections (i.e., the windows are behind you), and you can’t get curtains (which would make every TV look better), then you have two options. The first is finding one of the few matte screen LCDs on the market (they are all smaller size screens-ed). Keep in mind these will have worse picture quality overall than non-matte LCDs or any plasma. After that, search for anti-reflective coatings. Most high-end plasmas and some LCDs have this.

While we discussed image retention above, there are a few situations where it should be considered a factor. If you’re planning on using your TV as a computer monitor, anything static on the screen (like the task bar), can cause image retention. In mixed use, it’s not an issue. I use an HTPC when reviewing plasmas, and have never had an issue because I watch TV and movies as well.

Bottom Line

There is no “perfect” TV, but for most people the better picture quality, better off-axis performance, better motion resolution, and lower price mean plasma TVs are a better deal than LCDs (LED or otherwise).

Consider that those of us who test dozens of TVs a year, comparing them side-by-side, choose plasma over LCD in most cases. Also consider why a store (or manufacturer) might want to push you towards the more expensive product. I’m not saying everyone should get a plasma over an LCD. Like I said, there are situations where an LCD is better. However, if you’re looking for the best picture quality, plus all the other factors we’ve discussed, consider a plasma.


Geoff Morrison @TechWriterGeoff
Geoff’s book is now in paperback


Have a question for the HD Guru?

Copyright ©2012 HD Guru Inc. All rights reserved. HDGURU is a registered trademark.



40 Comments so far ↓

  • Anthony

    LED or Plasma??
    Specs to compare: 51″ F4000 Series 4 Plasma VS
    40″ F4000 Series 4 LED? Which is better? Both are the same price here in Cape Town $1000.

    Really can’t say as neither series is available in the US

    HD Guru

  • David Billen

    As owner of both a Panasonic VT50 and a TC-L55W60, I obviously prefer the VT50 for critical viewing at night. However, until the light in the room goes below a certain threshold the LCD has a more consistently accurate picture.

    This is because of one minus for plasma that I didn’t see mentioned here – the picture level compensation, (we used to call it “voltage clamping” on CRT’s).

    Because of it, the gamma is never consistent in both dark and light scenes. The calibration all-around is very difficult to ever call “correct”. I can nail all of the settings using APL patterns with small windows. Then a check of all the same settings with large APL patterns is different. Obviously the gamma is different, but there are changes in the white balance and color lum settings as well.

    To be sure the LCD is not just “a little worse” in the dark. It is unwatchable compared to the plasma. But I did want to bring out that one point.

  • Jim Butler

    I despise the oil painting effect of Plasmas.
    Can that be totally and I mean totally eliminated?

    The complaint regards upconverting 720p and lower resolution sources to the panel’s native 1080p using it built-in scaler, according to a thread on a av forum. Responses to the poster stated they eliminated it by simply setting their source box (cable/satellite) or 1080i or 1080p. The only plasmas mentioned were select 2012 models.

    HD Guru


    I have watched a lot of new LED LCD TV’s and they do not even come close to the older LCD TV’s in terms of overall brightness. In a sunny lit room LED LCD TV’s are horribly dim, plasma and regular ccfl backlit LCD TV’s are far brighter and have much better color. Technology is going backwards in my opinion. TV’s should be getting brighter but just the opposite is occurring. The best LCD picture that I have seen so far comes from both the old and newer Panasonic models of CCFL LCD TV’s, not LED LCD TV’s……. period.

  • Rick Smith

    We have both, and the LCD doesn’t hold a candle
    to our Plasma TV.
    When we watch movies we ALWAYS watch
    them on the big screen plasma. The LCD is OK
    for the news and political commentary shows,
    and other shows where we don’t care about a
    beautiful picture.

  • John

    Well….after 2 Samsungs, an ES7100 with a line down the screen and two different brightness levels on each side of the line, replaced with an ES8000 that’s 3D was not up to par and ended up with a white screen of fine grain snow, and two Samsung 5900 BR players that each failed, I decided to go with Panasonic for reasons of quality control and better construction.

    So I ended up with the VT 50.

    Three actually. And here is where the CE rating missing on US goods from Mexico comes in: all three VT’s power supplies have a harmonic issue with the AC in my home and hum and buzz up a storm feeding back into the AC lines. It’s so bad it affects other equipment. Take the TV somewhere else and all is good. This is why a PF corrected power supply is so important. ERRR!

    Panasonic and our PUD have been very responsive so far and hoping a solution can be found….but two tuning forks talking to each other usually have very long conversations. Only thing left is Sharp E if the plasmas don’t work out. But some say the 2013 VT, or at least the ZT will be different enough to not cause PF harmonic interference.

    Must say I now like (if not prefer) the plasma’s picture just as much as the ES’s dispite whites being dim as I’d rather watch movies in the dark and that makes the whites (seem) better. 3D quality was excellent on both brands and 3D is now very important to me…like going from black and white to color. Amazing.

    BTW…in my case Samsung’s cheap 3D glasses and BR players were not as good performace wise as Panasonic’s (BDT320P) when used with the VT 50, and the 320’s touch pad remote is far better IMO than the old style remotes after a hour of learning and getting used to it. Samsungs ES8000 touch pad and motion control was a joke, but its voice command worked well. I think programmable command voice control will end up being the future system of control. Remotes are just too hard to see in the dark.


  • Dr Venture

    Some very good info here. I just bought a Panasonic UT50 60″ plasma for my rec room with no windows. The picture is extraordinary and I am very pleased with this choice. When I look for a new TV for my family room (with lots of windows) I will lean towards a LCD backlit LED. A couple more things to consider: The plasma will consume more power and weigh appx 15% more than a similar sized LED TV. Plasmas have had lots of time to evolve into a fine product, LEDs will likely continue to improve and drop in price.

  • alex

    if you are watching the program and not the picture, your brain will make up for all of the difference. that is, you loose yourself in the story and begin identifying objects in the pseudo-reality rather than patches of light and dark on a screen.

    if you put plasma and led lcd side by side in a dark room, plasma easily wins for picture quality. in a bright room, maybe led lcd. but if you put just one tv in either room, that one wins! i only use one tv at a time.

    the moral: pick one you like for picture, features, price, etc. take it home and enjoy it!
    don’t fret too much of your life away worrying about what the jones’ have.

    personally, i live in socal and have TONS of sunlight in my home…so led lcd for me.


    A friend of mine just told me a simple thing.
    LEDs were LCDs and by next year OLED will be intoduced. Meaning that LED TVs are improving and need to be improved with better technology. Plasmas were always plasmas and still are using the same technology without changing the name. So just by this u can see that plasmas are better.

  • ANO

    This article was an excellent read! I was just about to purchase a LED today but last night online I stumbled across a Plasma that was bigger, better brand, and the same price as the LED. I really did not know the difference between the two and had always assumed LED was better because of the ads I have seen. Now I am set to buy the Plasma today!


    Hi there. Am considering replacing my old panasonic plasma with a new HD tv. Am really confused going for LED or Plasma. I saw a brand new model led tv Philips 47 6900 series (no reviews yet)and compare to a Samsung es8000 the pic was so much better.Deeper and more detail colours. Plus extremely beautyfull TV. I ve seen the new Panasonic 50 inches VT50 too. Its about 300 euro more than the Philips. My only concern is that after an hour or two my old Panasonic when playing games the pic was freezing. Will i still have the same problem with the new Plasmas?
    Having said that , i get a better no interest installments on Philips, but no on the vt50 as they are different retailers. Furthermore i have been told that the human eye cannot really capture the difference if a tv produces 600hz or 2000hz on the movement. Bottomline I am a gamer and movie fanatic.So which one shoud i go for?
    Could u be of any help please?

  • Rick

    John, what model vizio did you buy and how do you like it?

  • John

    Paul said: “John, regarding your viewing experience of the VT/GT, what picture mode was applied to the store’s floor models? Custom or THX? I’d be particularly interested in knowing if the VT/GT was set to THX mode when you viewed the “off white” content. Thanks.”

    I’m not sure what the VT and GT’s settings were at the first location as the salesman didn’t want to change anything and said they were set “correctly”, but I suspect the Samsung and the Panasonic plasmas were all set close to “vivid” mode used to sell TVs so I went to two other locations to look at the VT and GT in comparison to the Samsung plasma again. But again the whites were too dark and this applied to the Samsung plasma as well in comparison to the LCD LED HDTVs. I had the salesmen play with the settings to increase the white balance on the Panasonic plasmas and no matter what they did the plasma’s white could not match the true real life white of the LCD LED TVs. I find this disturbing as I wanted “it all” and was willing to deal with glare and a darker room to obtain it.

    What I found surprising exposing a trait of the human condition is a salesman who owns a plasma (GT) while viewing snow in a snowboarding scene state the bright white on the LEDs is not “real” after not being able to increase it on the plasmas. But I snowboard and know real snow is pure white and very bright and this is why the best goggles are needed. After talking to salesmen that own plasmas I soon realized they were all willing to give up the true to life bright whites found in nature for a deeper but darker contrast ratio and “adjust” their perception to it. I also noticed that room light that dims a plasma’s picture makes the lower cost LEDs blacks much darker while retaining a brighter and truer to life white.

    So we have two viewing conditions where the LEDs can perform well, but the plasmas still need a darker room to appreciate their deeper contrast ratio and create a bright picture that never catches up to the LEDs and is void of a true white. Yes when you get a plasma home this may change due to the deeper contrast ratio but it is your senses adjusting to it, not the TV creating a true to life white. In nature white can be so white and bright it affects your vision of contrast hiding snow conditions.

    After adjusting the Samsung LEDs I was able to get rid of the false overdone picture used to sell them and get a very “real” picture with good black contrast and the best whites I’ve ever seen. LEDs have improved and again to my surprise I realized I liked the overall picture on the LEDs better despite the restricted view angles needed to maintain the best contrast ratio. Not only that I noticed looking at the Panasonic plasmas from above as a gamer would using motion control and how I view TV at times, the anti glare filters affected the plasmas far more than the LEDs were affected from this view angle creating a very dark picture. I found this angle from above on the plasmas far worse than the LEDs change in contrast ratio. A gamer standing is not going to like this as the change is abrupt and unwatchable from above whereas the LEDs lose some of their contrast but can still give a reasonable picture.

    As good as consumer TVs have gotten they still have a ways to go. At Video Only (the only dealer that was displaying this screen test) I was shown a demonstration of the Samsung’s Flow Motion feature vs the Sharps and was amazed at how good the ES 7100 series and above deal with motion now and suspect this is why plasmas are working on this now. I am now of the opinion the most important improvement to HDTV is increasing the view angle to maintain contrast. I exchanged my last Sony LCD for a Vizio because the view angle drop-off was terrible and can see great improvements have been made over the years. So my first choice now is the Sharp Elite LED, then the Samsung ES 9000 LED, ES 8000, and for the money the ES 7100.

    At the moment on paper I prefer Samsung’s Micro-dimming over true full array back-light dimming because its not really “full” array and here is another advantage of plasma LEDs must catch up with. I think Samsung is headed in the right direction with plasma needing to improve their brightness and whites to carry the crown in consumer displays for the average person that watches TV in the daytime.


  • Michael Beckerman

    HD Guru, please also keep in mind that LCD screens can also be easily harmed by most household cleaners that people typically keep under their sinks. Also, if you clean an LCD screen often with paper towels, over time the small fibers from the towels can sluff off and embed themselves into the fine mesh on the matt screens of LCD TV’s. (Note that the newer high-gloss LCD’s do not suffer from this problem now). Plasma screens are always easier and safer to clean. When you factor in all of the pluses and minuses of Plasma vs LCD/LED-LCD’s, there is almost no reason left not to choose Plasma today. The only one that really stands up is that they don’t have a plasma available in the screen size you are looking for (Plasmas are currently available from 42″ to 65″ at retail, but go from 80″ to 150″ in the commercial/professional market)

  • Paul

    John, regarding your viewing experience of the VT/GT, what picture mode was applied to the store’s floor models? Custom or THX? I’d be particularly interested in knowing if the VT/GT was set to THX mode when you viewed the “off white” content. Thanks.

  • John

    After years of hearing how plasmas have improved I set off today with cash in hand to look at the Samsungs but buy a Panasonic 55in VT unless the ST was so close I could not see the difference and then step up a size.

    This was after years of viewing a pair of 35in Mits X7 (“huge” TV) and then the Mits Diamond series 4oin….809?…..two great sets for standard TVs that show how good the old standard can look and why I waited so long to go HDTV.

    I have to go see them at another dealer to make sure I saw what they are supposed to look like. But based on what I saw to my surprise (I disliked the the early LED Samsungs “fake” colors that still look too “cartoonish” IMO) the Samsung 7000 looked much better to my eyes than both a 55in GT and 65in VT I had the salesman set to vivid to see if that helped because neither could produce a blue sky. As the salesman went off on how “real” the Panasonic looked I watched a snowboarder ride on dull non-white snow with a grayish blue sky. The LCD LED TV’s all had white snow and blue skys. The salesman said blue was a weak issue with both Panasonic models. The contrast was excellent but the GT and VT both looked “gloomy” and the whites were not white, but off white.

    IMO having white snow is just as important as having a deep black and the Samsung was much better in creating white and a blue sky.

    I was so surprised at how much I disliked the VT (and GT) plasma’s color tone that I just drove 60+ miles back home to rethink what is important. With IR and filter shadow issues affecting the opinions of owners who often defend their Panisonic plasmas I now have to consider the Samsung with the buzzing issue affecting some as well as, according to the salesman who wanted to sell me the VT, a 10% failure rate of the Samsung panels from spider cracking that is being blamed on the user so “not a warranty issue” that can be claimed.

    In the end picture quality is what matters to me and I will likely risk getting a “bad” Samsung panel or a buzzer so I can have a blue sky and a better white. But I did see what I want, and it was not a plasma. But at $19000 I’ll have to wait it out. The thought of having to worry about IR again after owning the X7s is not something I want to go through again where one mistake (as CNET showed) leaving a still image overnight can ruin your TV…..but even that would not have stopped me if the color tone was as real as people say it is.

    I still can’t believe how disappointed I am in the VT’s color tone. I felt like I was telling the salesman the Emperor had no cloths on. While one end is good (black) the other end (white) is unacceptable in both the VT and the GT TVs I saw today. I don’t care about flesh tones if the the sky is not blue and the snow is not white. That’s why I will go to another store and look again….but it seems like the 60in Samsung 7000 (no 6500’s in this area) will be my next TV. Hope I’m wrong and the VT and GT were calibrated poorly by the same person as the spider cracking issue is almost enough to make me look elsewhere but I suspect pressure being applied to the panel in shipping or setting it up may be a large part of this issue with the Samsung plasmas. It’s my only real concern now.

    BTW…3D is great when done right! Another surprise after thinking it a gimmick for kids. Now I consider it an important part off the TV’s specs and the future.


    Geoff: This makes me sad. Nothing you’ve described has anything to do with what the TV would look like in your home. These are color temperature and settings issues that calibration and even simple setup could fix.

  • ogre

    Plasma more durable than any LCD. Front is glass, some even use gorilla glass. Nice smack to your LCD and pray pixels don’t get stuck. Heat is not much of an issue. Yeah they run hotter than led-LCD, but is not like a heater. My older LCD runs hotter than my newer plasma.

  • Todd

    Another thing on the cons side would be durability. Neither is great at it, but plasma screens are significantly more fragile. With small kids, toys will occasionally bounce off the TV. For me, this was the deciding factor in getting an LED screen. I knew the quality would be lower, but the risk of having to replace it is pretty high for me.

    Geoff: In every way this statement is incorrect. LCDs and plasmas are both very reliable. Plasmas have a harder layer between you and the parts that make the picture, so a medium impact is more likely to cause damage to an LCD than a plasma. That said, if crap is hitting your screen, no TV is safe.

  • Terry M

    One thing that never seems to be brought up is HEAT. IMO, Plasma sets run very hot and can add several degrees to a room. If your room doesn’t have proper ventilation, you will suffer through watching the Plasma. It is not a deal breaker…but is a big factor.

  • Steve

    I’m assuming that the reason why DLP was not discussed was because Mitsubishi just announced that effective now, they are no long in the consumer TV market. They will however ontinue to make commercial units.

  • Paul

    HD Guru, I’m considering purchasing the 55″ VT50 as a replacement for an LG 47″ LE8500 that has full array/local dimming…but has developed one of those thin vertical lines mid-panel. My wife and I like viewing 4:3 content that TCM offers, but worry about the resulting sidebars causing burn-in. So here’s my question: If I avoid 4:3 content during a gentle 200 hour break-in period of the VT50, but use the “Bright” sidebar setting for post break-in viewing of 4:3 content, do I need to take any other precautions or am I’m good to go? Thanks!

    Based upon our tests over the last two years we do not believe you will have any uneven wear issues post break-in.

    HD Guru

  • Brian

    I have a few image burns from playing the same video games for literally hundreds of hours. Is there any way I can get rid of them? It’s a Panasonic and I ran the 15 minute anti-burn program a few times but the burns are still there.

    If it is uneven wear, try playing snow from the built in tuner with the antenna input disconnected or buy a test disc such as the The Disney Wow Disc

    HD Guru

  • Thom

    I am on the fence between a plasma (Panny 65″, probably the VT) or the Mitsu Laservue. Any insight into which is better? I know “it depends on viewing conditions” but I am more interested in your opinion on quality of the units themselves. I’ve read some horror stories about the Laservue’s being delivered broken and Mitsu being stand-offish on helping. Would love the size/picture of the laser, but not sure it is worth it. Do you have experience with it, and/or should I just go for the Panny? Thank you VERY much!

    A tough call, as its kinda an apples vs. oranges situation. On one side you have DLP rear projection, a proven technology but a dwindling product catagory. The LaserVue is undoubtedly the best DLP rear projector ever made, and a 75-Inch screen trumps a 65-Inch.

    On the other hand real world contrast ratio beats everything else in picture quality (pq) and the TC-P65VT50 wins hands down in this category. As we pick pq over screen size, and the VT50 also has a better viewing angle we would recommend the Panasonic, as it has the best picture of any 2012 HDTV.

    HD Guru

  • Aloke

    Why no discussion of DLP? Mitsubishi still makes them.
    The merits (and de-merits) of technologies should be discussed in an educational article like this, regardless of market share.

    I am a happy owner of a Samsung HL61A750 LED DLP TV.

  • Tim

    My first HDTV was a plasma and after suffering almost 2 yrs with it, I sold it and bought an LED. My plasma was a base Panasonic, but the picture was disappointing. For all of the talk that plasmas were better, that’s what I went with. The picture was not that great, the light in my living room required me to close all curtains to watch TV without seeing light reflecting from every angle…it was terrible. I love the off-angle viewing, but my LED looks fine off-angle for my situation, and it’s bright enough during the day that even the gloss of the screen is overpowered by the LED’s even at just over half brightness. My number one issue with plasmas is reflections. The glass panel is still too reflective and any light hitting them washes out the picture, so there goes your contrast. That’s my observation as a consumer. Darken the room and a plasma is wonderful, but I don’t want to sit in the dark all day. I prefer to enjoy the natural light my windows provide. And why is Panasonic STILL not including swivel stands on their lower-end models? Even the ST50 doesn’t include a swivel stand, which would be useful if you need to angle the TV away from light reflections. Not everyone mounts their TV.

  • Michael

    Every time I see a plasma next to a LCD the whites look bluish on the plasma. Is it just me? The best tv pics I have seen are plasma but when side by side the whites seem off-white.

    Geoff: The color of white is a color temperature issue, and can be adjusted/fixed with calibration or switching the color temp setting in the user menu.

  • mbrennan191

    I am also amazed how little research people do before they drop $1k-$2K on a television when a simple “Plasma vs. LCD” Google search would provide them with more than enough information. I often explain the benefits of plasma to people who have gathered misinformation about the technology. Unfortunately for plasma, the average Joe bases their decision off how they look under the florescent lights at Best Buy next to an LCD displaying neon colors in torch mode. “It’s so bright and look how thin it is!”

  • hd kid

    ahh plasma vs led-lcd… don’t forget about plasma’s ability to create so many more colors than an led-lcd can. this has to do with black level, but plasmas have superior black level definition. watch a dark movie, like “the dark knight rises” or any of the harry potter movies, on a plasma and led-lcd, side-by-side. try telling me you can see more definition in dark scenes on the led-lcd.

    i had a conversation with a nice gentleman in my store a few days ago, looking at a vt50. he didn’t know it was one, until after we had been talking about it for 10 minutes or so. once he found out it was a plasma, he was beside himself. new plasmas have far more light output than plasmas from 2 years, or even last year, resulting in pretty awesome bright room performance.

    bottom line, if you’re looking to spend $1500+ on an led-lcd, you should SERIOUSLY be considering a gt50 or e7000 series plasma because you’ll get a more fulfilling experience out of it and probably save some $$ in the process. but if customers want to spend more money on an inferior product, i have no issue taking more of their money.

  • Gas0linE

    The reason LED sells more than a plasma, is because the average joe who walks into a place like BestBuy which has LED plastered all over the place and thinks that LED is the best because its newer. Most people who buy a TV is usually un- educated, but still care for picture quality. They are not at al familiar with off angle viewing, banding, motion resolution, color accuracy, in fact they get it out of the box and watch it in Dyanmic or “Torch” mode not knowing any better. IMO its not that people don’t care about picture quality, its more on the line of un educated people. That is exactly why most home theater professionals will prefer a Plasma because it ultimately is the better choice for picture quality. Just because someone buy’s a LCD/LED TV doesnt not at all mean they “do not care about picture quality” It just means they are not as educated in the different types of technology out there.

  • John

    These Plasma vs. LCD discussions remind of the battle between VHS and Betamax. The latter recorded a better picture but VHS offered longer recording times with a slightly inferior picture. Guess who won. Obviously consumers don’t care much about picture quality. VHS recorders became cheaper and cheaper because of economy of scale. Same thing happening with LCD TV, they are becoming a lot cheaper than plasma TVs.

  • Gas0linE

    @Tom We can both agree to disagree here. I am referring to more high end TV’s. Not your average 200-400 budget TV. (Black Friday TV) I’m sure no one is going to pop 2-3 grand down on a nice TV if they didn’t care about picture quality. It’s also why I said “Most” people, not “all” people.

    Besides, your argument is irrelevant here. For the people who do not care about Picture quality, (which makes no sense to me if your going to buy a new TV) this article does not pertain to those individuals. Again, it’s common sense that people are not going to spend 3k on a TV like a VT50 if they “didn’t care about picture quality” I am not so sure I know of anyone who is in the TV buying market who doesn’t care about picture quality to some degree. If your gonna spend any kind of money on a TV, if your smart, you should care about picture quality somewhat.

    again, when I refer to “Most” people, I am referring to people that are spending 2 grand or so on a HDTV.

  • Tom

    GasolineE said “Most people buy a TV for its picture quality.”

    I wish I could agree with you, but I don’t think they do. If they did, more people would watch HD but even those who have that option through their cable or satellite system simply don’t because they don’t care about picture quality. If they did, there would (hopefully) be a lot less picture stretching. I work in the industry so have followed the arguments for years but I get my wakeup call everytime I go home to my parents or in-laws. Just last weekend my sister in law, who is my age and an intelligent person, told me she couldn’t see the difference between the SD and the HD picture. I was astounded. I don’t think she can’t tell the difference, though. I think what she really meant to say is that she just didn’t care.

    The form factor is what sold people on HDTV flat screens. They just liked the way it looks.

  • Chuck Daly

    Great Article. Outside of the latest Elite panels by Sharp, a plasma has been listed as the the top HDTV on virtually every home theater enthusiates magazine/website for the last 8 years, yet the general public is still dumbfounded when told that Plasma is the better technology for picture quality.

  • Paulo

    I’m a novice, so please forgive me– Why does a plasma TV “buzz”? Do all plasma TV’s “buzz”? Is in inherent in the technology? Or is it more to do with the brightness of the image? …. That’s what’s kept me from buying a plasma.. Should I expect the VT series you recommend to have buzz?

    Geoff: See my comment a little further down. Even the worst plasma buzz is unnoticeable with any audio.

  • vnny

    Oh i apologize. i thought those features i listed were “sort of important” at least as said by our own HD Guru

    Geoff: I read that article very closely. Actually, I wrote it: “If you think buying an LED LCD will save you money on energy costs, making it a more economical choice, there’s no way. Even if you live in an area with extremely high energy costs, the price premium you have to pay for an LED LCD will never be offset by its lower operating costs.” That was two product cycles ago. All TVs are more efficient now, and plasmas have narrowed the gap, as my comment below demonstrates.


    “There’s a price premium on ultra-thin LCD and plasma models. They’re stylish, and undeniably cool. The thing is, most people never mount their TVs. So if the TV is 1.5-inches or 3.5-inches, who’s going around back to check?” Again, two product cycles ago. The difference in depth is marginal.

  • Speed

    You probably wouldn’t be surprised if I told you how many times I’ve had to “correct” my family and friends in the LCD vs Plasma debate. My father-in-law came into my house and said plasmas were junk compared to LCD. I then proceeded to administer a 2 minute seminar which I’m sure will make him think twice before he talks about something he doesn’t understand. Other family members have asked me why I bought a plasma, and they are surprised when I tell them why it’s better. Even crazier, someone I met through a friend tried to tell me that LED TVs actually had LED lights all over the screen and didn’t believe me that it was just an LCD with a different back-light. I’m sure once he researched it (which I challenged him to) he realized how wrong he was. I’m not sure where all of this misinformation is coming from, but I have yet to talk to anyone who actually understands the differences between different TV types.
    I bought an LCD as my first HD TV. I was shocked at how bad the black levels and off-axis viewing were. I kept it for 2 weeks figuring I might get used to it. It aggravated me more and more so I brought it back for my current Panasonic plasma. I know I made the right decision because the picture is incredible. Blacks were better by a mile, off-axis viewing was perfect, and the picture had that 3D effect you are talking about.
    One thing I did find annoying about plasma that I don’t see mentioned very much is the green trails, kinda like the rainbow effect for DLP but only with green. I noticed them right away on my plasma, though I’ve gotten used to it and don’t see it on most TV/games. I also hear the buzzing from my TV on bright screens, and I also see the flickering on white screens if I look away from the TV. Thankfully, none of those were deal-breakers for me and I’d gladly put up with those compared to the issues LCD has. Also, I do see some image retention but only if I go looking for it after playing rock band for a few hours.
    Still waiting for OLED!

    Geoff: As am I. As far as green trails go, that happened with some plasmas a few years ago, but is not something I’ve seen in several years. The faster phosphors needed for 3D likely had the added benefit of reducing the green trails. As far as buzzing goes, when I reviewed the Samsung E8000 you could hear a faint buzzing when you were close to it, but that was it. I don’t recall any buzzing with the VT50. It’s incredibly slight, drowned out by any audio.

  • Gas0linE

    @vnny Those are some valid points, but do not at all relate to “picture quality” which is why people buy TV’s.

    Lighter – who cares, are we holding the TV’s? useless.

    Thinner – again, has nothing to do with picture quality. Although has some effect on appearance when mounted on a wall. With that said, the VT50 Plasma is about as thin as any LED.

    Use less power – Nothing to do with picture quality. a LED fanboy’s argument. It is way blown out of proportion and ends up not even being that much more a year.

    So, it’s not about being fair so much as it is those features are completely useless as most people buy a TV for its picture quality, which is what this article is about.

  • Charlie

    got the tcp55st50, brother got the tcp55vt50. got rid of my sony led nx810. i miss the brightness here n there, but the black levels def. trumps missin it

  • vnny

    you missed a couple things on the PRO side of LCD.

    – lighter
    – thinner
    – uses less power.

    These maybe be worthless “features” to you guys. (it is to me ) but you should at least try to be fair about it.

    Geoff: I left those off because the first one is irrelevant, and the second and third are such marginal differences.

    Samsung 55ES8000: 1.2-inches.
    Panasonic P55VT50: 1.8-2.0-inches
    To me this is like arguing that a Mustang is better than a Ferrari 458 because it’s narrower.

    As far as power consumption goes, here are the FTC’s Energy Guide numbers for each TV:
    Samsung 55ES8000: $17 per year.
    Panasonic P55VT50: $24 per year.

  • Gas0linE

    Good read! I love how the LED fanboys always use the excuse of IR and heat problems with Plasma’s. That’s all they got. I own a 65″ VT50 and game on it, watch letterbox and full screen movies, watch channels on DirecTV with static logos and no hint of IR at all. They want to talk about how Plasma’s are heat boxes” well the VT50 does not give of much heat at all, even when its on all day. Even if it did get hot, I would still prefer the far superior picture quality, because hey… isn’t that why we buy a TV in the first place for? A LED fanboy will always be a LED fanboy while us Plasma owner’s will always be enjoying superior picture quality.

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