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Ask Stewtopia – Plasma vs LCD

Marco writes,

“Does plasma pixelate fast moving objects? lcdI’m just wondering because I saw a few plasmas that were doing that at frys and didn’t know if it was the dvd player that may have been messing up, or if it was just the plasma. I also noticed that LCDs go up to 1080 pixels yet they aren’t as bright as a plasma screen. Would you ever go back to LCD, or is the plasma just too pretty?”

Recently, I had to replace the lovely 32″ Sharp Aquos LCD I purchased last year because it was damaged during our move from San Francisco to Seattle. As we had moved into a larger house (dang those SF prices), I was thinking that it also might be time to upgrade the size of display.

Currently, you could get a great 32″ LCD for less than $2k, but once you start moving up in size, you move up in price tremendously. 37″ or 45″ are the next sizes up, but at $2000 and $3500 respectively, I thought I might give plasma a try.

Plasma screens are still expensive, but from a price vs. performance perspective, they kill LCDs at larger sizes. You can find a current generation HD 42″ plasma screen for $2-3k.

According to Sound and Vision‘s HDTV Guide 2006, plasma screens in general, have better markedly better color and picture uniformity. LCDs excelled in daylight viewing. But it was a virtual draw when it came to contrast and picture detail. The downside of plasma is they consume more power and if you really want 1080p, it isn’t available in plasma yet.

Now, to answer your questions, screen pixelation usually occurs when there is fast movement on the screen. This makes the Discovery HD channel great for the salesman and bad for the customer. On similarly sized televisions, I’ve seen both LCDs and Plasmas get pixelated, so it really varies depending on the manufacturer and how well their image processor works. Higher quality televisions tend to have higher quality image processors. Unfortunately, this isn’t something you can pick out on a spec sheet.

Here are a few tips for comparing flat screens.

1. Compare similar sizes.
Bigger screens will look more pixelated than smaller ones.
2. Stand back.
At a typical electronics stores, you stand closer to the screen than where you will sit at home.
3. Go to a specialty store.
Big box retailers (Fry’s, Best Buy, Costco) may not have their televisions calibrated similarly (or at all). One television may be set for bright sunlight while another may be set up for a dark room. Specialty stores will either have their televisions calibrated properly or will have someone at the store who has been trained to do so. Specialty retail stores don’t discount as heavily as big box stores, but they will often price match any local store.

And as to your 1080p question, while there are no 1080p sources currently (and none planned by broadcasters), one can assume that video games and computers will increase in resolution in the coming years. That said, while I had my doubts about 1080p, a quick comparison at the local Magnolia Hi-Fi, I have to say that 1080p looks pretty sweet. All images on a 1080p will be upconverted from either 1080i or 720p and we go back to image processing as to how good all of this looks.

Here is some more about 1080p from Design Technica.

Finally, as to which one is prettier, I really loved my Aquos but the color on the plasma is a lot better. 1080p LCDs are damn tempting, but they really break the bank for similar sizes.

One reply on “Ask Stewtopia – Plasma vs LCD”

Thank you Stewtopia. I think I’ll wait ’till after christmas to see if prices start dropping on the LCD, but the 1080p sounds all too tempting, especially when thinking about how long that technology will be at the forefront. I like the idea of having a tv that won’t be outdated in a year or two.

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