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TV Technology Round-Up :: Plasma versus LCD versus DLP

Posted By Brian On December 20, 2006 @ 11:49 pm In Tech | 7 Comments

Yesterday, I answered a couple [1] frequently asked questions about high-definition televisions. Now that you know what HDTV is (you know you want one) you’ll need to determine what type of high-def television to buy. There are 3 technologies to choose from:

I’ll describe how each technology works and detail the benefits and drawbacks of each.

Plasma Display

How It Works
Based loosely on the same technology found in fluorescent lights, plasma televisions consist of cells. Inside each cell are two panels of glass with xenon gas, in plasma form, injected between them. This plasma is then electrically charged and strike red, green, and blue phosphors, also called pixels, which together create the final image.

  • Pros

  • Brilliant Picture

    Nothing compares to a plasma display. They are 4 to 5 times brighter than conventional televisions and have superior contrast ratios. Contrast ratios measure how white is white, and how black is black. A ratio of 1000:1 (which is preferable) means white is represented 1,000 times brighter than black.

  • Instant Picture Response

    Unlike LCD and DLP technology, plasma displays react to changes instantly so motion is smooth.

  • 180°Field of Vision

    No matter where you’re sitting, the picture will always look amazing.

  • Thin

    Plasma televisions have slim, wall-mountable designs, which make more efficient use of any space.


  • Cons

  • Burn In

    Imagine you are playing a fighting game on your favorite game console. Each fighter is moving on the screen, but there are some items, such as your life meter, that remain more static, or unchanging. You’ll experience image retention, or “burn in”, when the display finally does change and you see those static areas carry over to the new screen. Some plasma televisions have a “white flash” option that makes the entire screen white, thereby resetting it. Unfortunately, this feature can shorten the television’s life span.

  • Pixel Failure

    With over 983,000 pixels on the screen, the chance of one or two failing is strong. Each manufacturer has a limit to the number of dead pixels they will accept before considering a unit defective. Make sure to buy a name brand to ensure high initial quality. It’s also possible for pixels to fail over time. If enough pixels fail, overall picture quality will suffer.

  • Size

    If you are looking for a television less than 37 inches, plasma isn’t an option since they only come in larger sizes.

  • Heat

    The phosphors that create a plasma’s stunning image are the also what make it generate more heat that other television technologies.

Liquid Crystal Display (LCD)

How It Works
LCD televisions are made from two transparent, polarized materials bonded together. One layer holds liquid crystals that react to electricity. This current determines whether light can, or cannot pass through a crystal. Because liquid crystals don’t emit light themselves, a secondary light source, such as a fluorescent light, is used to shine through the matrix of activated crystals to display the final image.

  • Pros

  • No Burn In

    Unlike plasma displays, LCD televisions aren’t susceptible to burn in. As a matter of fact, LCDs excel at displaying static images.

  • Dual Purpose

    LCD televisions can also double as a computer monitor. All three technologies are capable of this, but plasma’s burn in make it a poor choice.

  • Longevity

    LCD televisions have a longer life expectancy than plasma with an average lifespan of 60,000 viewing hours. With regular watching habits, around 8 hours a day, your LCD television can last over 20 years!

  • Thin

    Like plasma, LCD televisions have slim, wall-mountable designs.


  • Cons

  • Limited Viewing Angle

    Unlike plasma displays, LCD televisions are the most sensitive to where you’re seated. As you move from the front of the TV and view it from an angle, the image begins to wash out creating a “screen door effect”.

  • Low Contrast Ratio

    Given the nature of liquid crystals, they can’t block 100% of light to create a rich black. Instead, LCDs produce a dark gray.

  • Motion Delay

    Out of all 3 technologies, LCDs have a noticeable lag when there is movement on the screen. This makes it particularly poor for video games as it leaves artifacts, or ghost images, which make each transition appear blurry.

  • Pixel Failure

    Plasma and LCD both hold the potential for pixel failure or burn out.

  • Price

    LCD televisions are typically more expensive than their equivalent-sized counterparts.

Digital Light Projection (DLP)

How It Works
DLP technology is based on a semiconductor chip called a Digital Micromirror Device (DMD). This chip has a matrix of microscopic sized mirrors, each one representing a pixel, which tilt to reflect, or not reflect light. Depending on the how quickly these mirrors reposition themselves, the DMD chip can recreate 1,024 shades of gray.

Color is added by placing a color wheel in front of this microscopic light show that is divided into 4 sectors: red, green, blue, and one clear sector to boost brightness. This color wheel is synchronized with the DMD to display each color so quickly that each color appears to combine and form one composite, full-color image.

  • Pros

  • Price

    Generally, DLP televisions are cheaper than their LCD or plasma counterparts.

  • Longevity

    Also considered a con, DLP televisions use a light source that can be replaced. It’s much easier to replace a DLP bulb than replace an LCD’s backlight. When a plasma television burns out, it’s time to buy a new television.

  • Brightness

    Even in direct sunlight, DLP televisions produce a more vivid picture than an LCD. Under the same conditions, LCDs again fall victim to the “screen door effect” where colors become less saturated, or washed out.


  • Cons

  • The “Rainbow Effect”

    Only present in single DMD chip DLP televisions, the “Rainbow Effect” can best be described as flashes of red, green, and blue. As mentioned above, each color is reflected one after the other so fast that you normally won’t notice a single color. However, you may catch a glimpse of one as you walk by or out of the corner of your eye.

  • Delay

    Though not as pronounced as LCDs, DLP televisions have a small amount of lag when as they display moving objects.

  • Size

    DLP televisions are not available in a size smaller than 42 inches. They also can’t be mounted to the wall like a plasma or LCD.


So which technology is right for you? It all depends on your goal.

For sheer performance, plasma is the obvious choice. If you’re an avid gamer, DLP is your best option. Or, if you want to put a small television in the kitchen or fit a TV into another tight space, choose an LCD.

See… wasn’t that easy? ;-)

Article printed from BrianShoff.com: https://brianshoff.com

URL to article: https://brianshoff.com/tech/tv-technology-round-up-plasma-versus-lcd-versus-dlp.htm

URLs in this post:
[1] frequently asked questions about high-definition televisions: https://brianshoff.com/tech/get-the-faqs-on-high-definition-television-hdtv.htm
[2] Plasma Display: https://brianshoff.com/tech/tv-technology-round-up-plasma-versus-lcd-versus-dlp.htm#plasma
[3] Liquid Crystal Display (LCD): https://brianshoff.com/tech/tv-technology-round-up-plasma-versus-lcd-versus-dlp.htm#lcd
[4] Digital Light Projection (DLP): https://brianshoff.com/tech/tv-technology-round-up-plasma-versus-lcd-versus-dlp.htm#dlp

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