The Big Question: LCD Or Plasma

The Big Question: LCD Or Plasma

The last time I bought a TV was roughly four years ago. Back then I did a metric buttload of research and decided that the Panasonic G10 was the one for me. It remains an awesome. That TV was a plasma so ever since then I’ve been a verified Plasma fanboy — better blacks, better motion, better for gaming. But now that I’m considering a new TV, I’m wondering if the picture quality of LCDs have caught up?

I asked this question in the office and instantly regretted it. I had Gizmodo’s Luke Hopewell and Lifehacker’s Angus Kidman talking a giant hole in my brain about the issue for 30 minutes straight. It seems that LCD’s have made some leaps and bounds and may be better TVs, but even if they aren’t there are a number of other benefits that come from owning one: they’re thinner, consume less energy, etc. There’s also the fact that Plasma is a tech that the mainstream has deemed unfashionable, so most companies tend to funnel R & D funds into LCD tech.

That makes me a little sad.

Anyway, I thought it might be worth having this debate. Which do you prefer? LCD or Plasma?

[polldaddy poll=7238738]


  • I’ve never owned a plasma but I’ve never noticed LCDs looking bad next to plasmas in the store. I have been very happy with my LED LCD I got about a year and a half ago though.

  • LED all the way Mark, got my 42′ Samsung for 800 about 4 months ago and it’s great. Has 3D too, THE FUTURE!

  • I switched from a Plasma to an LCD about a year ago and I’m still regretting the change.

    Yes. The LCD is less power hungry. Yes, it generates a lot less heat (if any). Yes, it’s thinner and easier to move around / pick up (though I dropped from a 55 to a 42 so not quite apples to apples).

    I just find that with the LCD there are ghosting issues that I never ever noticed on the plasma. There’s also more noticeable colour banding (although this did exist on the Plasma) on the LCD and I find a lot more digital noise than I did although I’m sure that did exist on the Plasma as well.

    For my chosen viewing (generally sport and movies, most of my gaming is on my PC now) it just seems Plasma is the better option, heat, energy and size concerns notwithstanding. To the point where I’m already looking around and bemoaning the lack of smaller sized plasmas.

    It’s at the point where I’m thinking of loading some content (e.g. a HD broadcast of an AFL match, a movie, a TV show, etc) on a USB stick and seeing in-store if my chosen viewing stacks up on a newer LCD though I don’t hold out much hope.

  • LCD because ?

    I really don’t know. Just always instinctively preferred them.

  • eh, six of one, half a dozen of the other
    What about led tv’s mark? that’s what all the cool kids have now

    • Sure, but they’re just LCD TV’s with a different lighting system behind them.

      I didn’t realise this at first, I just assumed they were like the big outdoor screens that actually do display pictures using LEDs.

      • There are other differences too in that LED back lighting allows the TV to switch off some of those lights in dark scenes so you get deeper blacks, which you can’t do with the older lighting type.

  • I’ve been wondering this very question recently. Have been thinking about buying a new tv myself. My last tv was a panasonic plasma (about 5 years ago) and I’m wondering whether to go plasma again or look at an led tv

    • If you really liked your Pana plasma you will find it hard to go back to anything less (yes I am a huge Panasonic tv fanboy, but it is only because of exhaustive research). I often find my eyes getting sore watching large LCD screens, especially anything less than top of the range due to ghosting, and subtle but noticeable stutter (especially in the cheap and nasties).

      • Oh god yes. I have a pana plasma 50″ and I love it. It’s over 2 years old now and it still has a flawless picture. I’ve had friends buy new tvs and be devastatingly disappointed at the image quality. And these were tvs from reputable brands!

        But i’m not married to plasma. When I buy a new tv, I’ll do my research first. Whenever you’re plunking down more than 1k for an item, you have to do due diligence.

  • Mark,

    I personally think that LCD (particularly LED LCD) TVs are the way to go. But I am someone who has always noticed how dark plasmas look, especially next to an LCD counterpart in stores.

    I have always used Sony’s Bravia range, and all my PC gaming monitors are LCD, I am running BF3 on full specs @ around 130fps, no ghosting issues for me. (I know i can’t technically see more than 60….)

    Because I rent, I am frequently moving about town, and the last place I inhabited was shocking in terms of light. Angled windows, sunlight directly on the screens, not allowed to put up curtains/blinds etc.

    This is where a nice bright LCD made the situation bearable for me.

  • I think your eyes will get used to anything over time and considered it ‘normal’. However saying that, I have only ever bought plasma, and spent hours gaming on them. I bought a new 60″ Vierra last year, it has an amazing image, and is great for gaming.

    There is one downside to Plasma however, image retention, I had a freind come stay and play Assassinss Creed 2 non stop for a week, then when they left I had an almost unnoticeable dark shadow of the health bar on my screen for a few weeks afterwoods, however it has gone now and is completely unnoticeable. This is something to watch out for during the break in period of the TV (first 200 hours) where the plasma cells are wearing exponentially. Tho, I am one of those fussy people that notice things like that.

    • That is strange, I have a VT20 and never got any retention longer than a couple of hours at worst. A good way to “clean” them is to run something bright white (or close) for 15-20 minutes. Also you might of had the brightness turned up, which is best avoided for the first 200 hours to avoid image retention issues.

      NOTE: To anyone who wants to argue, STOP image retention is NOT the same as burn in and has been a non-issue on mid to high plasma screens for at least 4 years.

      • or just put it on the analog tuner with nothing tuned in, the “noise” cleans things super fast.

    • Yep. I got that two. Can still JUST see the image of the health bars from SF4 on my tele and haven’t played on the screen for over a year.

      Burn in is still a real problem if you find that one game you just love.

      Now after gaming I always turn to a commercial station and let it run for 10 mins or so, just to ‘scrub’ the screen a bit before I turn it off.

        • Yeah…. yeah….

          Good luck finding a good CRT in this day and age. The plasma has a gaming mode and pretty minimal lag, it was a good compromise.

          But now I play on PC, and my monitor is pretty sweet. Can’t blame my losses on input lag anymore!

  • Plasma if watching in the dark/lights off.
    LCD/LED if watching with lights on/daylight.

    btw the only difference between LCD and LED is the backlighting

    • “btw the only difference between LCD and LED is the backlighting”
      Not really… Apart from the obvious fact that LED backlit LCDs are thinner and consume less power than the old style, the LED backlights can also be dynamically switched to achieve better blacks during dark scenes.

  • A good plasma will still surpass a good LCD in every way except in direct sun, but even then its still pretty close. My Panasonic VT20 (2011 model plasma) still kills the 2013 LCD TVs. Look out for any Japanese made Panasonics, I am not sure if they have a current model completely made in Japan (the whole earthquake disaster) but if they do these are just the best TVs going round, bar none. If they don’t have one going round a Sharp made completely in Japan would be the next best bet. If neither of these are available find something with at least the panel made in Japan.

    To be honest if you have the money (ha ha) and can last another 6-12 months I would wait and see if anyone squeezes out an OLED of a decent size and see how that performs. As a screen OLEDs are superior to both plasma and LCD, but the issue will be if the hardware driving that panel is up to snuff, and the cost of course.

    NOTE: To anyone who wants to argue, STOP image retention is NOT the same as burn in and has been a non-issue on mid to high plasma screens for at least 4 years.

      • Image retention occurs in plasma when anything bright that is the doesnt move (ie health bars etc) leaves a ghosted image on the screen, this can last anywhere from 15 minutes to a number of hours, but will fade after a period of time and often decreases in severity as the screen ages.

        Image burn is an image permanently burnt into the panel, this happened quite easily on older panels, but these days it would require an extreme act of silliness to let it occur as it would take a bright static image about 10+ hours without changing to cause this. It is always recommended you use the auto off feature of a plasma if you have the habit of walking away leaving a game paused for extended times.

        • Who would do that to a plasma!!!! I don’t even leave games paused when I make a cup of tea! It’s so easy to just change the channel so there’s a moving image.

          I think for this reason alone though, Plasma’s are not the best choice unless you’re the only one using it.

          I think my screen is slowly coming good again, but on big panning shots you can still just see the outline of the countdown timer. This is after not playing any fighting games on it for at least a year. So I’m probably the unlucky guy with burn in. I never paused or anything silly like that, but for a while there, when it was brand new, 80% of what the screen did was street fighter.

          Live and learn, live and learn. Still a beautiful screen. Blade runner and Dark Knight just look amazing on it. Could never downgrade from here. I have needs.

          • Yeah, brand new is when they are most susceptible to burn in and unfortunately they come out of box at the brightest possible setting (this is the setting used for display in shops as brighter looks more attractive) so if you did a lot of heavy stints at a game that can cause the problem (fighting games and racing games are the biggest culprits) you can run into this.

            Sadly a lot of guys selling TVs don’t really give the best advice on care of a TV set, which in the case of a plasma is very important. Agreed the IMAX shots from The Dark Knight are truly spectacular, also the open of Prometheus is equally as stunning, although the movie on a whole is deeply unsatisfying lol.

  • It depends on your gaming den, plasma is better suited to darker rooms in general while an LCD is better suited to brighter rooms. For this reason I’m a plasma person.

    That said I love how thin some of the LED LCD TV’s are these days and am considering updating soon as well to something 60″ or above (if the girlfriend will release the funds :-P)

  • Plasma for movies and LCD if you are going to use it as a computer monitor.

    Plasma’s or at least the old ones used to temporarily burn images onto the screen which fade after a while which makes them bad for using as monitors but i have an LED LCD panel i use as my main PC monitor and i can leave the desktop on for long periods of time and no temporary burn in, but as a precaution i set my screensaver up for 5 minutes if i have my PC connected to a Plasma television.

    In my humble opinion, to the average user, “deeper blacks” and “natural motion” means absolutely nothing and are just flash words companies use to make their product sound superior compared to the competition.

    • New plasma’s don’t have the burn in of the old plasmas. Have to leave the same picture on for like 48 hours to get burn in. Deeper blacks is a real thing, if you value picture quality in movies and games, then you would value it.

  • Love my Bravia 3 Led 100hz LCD tv and the blacks are majestic. LCD all the way 😀

  • I have an LED and a plasma TV where I live. I favour the LED for it’s crisp lines and response time, but it sometimes experiences tearing for some reason. That may be the brand (Medion) rather than the screen itself.
    I haven’t had any issues with the plasma and sometimes colours look slightly richer, but power consumption is high enough that it gets switched off at the mains when its not in use.

  • I have an LED LCD, the low power consumption was the main selling point for me. The only thing about it that bothers me is how terrible slow pan video looks. Most plasmas I’ve seen aren’t great either. So really, if someone defied the laws of physics to somehow conjure a wafer thin, low power using CRT using sorcery or something, I’d be all over it.

  • Plasma is cheaper, and good for Sports, and movies in a dimly-lit or dark room. LCD is worth the extra coin for everything else.

  • If you have a tv room which you can make dark, if you watch movies, play games, watch tv shows, then get a plasma. If you don’t care about any of the above and can’t darken the tv room, get an LCD. At the end of the day you will prob have nothing to compare against once it’s in your house, but going from plasma to lcd, I deeply regret the move. It’s so hard to calibrate the tv to look natural, and to get deep blacks. I really am not a fan of LCD’s anymore…. Given they are the older tech too!

  • Sony Bravia range for me. Upgraded to an LED LCD and it’s flawless. Never noticed any ghosting or anything.

  • Sony Bravia 4K tv’s are here now with wifi and decent speakers. 55 and 65 inch are shipping from $5999, since last week.

    • You know the difference in power consumption adds a HUGE $3-5 per quarter extra under normal usage right? Some plasmas can get rather hot, but it is nothing that is going to drastically alter the temperature of your room, and who is putting a plasma through its paces then decides they want to hug it?

      • The heat actually does make a difference, especially during summer. We have an LCD but I’ve sometimes wondered where the extra heat is coming from whenever I visit someone who has a plasma. I just need to put my hand above the TV to feel the heat coming out of it, and it’s easy to see how that affects the overall temperature of the room.

        And small amount or not, the fact is a plasma DOES use more power than an LCD, and it does add up, especially if you have more than one TV in the house.

        • I lived in a shoebox of a studio apartment with a 50in plasma with nothing more than a pedestal fan, it was hot as hell on or off. You would need a tiny room to make a real difference, maybe they had the heat up? Unless of course they are using something like a Changhong or Aldi plasma, then sure maybe they would make a difference because they are a cheap POS, I am assuming we are talking quality products not crap.

          As plasmas don’t come in anything smaller than 42in I think the bigger question is why your house needs more than one 42in+ TV? Even 2 LCDs of that size are making a considerable contribution to power consumption, maybe you need to down size one of your TVs if the power bill is a problem?

          • I use plasma and several smaller lcds and bills aren’t a problem, in fact 2 plasmas wouldn’t be a problem if I really wanted 2. TVs aren’t the big power burners they are made out to be, sure turning them off when not in use is of course advised but that goes for anything.

          • Congrats on saving a couple of dollars a year, while compromising on picture quality.

  • Plasma Tv Better colour and motion does use more power.
    LED LCD brighter screen don”t confuse with better.MUST be at least 100Hz for sports etc.
    Plasma better for sport but no good for very bright rooms i.e thru day with no blinds etc on windows.As plasma always has a higher refresh rate on screen motion, panning to follow a ball on a cricket pitch for example is better.
    Get better value for money with Plasma 50″ 60″ under $1500.With LED LCD you need to pay a little more for the higher refresh rate, also micro dimming is needed for a superior LED LCD screen, these are the features worth paying extra for.

    In short if you have the right room Plasma will be better value for money.
    You need to pay a little more for a comparable LED LCD.
    The LED LCD will cost less to run approx $100/yr 6-8 hrs/day vs. $220 for the same sized Plasma.
    Been selling these things for 9 years ALL TVS are much better over the last 2/3yrs and prices are as good as they will get.

  • It really comes down to personal preference. you have to way up the pro’s and con’s of each an decide what is most important to you.

    I have both, but i prefer the LED – the picture is amazing and i haven’t noticed any ghosting. The plasma does have the blacker blacks and you definitely get bang for buck with the larger screen sizes – but i can’t stand the buzzing! I’ve yet to see a plasma that doesn’t buzz, particularly on a bright or white image.

  • Plasma all the way.
    Better picture and unless you’re hugging the back of your TV you’re not gonna notice the heat generation (I certainly haven’t). And if my 60″ plasma is costing me more in terms of electricity compared to my old 40″ LCD, I haven’t noticed it at all…

    • I play PC games on my 50″ plasma 😛

      So I can “only” play games at 1080p max but that does mean I get more playable framerates at higher graphics settings – also big screens are awesome 🙂

  • A good quality Plasma will tend to look better than a good quality LCD… That said, the LED LCDs will use way less power (the difference is that plasmas tend to have softer edges than LCD)

  • I bought a LG 55” LED LCD (ahhhh acronyms!) about 2 months ago in preparation for the next gen consoles.

    While I love it, I do find that on very dark screens the white backing lights seep onto the screen, particularly in the corners (I assume this is a combination of seepage from both sides of the corner amplifying the effect).
    It’s quite bad, and while it’s not an issue the vast majority of the time, if you have a look at something like the loading screens in borderlands which are still and pure black it is really noticeable that the corners a several shades lighter (almost grey).

    I was wondering if this is a problem a lot of people have? I know LCDs generally don’t do black as well as Plasmas but I’d assumed it would be a consistent level of “less black” across the whole screen.

    It had occurred to me that my TV might have faulty seals or something like which allow the white lights to appear on the screen. Does anyone know about this sort of thing?

  • I’ve got a Samsung 46″ LCD LED and it’s amazing. Never had any issues with it, deep rich blacks, no ghosting, motion flow at 150hz makes watching blu rays ridiculously smooth and crisp, no lag or stutter. It also has plenty of usb, hdmi, Dvi inputs as well as an ethernet port so I have all manner of drives plugged in and also have it plugged into my modem so i can stream stuff and watch youtube etc. it was about $1200 (from JB, down from $1800) 2 1/2 years ago and can’t see any need to replace it for a long time so well worth the investment.

  • I’m also in the market for a new tv and have read that there’s not really much noticeable difference between high end LCDs or plasmas apart from the price. $1500 for a new 60 inch plasma wins it for me when a similar LCD is $1000+ more. Plus my house gets extremely cold so it could do with something to heat it up.

    On a side note though, what would people recommend to look after it in the first few weeks to ensure not much happens to the screen like image retention? Just turn the brightness down a notch and don’t leave it on a frozen image for a while?

  • I think Plasmas always had better colours and deeper blacks. Image looks less washed out. Also tend to look better with sun glare.
    But they do use more power. I don’t think heat is much of an issue though. I’ve never noticed my plasma get hot.
    I think as long as the refresh rate is high enough, the TV UI is good (used to hate the bravia UI) and the size is appropriate for your room… it really doesn’t matter much.
    Also Plasmas have been a bit cheaper in recent years.

  • I’m more concerned about whether the TV has a glossy or matte finish. Last time I went to buy a TV I went with Samsung in mind as I always felt they had pretty superior image quality, but when I got in the store the glossy screen was reflecting all the lights and the window layout in my room meant this would be an issue for me. I got a Sony Bravia LED LCD with a nice matte screen and am 100% happy with it. (other than the fact I should have manned up and got something bigger than 42″ !!).

    • By the way, I found a couple of dead pixels and Sony sent a repair man out to replace the panel at my house, so definitely would recommend Sony based on quality and after sales service.

  • I’m looking to buy a new tv probably around 42″ haven’t decided between LCD or Plasma yet… anyone know of any good bargains at the moment?

  • Mark, one thing to consider is that if you have young kids who love to smear their dirty little hands on everything then plasma’s are a lot easier to wipe clean, and also plasma screens are protected behind a glass or plastic sheet where as lcd’s are not.

  • I prefer LSD, it makes what is actually on TV alot more enjoyable no matter what sort of TV you have. You don’t even need to turn it on.

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