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Businesses are rapidly adopting large high definition TVs and monitors for advertising, video conferencing, conference rooms, entertainment and information display, among other uses. We talked with a number of audio visual consultants, system integrators, distributors, vendors and customers and found there was confusion and misunderstanding as to what is better – LCD or Plasma for large screen use for various applications. Understandable, considering the rapidly evolving technologies, numerous choices, the gamut of reviews and the various applications these large screens are being used. We are hoping we can clarify but research the technologies yourself and make the knowledgeable choice.

Quick Introduction to the Technology: Plasma screens use a matrix of plasma gas cells which are charged by electrical voltage to create a picture. LCD screens are made up of liquid crystals placed between two glass plates. Below we compare the two technologies on features important to businesses.

LCD vs. Plasma Comparison: Size

LCDs are generally lighter and thinner as they don't contain the gas-filled chambers and heavy glass panels present in plasmas. Historical wisdom was that larger size screens available were Plasma while smaller size screens were LCDs. Today, commercially, Panasonic has 103” plasma while Sharp offers 108” LCD. Smaller size Plasma screens are currently not available. A draw for large size screens. Smaller size Plasma screens are currently not available.

LCD vs. Plasma for Screen Size: A draw for large size screens.

LCD vs. Plasma Comparison: Picture Quality

A number of variables go into picture quality. We will outline them and summarize the findings.

Video Resolution: High resolution is available for both Plasma and LCD screens and resolution is usually comparable for both technologies (1920x1080 is considered as high resolution and available in both Plasma and LCD screens). Lower price models for both Plasma and LCDs have lower resolution and typically for <45”>

Data Resolution: Data resolution for LCDs is much better than for Plasma. The number of pixels per square inch on an LCD display is typically higher than any other display technology including Plasma, so LCD monitors are especially good at displaying large amounts of data. For the same reasons, LCD screens will also be better screens for video gaming than Plasma screens. Plasma displays produce a very jaggy image when viewing static images from computer images. Users may want to consider a commercial version plasma if their application calls for a lot of computer use.

Color Accuracy: Plasma color richness and naturalness will prevail in rooms with lower to normal lighting due to higher contrast ratio. LCD screen contrast ratio is relatively lower, but with anti-glare & brightness features of LCD screens, LCDs will be better in ambient light or in brightly lit rooms. As businesses usually work during the day in ambient light, LCDs are more desirable for most business applications.

Viewing Angle: Plasma manufacturers have made much of their 160° viewing angles. However with new LCDs the view angles are 158°. There is not much difference between the two technologies in viewing angle.

Burn-in: There have been concerns with burn-in for Plasma screens especially for static images. However, many Plasma manufacturers have improved their anti-burn in technology. There are no burn-in issues with LCD screens.

LCD vs. Plasma for Picture Quality: LCD wins.

LCD vs. Plasma Comparison: Life of the Screen

LCDs can be operated 24x7 for 50,000+ hours equivalent to 5+ years of continuous viewing. Plasma, on the other hand, utilizes slight electric currents to excite a combination of noble gases (i.e., argon, neon, xenon), which glow red, blue, and/or green. This is an essentially active phenomenon, so the phosphoric elements in plasma displays fade over time. Typically half life is 30,000 hours but some manufacturers state a new half life of 60,000 hours. At half life, the phosphors in a plasma screen will glow half as brightly as they did when the set was new. There is no way to replace these gases; the display simply continues to become dimmer with use. An LCD TV will last as long as its backlight - and in many models the backlight bulbs can be replaced! Since this is nothing more than light passing through a prismatic substrate, there is essentially nothing to wear out in an LCD monitor.

LCD vs. Plasma for Screen Life: LCD wins.

LCD vs. Plasma Comparison: Power consumption

Plasma TVs use more power than LCD – twice as much. Plasmas use electricity to light each and every pixel you see on a screen - even the dark ones. Also, note Plasma TVs get heated up quickly and require fans to cool the TV.

However, some manufacturers point out that the power use of a plasma TV is directly dependent on picture brightness, whereas an LCD picture requires a constant source of illumination. The theory goes that plasma should use less power over time. But in reality plasma TVs require significantly more power to achieve the same brightness level as an LCD. This is significant, since your investment on UPS (higher KVA) will have to be much larger to give similar backup to a system using Plasma. No wonder, IBMs & HPs never even considered Plasma for their Laptop screens!

LCD vs. Plasma for Power Consumption: LCD wins.

LCD vs. Plasma Comparison: Lightness and Versatility

Both types of flat-panel screens can be wall-mounted. Plasma sets weigh a lot more than LCD screens (even those of comparable screen-size), so setting them up or moving around could be a problem, especially wall mounting in new houses with stud walling. Further the bezel for LCD screens can be removed and a video wall solution can be created – can be quite valuable for advertising and monitoring

LCD vs. Plasma for Lightness and Versatility: LCD wins.

To summarize, while for home video solutions, Plasma may be an OK choice, but for office and professional usage, LCD is definitely the correct choice!

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