Plasma and LCD TVs are much more popular and convenient to use than projectors. There is not a significant difference between the two at the moment. Plasma might be a better choice if it is used for playing games or watching sports and the room is not super dark. LCD TVs use less power and slightly thinner (if the cool look is important), they also work better outdoors. LCD TVs are also called LED TVs for the technology that provides the lighting for the LCD pixels.
Projectors do not produce nearly as vivid of a picture as the plasma and LCD TVs and the brightness level constantly decreases over time. The fan noise may also be a problem in a smaller room setting. There is a need for a good screen surface as well. On the positive side the screen size can be significantly bigger. For these reasons they work well in a dedicated home theater room. The complete dark setting can balance the duller looking picture out and the fan noise is less important in a bigger room or the projector can even be placed inside a sound proof enclosure.
The prices of flat screen TVs continue to go down. More and more people are getting their second or third set so nobody has to compromise on which show to watch. Most of the time we go to the store and see which TV looks the best that we can afford. However, some TVs get a better signal than others so that may not be the most ideal way to make a decision. The sales associates are always there to help as well but the model that provides the highest commission to them may not be the best choice for the customer. It may also be annoying if they can talk over your head feeling all superior. Do some research and understand the basics before you go out to find the best price. Also think about what is important for you.
Find some of the main features listed below and see how the two TV technologies compare on each of those. As it stands today, LCD (also called LED for the back lighting source) and plasma TVs do not have an overwhelming edge over one another. So you cannot go truly wrong with either one of them. However, some of the smaller features may make one or the other technology better suited for your needs.
Projectors are not nearly as popular as the other two technologies. Although in some instances they may be a better choice. Find a quick run-down on how projectors compare at the end.
Screen size is always measured diagonally. Plasma TVs range from 32” to 85”. LCD TVs are between 13” and 70”. Bigger size can be found for special needs but they cost a lot more.
Brightness and Contrast:
Plasma TVs have higher brightness and contrast levels than LCD TVs. LCDs are backlit and therefore light must be blocked to create blacks. Plasmas have individual pixels that are either on or off, creating deeper blacks and better contrast. LCD TVs may look better in an environment with ambient light because they reflect less light from their surface.
Brightness and contrast (ratio of darkest to brightest) is measured differently between manufacturers. Therefore it might be better to actually see the TV sets to compare them and just rely on comparing the numbers.
It is also called pixel response time. It is the ability of the screen to change from one color and brightness setting to another quickly. Speed matters if you play graphic intensive games or watch sports. With a slower screen you may see some blurring. Plasma has been and still is the leader in this area. Originally LCD screens were used for computers where it is not a huge factor. The difference is getting smaller but plasma is still better. Look for 5 ms or faster (ms is millisecond that is one thousands of a second).
The optimum angle to watch any TV is if you are sitting right in front of it. That can be expressed as 90 degrees. However, you may not be able to always do that, especially with many people watching. The maximum angle where you can still see the picture to the side is called the viewing angle. Sometimes it is determined where the brightness drops to half or where the contrast is below a certain ratio (5:1 or 10:1). Either way the bigger the number the better it is. There are two directions you can determine what this angle is; horizontal and vertical. Usually the vertical angle is not as important since in most cases all the viewers are on the same level. If you set up the TV properly you can always view it at the optimum vertical angle. So just look at the horizontal angle for comparison. You may not want to design your setup based on the viewing angle number given by the manufacturer. Even though the picture can still be decoded at the edge but it is far from getting the same experience as when you are right smack in the middle.
LCD TVs used to be very poor when it comes to viewing angle. However, they are closing the gap compared to the plasma TVs. Plasma TVs are still better though. So you have to decide how important viewing angle is for you. If you have a dedicated couch right in front of the TV it is not so crucial. If you want to follow the game while you are mixing a drink in the kitchen that may change the importance.
Plasma TVs can suffer from burn-in produced by static images. After extended periods, stationary images “burn in” and produce an after-image ghost which remains permanently on the screen. With technologies such as ‘pixel orbiter,’ new plasma TVs have addressed burn-in and significantly reduced the issues of older models.
LCD TVs do not suffer from burn-in, but can have a “retained pixel charge” which may also produce ghosting. Stuck pixels are also possible with an LCD display.
Both LCD and plasma TVs have a life expectancy of 30,000 to 60,000 hours (half-life of 30,000 to 60,000 hours). Half-life is the time it takes the lamp to fade to half its original brightness. However, life spans are recently reported to approach even 100,000 hours. Repair cost is relatively high. That combined with the rapid improvement in quality makes it rare that the TV sets would get repaired rather than replaced.
LCD TVs are a little bit easier to ship, move around and install because they are somewhat lighter, more durable, thinner (~2” vs. ~3”). However, the difference is not that significant. Flat screen TVs are not moved around much in general. They are installed at a permanent place. So the one time move and installation may not matter very much.
Plasmas TVs may require a little more care because of their physical characteristics. However it is recommended to install both on the wall with some sort of bracket. The brackets are designed for either kind so it does not make a difference. It is especially recommended for households with small children, pets or where earthquakes may be frequent. Flat screen TVs tip over easily and they are heavy enough to seriously harm a person or a pet.
It is very popular to install all the cabling (electrical, data, coax, HDMI, etc.) inside the wall, so only the flat screen is visible from the room. The equipment (cable box, DVD player, etc.) can even be placed in a closet or some other place where they are not visible and the fan noise is also isolated. Using an IR repeater the devices in the closet can be controlled too without line of sight.
Plasma TVs are built with tiny capsules filled with gas producing each individual pixel colors. At high altitudes they can be affected by the decreased pressure. Special plasma TVs can be purchased that are specifically designed for higher altitude. LCD TVs are not affected by high altitudes.
It is becoming more and more popular to install TVs outdoors, especially at places with mild winter. There are models specifically built for outdoor use. They are built with materials that do not corrode, everything is sealed to keep water out and there might be extra cooling and heating built in so the TV can operate over a wider range of ambient temperatures. The brightness and contrast ration is usually advertised to be better but today every set has very good qualities so the difference may not be significant. However, these sets are considerably more expensive.
Plasma TVs consume more power and dissipate more heat than LCD TVs.
We hope this information has been helpful in your search for the perfect display technology. Go now and shop!
Other Features to Consider:
These are features that are not typically better for one or the other technology. However, when someone selects a flat screen TV set should consider them.
Resolution: There are different HDTV standards. Currently the most popular sizes are 1080p (1920 x 1080 pixels) and 720p (1280 x 720 pixels). The higher the number the better it is (of course more expensive). You cannot enjoy the resolution unless you have an HD source as well (disk player with Blu-ray or at least up conversion, satellite or cable with HD signal, etc.).
Smart Devices: These devices make it possible to directly connect to the internet (Smart Web); get streaming data from Netflix, Hulu, YouTube; get content directly from your home network, fantasy football information etc. These could be done by your smart Blu-ray player, game console (Play Station, X-Box, Nintendo), streaming device (Apple TV, Roku) or set top box as well. The connection could be over Ethernet cable, over the electrical wire or wirelessly.
Aspect Ratio: The aspect ratio is represented by the proportion of the width to height of the TV screen. 4:3 is the aspect ratio for standard TVs. HDTV sets are often 16:9 aspect ratio. The widescreen format better suited for movies.
Screen Size: The size is only limited by the physical limitations of the room. Typical screen sizes from as small as 40 inches to as large as 300 inches (measured on the diagonal). The further away the projector is placed from the screen the bigger the image is. However, as the picture gets bigger the less the light intensity is. When considering the size of the screen the viewing distance should be considered as well. If the screen is too close it is difficult to watch the action and the imperfections get visible as well.
Brightness and Contrast: Some projectors have contrast ratios that are close to LCD and plasma TVs. The picture still seems dull if ambient light is present. That is partially why projectors work well only in a dedicated home theatre room.
Refresh Rate: Do not use projectors that are not specifically designed for home theaters. The projectors for business use where they do still picture presentations mostly will not have the same ability to change the picture rapidly.
Viewing Angle: Viewing angles are not an issue with front projectors because the nature of the light bouncing back from the screen is highly dispersed so there is no directional quality to it.
Pixel Burn-In: Projectors have tiny LCD screens inside that gets projected out by the light coming from a lamp. This tiny screen can suffer from dead pixels just like an LCD TV. Lamp life is the biggest issue with projectors. The brightness constantly decreases as the lamp ages. The picture gets worse and worse until the lamp is replaced (expensive proposition).
Life Expectancy: See previous section on lamp life. That is one of the reasons why projectors are better suited for a home theatre setting and so much every day viewing.
Physical Attributes: Projectors are usually relatively small, can easily be carried. However, they need to be mounted inn a home theatre setting.
High Altitude: The only issue is the potential for more fan noise.
Other features: Projectors are not typically integrated with any other smart capabilities.
I hope this information was helpful and you can be a more informed shopper when you set out on the quest to find the best (and cheapest) flat screen TV on the market. If you have any further questions or you think that some information is missing, please leave a comment below.