LCD vs plasma vs LED TVs buying guide

Plasma vs LCD? What do the new LED TVs offer? We walk you through the process of picking up a new flat panel LED, LCD or plasma television.

This Samsung Series 7 television has LED edge-lighting to cut down on power consumption.

This Samsung Series 7 television has LED edge-lighting to cut down on power consumption.

LED television screens offer significant power savings over both LCD and plasma televisions. Energy-efficient backlighting allows LED televisions to have energy consumption of up to 40 percent less than LCD televisions and significantly less than a plasma screen.

TV screen lifespan

In the past, plasma panels suffered from a short life-span before they lost significant amounts of brightness and image quality degraded. This has been overcome in recent plasma generations, with manufacturers rating their screens with a half-life of 60,000 hours. This means that after 60,000 hours of use, the screen's brightness will degrade by half — and with five hours of use per day this amounts to approximately 33 years. Put simply, plasma screens no longer suffer from a short lifespan.

The lifespan of an LCD television depends on the life of its backlighting bulb. These bulbs are often rated to above 60,000 hours in regular fluorescent-lit LCD panels, whereas new LED-backlit televisions have expected lifespans of over 100,000 hours. It is important to note that the end of this lifespan does not necessarily mean the screen will stop working; it usually means that the backlight will be able to provide half the brightness of a brand new model.

Previously, plasma television screens were hounded by image burn-in issues. Leaving a static image on the screen for a long period of time (such as a computer's desktop or a network broadcaster's logo) led to the plasma cells retaining the image. Improvements in plasma technology, the addition of functionality like screensavers and image-shifting, as well as power saving shutdown features, means the issue of burn-in effectively no longer exists for new plasma televisions. LCD televisions do not experience any of the problems previously found in plasma TV technology.

Price vs screen size

More than any other determining factor, it is tempting to simply pick the cheaper of either a plasma or LCD television when considering any given size. For screen sizes below 42in, we believe LCD screens are your best bet — you can pick up a 37in LCD for under $1000 if you shop around and look for special offers. Contrast and brightness shortcomings are less apparent in smaller screen sizes, while you will also generally find LCD screens below 42in have a higher resolution than their plasma equivalents.

If you are considering a large screen — 42in and above — as your home theatre centrepiece, be sure to check out plasma technology. Plasma panels do have the edge in terms of contrast and overall picture quality at these sizes, and are often cheaper than an equally-sized LCD counterpart.

LED televisions are generally available in similar sizes to LCD televisions, with larger screens also available in premium models. LED televisions generally command a price 20 per cent above that of an LCD television featuring an identical screen size and similar specifications. But when making a buying decision based on upfront costs, it is important to consider the total cost of ownership over the life of the TV. LED televisions’ power-saving advantages make them attractive prospect for long-term use.

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Campbell Simpson

Campbell Simpson

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