So you’ve got the space and you’re thinking a nice flat screen will just about complete the look of your living room. Well, thanks to plenty of technological advances, you might just end up asking one of the most bewildering questions this side of the decade: plasma or LCD?
It was early laptop designs and the persistence of Japanese developers that first brought the flat screen to our collective consciousness way back in the mid-’90s. Then the flat ones were the pick of only the rich and famous. However, today’s technological improvements and competition have led to easier availability and more affordable flat screens.
But technology has a way of throwing our lives into a quandary, like the dilemma we now have these screens types. And it is a complicated one because apart from their flat, face-saving designs, the two have nothing in common.
To be able to decide which flat screen type is best and which is the best value for money, there needs to be a clear understanding of where both technologies come from. Bear in mind, there are no losers in this one.
Plasma screens, loosely explained, consist of hundreds of thousands of tiny cells that contain two glass panels with xenon gas, forming a plasma. The back of each cell is coated with a phosphor. So when the plasma is electrically charged, it strikes up the red, blue and green phosphors, which are also called pixels and creates the final image.
In an LCD screen, the pixels are formed by a collection of two transparent materials secured together, one of them containing liquid crystals. When a current is passed through the crystals, some allow light to pass and some don’t, thus forming the image. A very basic example of an LCD is the one in a digital alarm clock.
Both these technologies have their pros and cons. A plasma screen, for instance, has one of the best displays and super contrast ratios. For the uninitiated, the contrast ratio is what determines how black black is and how white white is.
Because liquid crystals cannot completely block light, LCDs do not quite excel in this regard, and its blacks show as dark grey. Plasma screens also react better to fast-moving images, while LCDs tend to have slower transitions, meaning images stay longer on screen, sometimes causing a blur.
But if you are one of the lucky ones to have bought an apartment at Burj Dubai, in all its 160 storeys-and-counting glory, a plasma might not be a good idea. Plasmas cannot handle high-altitude, while LCD can go as high up as you choose. And many plasmas suffer from what experts call the “burn-in” phenomena. Sometimes when an image is displayed too long, the image tends to stay long after the scene has moved on. Most newer plasma models seem to have ironed out this problem though.
Plasmas, however, beat the competing technology in the price stake and can grow to as much as 105-inches (2.6 metres), while LCD screens are limited. A 42-inch (one metre) plasma TV at Jacky’s Electronics costs Dh39,000, while 105-inch (2.6mt) is about Dh245,000. LCD TVs are available for Dh1,399 for a 20-inch (50.8 centimetre) and Dh155,00 for a 70-inch (1.7mt).
LCDs also have a longer life span than plasmas and consume relatively less power. Despite being both slim and sleek, plasma TVs are heavier than LCDs, which are less tricky to mount.
But at the end of the day, it all boils down to the use of the consumer. If size matters and a big screen statement is what you want, plasma is the way to go. But if you are one of those who leave their television set on a lot and often double it up as a computer screen, opt for the LCD.
-- Superior contrast ratios. The difference between black andwhite is crystal clear
-- Screen size range is 42 inches to 105 inches
-- Viewing angle is great. No matter where you are seated, images still look stunning
-- They are cheaper to make and therefore more affordable
-- “Burn in” causes some static images to stay on screen long after the scene has changed
-- Plasmas are not available in smaller screens
-- Plasmas are not suitable for high altitudes and there is a danger of them bursting
-- Plasma TVs are more power hungry than other televisions
-- Because there is no “burn in”, LCDs are great with static images and are therefore perfect for computer monitor screens
-- LCD TVs consume less power because the technology they use consume less to operate
-- The backlight of the LCD TV is its lifeline and can also be replaced, which means longer life expectancy than its counterparts
-- Due to the materials used, LCD televisions are lighter and easier to transport
-- Screen size is limited in LCD, because of the technology. But they are getting bigger
-- The crystals in LCDs cannot block light 100 per cent, which means contrast ratio is rather low
-- LCDs are more expensive per screen size than their closest competition
-- Slow refresh rates on LCDs mean some fast-moving pictures might blur. However, a lot of the new models have rectified this problem