A thin TV set that uses an LCD or plasma display technology. Most flat panel TVs are wide-screen, high-definition sets (HDTVs) that have 720p resolution if under 40" and 1080p if larger. They also may accept output from a computer and serve as a monitor.
LCD Vs. Plasma
LCD and plasma are the two primary technologies used in flat panel TVs. The major differences between them are glare, weight, power consumption and color quality.
The HD Resolutions
The highest-resolution HDTV is 1080p (1,080 progressive scan lines), while TV and cable channels broadcast in 720p and 1080i, the lower HD resolutions. As yet, there are no broadcasts in 1080p; however, Blu-ray discs are 1080p. Blu-ray provides the sharpest resolution, although 720p and 1080i content is quite good and often not that easy to tell the difference.
HD Versus SD - What Will You Watch?
If you plan to watch mostly HD channels, any HDTV set you like in the showroom should work well. However, if you plan on watching VHS tapes, standard DVDs, old movies or TV shows on cable that are not in high definition, all HDTVs are not the same. The better set upconverts and stretches old movies from their original square format (4:3) to the TV's wide screen (16:9) and higher resolution so that they look as good as they did on an analog CRT TV. That may sound strange, but analog TVs were engineered for one format, and only one format was delivered.
If you plan on watching a lot of SD content, ask to view SD channels before buying. Showroom TVs are always displaying HD, and if all the TVs accept the same signal, sales reps may be very reluctant to switch every TV to SD. Quite often, a Blu-ray animated cartoon is running because Blu-ray is the highest resolution (1080p), and cartoons have highly saturated colors that look more dazzling.
Size Makes a Difference
There is an enormous amount of complex processing that takes place within the set, and the larger the screen, the more jagged edges, pixelation and other visual artifacts are noticeable. It takes a high-quality 60" TV to look as good as any 32" set.
HD Ready and HD Built In
"HD Ready" sets support one or all of the HDTV formats but have no built-in tuner. A set-top box from a cable or satellite company is required. "HD Built In" means that the TV has an HD tuner and can receive HD signals from an antenna.
Following is a summary of differences between LCD and plasma TVs.
Plasma sets are heavier than LCDs. However, all flat panels require a secure mounting and professional installation. If the studs in the wall are not conveniently located, reinforcements are necessary. Cabinet placement with the TV's own tabletop stand is always an option.
Glare from ambient light in the room is an issue. Plasma TVs reflect light like a CRT, but most LCDs are glare-free.
Colors: You Be the Judge
Although plasma TVs have always had richer colors, LCDs continually gain ground, and a high-quality LCD TV can look much better than a low-quality plasma. Some people prefer colors as bright and rich as possible, while others prefer them slightly more subdued.
The General Opinion
The consensus from numerous sales reps who watch TVs in the showroom day after day is that plasma offers the best quality, especially in sets 50" and above. However, LCD sets are lighter, use less energy and improve every year.
Bad Pixels, Image Retention, Burn-In and Buzz
Stuck pixels on LCD panels show up as persistent, tiny pinpoints of light, which may be annoying. If found early on, manufacturers have been known to replace the entire TV.
Plasma sets are subject to image retention and burn-in, which are faint images that remain on screen due to static material displayed for long periods such as black bars and channel logos. Image retention is temporary and eventually dissolves, but burn-in is permanent and occurs when content such as video games are played for hours on end. However, newer plasma TVs continuously rotate the image one or two pixels, making them less susceptible to burn-in.
Glare No Yes (with some exceptions)
Weight Lighter Heavier (harder to hang)
AC Power Lower Higher
Colors Less rich Richer
Blacks Less black More black
Ratio Good Better (higher ratio)
Angle Good Better (greater angle)
Speed Fast Faster