Flat screen TVs offer high-picture quality, but the three kinds have different characteristics. The LED vs LCD vs Plasma TV differences stand out when you’re watching TV in bright conditions or when the picture changes rapidly, such as when watching sports. Depending on what features you consider essential and what kind of programs you watch most, one of them might give you better performance. Since the TVs are based on different technologies, some provide a better picture than others under challenging conditions.
The only two common flat-screen technologies in use are Plasma and LCD, but the LCD type is subdivided into pure LCD and LED-LCD types. LCD screens control how much light passes through them, so their LCD crystals turn transparent or opaque to produce the picture. To let you see the image, lights behind the screen shine through the LCDs. In pure LCD TVs, these lights are fluorescent-type tubes. For LED TVs, the light comes from LEDs.
Plasma TVs work completely differently. Each dot of an image has three tiny plasma cells assigned to it. These cells are located between two layers of glass and contain gases that generate ultraviolet light when receiving an electric charge. The inside of the cells is coated with phosphors that give off green, red or blue light, and the colors mix together to create the colored dot for the image.
The main difference between the two LCD-based technologies and plasma screens is that the LCD screens rely on back lighting while the plasma screens glow and produce their own light. In this way, plasma screens are more like the old CRT TV screens, and today’s plasma screens use the same phosphors as CRT monitors to produce the vivid colors.
Plasma screens use the same amount of power as the CRT monitors since they have to make the phosphors glow the same way. LCD screens, especially those lit by LEDs, use much less power since the lights used for back-lighting are highly efficient.
Plasma technology can react to changes in the image faster than LCD technology. LCD and LED screens have caught up in speed to some extent, but may still generate blur when an image shows very fast motion.
A final difference lies in the construction of the screens. LED screens, with no lighting bulb or cells, are the most robust. Plasma screen cells can be damaged by rough handing and the screens are designed to be put in place and not moved frequently.
LED vs LCD vs Plasma
In terms of performance, LED and plasma screens give better pictures, deeper blacks and brighter hues than LCD screens. The contrasts of glowing white and black for plasma screens and their speed are inherently better than for LED screens, but careful design has allowed LED screens to catch up and produce plasma-level image quality.
From a cost perspective, LCD screens are the least expensive. Inexpensive LED screens tend to have fewer LEDs and a picture quality that is lower than that of plasma screens. High-cost LED screens deliver plasma screen quality, but cost more. In general, very large plasma screens are less expensive than similarly-sized LED screens.
LCD TV at Amazon
The VIZIO E422VLE is an inexpensive and popular model LCD TV.
It features full 1080p HD resolution and has a 120 Hz refresh rate. WiFi networking to the 802.11n standard is included, allowing the TV to connect to your home computer network.
Once connected you can install apps and browse the Internet. Automatic ambient light sensing adjusts the picture brightness to the surroundings. The picture and sound are acceptable and represent good value at this price point.
The Internet browser is not a full browser and its capabilities are limited for sites that are not designed for delivering TV.
Good LED TV Value
This 42-inch LED Panasonic VIERA TV is a basic LED TV with some superior features.
It has full 1080p HD and a 120 Hz refresh rate but, while it is WiFi capable, you have to buy a separate network adapter.
To improve contrast, the TV has local dimming giving darker blacks, and it is designed for rapid response to picture changes, reducing blurring for sports broadcast.
The picture is good right out of the box, but its many aspects can be adjusted to satisfy personal preferences.
Plasma TVs are better value with larger screens because the cells have a minimum size. Plasma TVs below 50 inches have too few cells for true HD.
This LG 50PN6500 plasma TV with a 50-inch screen gives an excellent picture with a 600 Hz refresh rate at 1080p HD.
The model focuses on delivering a superior image and has few other, non-image-related features.
In addition to showing HD broadcasts of sports and other quick-motion video, it works well with blu-ray players to take full advantage of their high-quality picture capabilities.
LED vs LCD vs Plasma: Summary
The LED vs LCD vs Plasma TV discussion continues to be a tricky one. If you’re looking for an inexpensive flat-screen TV for general viewing, an LCD TV is probably adequate. For higher picture quality on a smaller screen, the LED TVs are the best choice. For superior images on larger screens, plasma still leads both on quality and price.