Thursday, 27 May 2010

LCD vs. Plasma

Widescreen Review did a series of comparisons between plasma and LCD screens and came up with some interesting and surprising results, at least as far as I am concerned. So surprising that I would like to share them with you.
First I want to make a point about Widescreen Review's comparisons. They weren't your "let's have a walk to Harvey Norman and see what looks best in their showroom". No: they had them all in a lab, calibrated them all to the way they should be set up (TVs are generally set to look bright in the showroom, not to function well in your living room), measured them thoroughly, and had a group of big time experts come in to offer their opinions. By experts I mean people of the likes of Joe Kane, the guy Samsung called in when they decided they want to make decent TVs so they can be a viable player in the market.
Overall, Widescreen Review's approach had been what I would call scientific: they measured, they experimented, and they peer reviewed.
Here are some of their findings' highlights:
  1. When comparing the top of the plasmas to the top of LCD screens, plasmas give significantly better picture quality. LCD's advantage is when viewed under well lit conditions (not the type of viewing one could call critical) and in their lower energy consumption, but other than that they got the crap bitten out of them.
  2. The best plasma screen for the common person out there now, and therefore the best screen, is from Panasonic. Pioneer used to make the best plasmas but they couldn't afford it; Panasonic hired their engineers. I spotted a 50" Panasonic plasma (last year's model) for $2000 at Myers; never before has such great picture quality been so affordable for such a screen size.
  3. Looking at the top LCD screens from the top LCD manufacturers, Sony came out as the top performer. It was followed by the the likes of Samsung and LG, which were quite significantly behind (one of my personal surprises, given that Samsung and Sony share a lot of their manufacturing). Sharp came at the very back, virtually with a "don't dare touch me" label on it.
  4. Generally speaking, what used to be the bane of plasma screens - ghosting and its likes, generated by having the same picture for too long - is no longer an issue.
  5. Generally speaking, what used to be one of the banes of LCD - motion smear due to response times - is no longer an issue when buying a decent model from a decent manufacturer. Response time statistics can be ignored, together with features like 120hz; all the screens perform virtually the same, and all do a good job at preventing smear. What smear you do see is usually the fault of the original.
  6. Generally speaking, there is not much of a difference between last year's model and this year's in picture quality. Differences tend to come in the form of extra features, but these are usually gimmicks that hinder picture quality rather than improve it and are best switched off (e.g., edge enhancements, which produce things that weren't there in the original). Same goes for LED screens compared to normal LCD screens: a good screen is a good screen regardless of the latest buzz.
One last comment. At the risk of repeating myself I will say this once again: Do not trust what the salesperson at the local Harvey Norman (or any other shop interested in processing large numbers of orders) tells you when it comes to picture quality. They have no idea, and frankly - they cannot have an idea because a TV cannot be properly judged under showroom conditions. Nor should the list of gimmicks the TV comes up with affect your decision. Do your homework in advance and don't choose your model at the showroom unless you're that price sensitive or unless you can use the help of a qualified advisor (and there are many certified ones around).

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