3. What advantages does plasma have over LCD?
Apart from better contrast due to its ability to show deeper blacks, plasma screens typically have better viewing angles than LCD. Viewing angles are how far you can sit on either side of a screen before the picture's quality is affected. You tend to see some brightness and colour shift when you're on too far of an angle with LCDs, while a plasma's picture remains fairly solid. This is steadily changing, however, with more and more LCDs entering the market with viewing angles equal to or greater than some plasmas. Plasmas can also produce a brighter colour, once again due to light leakage on an LCD affecting its colour saturation.
Plasma pundits will also tell you that some LCD screens have a tendency to blur images, particularly during fast moving scenes in movies or in sports. While that was true for older generation LCD screens, newer models have improved significantly -- so much so that the differences in performance between LCDs and plasmas in this regard is almost negligible (here's a tip -- if you're shopping for LCDs, check the pixel response time, measured in ms. The lower it is, the better the image quality in fast moving scenes).
A new 42" plasma from Hitachi
Traditionally, the biggest advantage plasmas have had over their LCD cousins is price, particularly in the large screen end of the market. In the past 12 months, this has changed, with LCDs matching or even beating plasmas in both resolution and price. Plasmas being sold in Australia generally run between 42-inches and 63-inches wide, with the cheapest standard definition 42-inch selling for approximately AU$2,300 (although you can expect to find sets cheaper than AU$2,000 in real world prices). 60-inch and above plasmas can go for as much as $25,000.
LCDs, on the other hand, generally top out around the 52-inch mark -- though there is now a ludicrously expensive 70-inch Sony available -- but are incredibly competitive with similar-sized plasmas. In the six months since we last updated this feature, prices of the replacements of two flagship TVs have dropped by a third. Sony's high end 52-inch KDL52W3100 LCD, for example, retails for AU$6,799 (down from AU$9,999), while Pioneer's top of the line 50-inch PDP-LX508A plasma goes for AU$$7,999 (down from AU$10,999).
4. What advantages does LCD have over plasma?
Apart from being price competitive, LCD has the edge over plasma in several other key areas. LCDs tend to have higher native resolution than plasmas of similar size, which means more pixels on a screen.
LCDs also tend to consume less power than plasma screens, with some estimates ranging that power saving at up to 30 per cent less than plasma. LCDs are also generally lighter than similar sized plasmas, making it easier to move around or wall mount.
LCD pundits also point to the fact that LCDs have a longer lifespan than plasma screens. This was true of earlier plasma models, which would lose half of their brightness after more than 20,000 hours of viewing. Later plasma generations have bumped that up to anything between 30,000 and 60,000 hours. LCDs, on the other hand, are guaranteed for 60,000 hours.
You might have also heard that plasmas suffer from screen burn in, an affliction not as commonly associated with LCDs. Screen burn in occurs when an image is left too long on a screen, resulting in a ghost of that image burned in permanently. Newer plasmas are less susceptible to this thanks to improved technology and features such as screen savers, but burn-in is still a problem. But after a few days of use most burnt-in images will fade -- they are no longer permanent.
Sharp's Aquos LC37AX3X
5. Which is better value for me right now: plasma or LCD?
If you're in the market for a big screen television -- and we're talking 50-inches and above -- then we'd suggest plasma as a safe bet. Plasmas give you more bang for your buck at the big end of town, and while LCDs can give you better resolution, plasma still has the edge in terms of picture quality. One other thing to look for, whether you opt for plasma or LCD, is an integrated tuner -- many TVs still have analogue tuners, which look pretty terrible on a large screen. Try to get a model with an inbuilt HD tuner if you can.
At the smaller end of things (15" to 42" TVs), LCD is the only way to go if you want something slim and tasteful. And the best thing is that LCDs are getting cheaper all the