Revealed!! Why Are Plasma TVs Still Around?

By on May 15, 2013

Plasma TV in a Home Theater

If you’re old enough, you’ll recall that plasma TVs were the first commercially available flat-panel TVs in the late ’90s. A 42-inch Philips set boasted a price tag of $15,000! Fast-forward over a decade later and most TV makers today are producing LCD panel HDTVs, more specifically LED-backlit (or edge-lit) LCD panels, which are becoming thinner and more inexpensive by the month.

In recent years, plasmas have fallen out of favor with mainstream consumers, and then a few months ago came the news that Panasonic, the market leader in plasma HDTVs, would actually stop production of their plasma line in 2014! Videophiles around the world were in a state of mourning. But why would anyone shed tears for the plasma TV? They’re not cool anymore.

Well, because plasma TVs are better, that’s why.

Then, just last month, order was restored when Panasonic announced that those “rumors” were actually incorrect and that it plans to continue developing plasma TV technology and producing new sets. Huzzah!

So hold off on those obituaries and poetic Betamax analogies, folks, because plasma is going to stick around a bit longer, and the world will be better for it. And here are the reasons why plasma TVs are still alive and better (than ever).

Plasma Is All Growns Up Now

panasonic-152-inch-plasma-tv

This 152-inch plasma behemoth premiered at CES 2010.

Let’s get the usual objections to plasma TVs out of the way. Number one is: “Plasma TVs are susceptible to burn-in.” Only in really extreme circumstances. Over the years, manufacturers have added “anti burn-in technologies” that minimize the likelihood of image retention, and if these “ghost images” do crop up (unlikely), they disappear after a few minutes. If you’re among the 99 percent of people who do not leave still images up on their TV screen for half an hour with the contrast jacked up to retina-scorching levels, you’re gonna be OK. Nothing is going to happen if you pause that movie for 5 minutes. Plus, on new plasmas, letterboxed movies and sports tickers are no cause to worry for burn-in.

Another common objection is the lifespan of plasma TVs. While the early models had a 30,000-hour rating, recent models can last as long as 100,000 hours. You’ll be getting a TV chip planted in your brain before your new plasma TV reaches its natural end.

Also, plasmas were known to be power-sucking vampires. The reality is, because new plasma TVs have improved energy efficiency and are generally cheaper than the so-called green LED HDTVs, the overall savings to the consumer is a wash (about $13 a year on your electricity bill).

But wait, there’s more! Plasmas are super heavy and thick! Yes, years ago this was a problem. (Sensing a common theme?) However, let’s compare Samsung’s 51″ 4550 Series Plasma with the 50″ F5500 Series LED. The plasma is 39 lbs. without the stand and about 2 inches thick and the LED is 29 lbs. without the stand and about 2 inches thick. All right. Plasmas are actually heavier. It must be tough watching that movie on your plasma TV as you hold it in your hands.

It’s Beautiful!

Samsung_PN51F8500

Samsung F8500 Series Plasma

If you’re particular about your picture, plasma TVs have a lot going for them. Plasma TVs have the best image quality of consumer TVs today. This includes black level, viewing angle, uniform brightness, color range, contrast ratio, and for gamers and sports fans, vastly superior response time (i.e., there’s no motion blur on fast moving objects).

Granted, plasma TVs technically do not put out as much overall brightness as LED TVs, but very few of you will ever leave an LED TV at its top brightness settings. Because that would be like staring at the sun.

As of May 2013, CNET’s top three HDTVs by picture quality are all plasma TVs. Two are Panasonic lines and one is the fantastic Samsung F8500 series, which is great for bright rooms (to answer the naysayers).

Even better, Plasma TVs are cheaper than the newer LED TVs by an average of $300 or more. The older LCD TVs (CCFL-backlit) are comparable in price but are much lower quality all around. Over at Ben’s Bargains, we recently had a 42″ Panasonic 1080p Plasma HDTV going for $400.

Plasma TVs are still around because they’re better and constantly improving, plus they’re often a great buy. Check out our Plasma HDTV Deals at Ben’s Bargains and be sure to set up Deal Alerts to watch out for the next awesome plasma TV deal!

About Joe Warner

I'm the senior editor of The CheckOut. I am an aficionado of shiny gadgets and classic Hollywood movies and can also tell you the names of the late '80s Swedish Davis Cup team members.

7 Comments

  1. KAAAAAAHHHHLLL

    May 16, 2013 at 10:46 am

    So besides the weight and not being able to put a plasma on its front/back, is there any redeeming quality of an LCD over a plasma?

    Seems like they’ve addressed all of the major drawbacks to owning one.

  2. Joe Warner

    May 16, 2013 at 10:55 am

    If you’re looking for a display primarily for computer use, an LED LCD panel (especially IPS) is preferable because they’re lighter, often thinner and usually have matte screens. Plus, plasma displays aren’t available as monitors or under 40″.

    But plasma is the way to go for TV and movies.

    • Ralph

      December 8, 2013 at 4:48 am

      I have a Panasonic 50″ monitor. The TH-50PHD8UK is a monitor with computer inputs. A 37″ and 42″ monitor was also available at the time I bought my 50″. That was about 8-9 years ago.

  3. Casecutter

    May 28, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    Good read… I need viewing angle and LED’s while they there good/better than the once where they don’t impress me, all that much. Might need to look at Plasma more seriously next time around.

  4. sam

    November 21, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    i hate lcd tv’s you cant view them right unless your looking at them head on. what is that…

  5. PlazmaLuva

    March 11, 2014 at 11:49 am

    Been preaching to everyone to get Plasma for years! This article validates it all. Glad I didn’t turn to the dark side but bought another 60 in plasma.

    • Joe Warner

      March 11, 2014 at 12:17 pm

      Right on!

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