Plasmas always find themselves in the unenviable position of having to hang behind in the shadow of the popularity of the LCD in flatscreen sales. But there is nothing here that wouldn’t appeal to the intuition. LCDs are the popular format for the smaller sizes, and they are sometimes cheaper. The consumer public isn’t known to be dependable when it comes to picking quality over other considerations. Look at any review LCD TV testers come up with in any consumer electronics magazine, and you’ll see how they sound a little doubtful about the actual quality of the visual experience. The basic LCD experience has seen every kind of improvement over the last five years – poor viewing angles? They have a fix for that; poor response times? 5 ms of peers to completely remove the problem; a wide palette of colors? New processing engines go quite away there. The fixes are there – even if they aren’t perfect. But given the choice, people will always choose convenience over hard-core base quality.
Displaymate technologies, the company that’s made a reputation for itself devising innovative tests to gauge the quality of computer screens, says in a company report that as far as the Bravia 3 Engine or anything else made go towards taming the disobedient LCD technology we have, it still routinely falls behind plasmas in basic quality tests. The test that they used to come to these conclusions was pretty thorough if you ask me. They lined up the best LCD TVs from the houses of Sony, Sharp and Samsung, and pitted them against the best that the largest manufacturer of plasmas in the world, Panasonic, could come up with. This wasn’t a battle of the brands though; it was a battle of technologies. And they were trying to find out how reliable any review LCD magazine shootouts come out with can be.
So when an advertisement for a top-of-the-line LCD TV boasts of dynamic backlight, dynamic color, and essentially dynamic everything, are they really doing a good job improving the picture the LCD screen puts out? Or are they just trying to hide the flaws from us with meaningless marketing hype? The report is unequivocal – none of these LCD technologies actually does anything but the best of a bad job; and they produce image artifacts that anyone can easily notice in the process. The worst thing about LCDs, even if they do boast of 170° viewing angles, and even if every review LCD TV reports put out claim as much, picture colors and brightness can lose their integrity that moment you set even a foot off-center. The technologies they’ve used simply have improved viewing angle, but only so far as to make them at least picture watchable.
A plasma on the other hand has always been, and still is a technology that is directly perfectly viewable from a wide 45° angle. There’s just no comparing them; even if LCDs have the best picture quality when viewed dead-center, what use is that in a home situation? As for the kind of brightness and contrast levels that any review, LCD buying guides put out, those are simply unusable figures. Either the manufacturers put out untruths, or the magazines do. Any marketingspeak you hear, extended color technology or anything, is just unusable gimmickry.
Quality purists are really disappointed that plasmas appear to have lost the battle of the flat screens. The only place that an LCD would make sense would be where you’d have to do your viewing in very brightly lit situations. For everything else, a plasma wins hands down unless you want to speak of an LED-backlit TV.