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Plasma TVs on the Way Out; Still Best

By - Source: Tom's Guide US | B 52 comments

This week has been somewhat of a traumatic week for plasma HDTVs and fans of the technology.

First in line to deliver bad news was Pioneer. A long time advocate of plasma technology, Pioneer announced that it will completely withdraw from producing plasma TVs by March. The announcement came to the surprise and dismay of many serious HDTV enthusiasts as Pioneer is considered to be the best maker of plasma TVs.

Why did Pioneer hold this acclaim? Its Kuro and Kuro Elite line of plasma panels are coveted among home theater enthusiasts due to their superior, inky black levels. While a panel's black level isn't an entire indication of its overall quality, it's a measurement taken very seriously by enthusiasts and greatly affects the quality of a movie. However, those who wanted the highly prized Kuro blackness had to shell out serious money for the displays, and even more for a Kuro Elite.

But don't be fooled. Simply splurging for a plasma over an LCD won't necessarily afford you deep, rich black. A plasma's black level is affected by the the necessity to go through a discharge reset when the display is illuminated. This means that for every moment a pixel is lit, a moment then follows where that pixel has to be discharged. This process adds a faint glow to the screen, which directly affects black levels. Obviously, this process is better on some plasmas--like the Kuros--than others. For those looking to pick-up a top of the line plasma that has the deepest of blacks, there's no better time than now to pick up a Pioneer Kuro before they disappear for good.

Pioneer's exit from the display scene won't be the only news to put a gloomy atmosphere on the HDTV market. Vizio announced this week that it too will ditch plasma technology completely. Vizio has gained significant market share in the U.S. since the brand launched a few years ago and positioned itself as the mainstream and affordable brand. While Vizio TVs aren't the creme de la creme of HDTVs, they are good value for many.

Despite the shake up in the HDTV market place and the announcement by various manufacturers to stop making plasmas, it continues to be, in my opinion, a superior technology for HDTV panels. While LCD panels are more affordable and more widely available, the inherent cons of the technology take away from the overall quality.

For example, backlighting on LCD panels remain on at all times, and light emission is controlled by a liquid crystal layer, which passes light through to a color filter at varying intensities to create the final image. While LCDs have improved significantly about being able to block light from passing through, it's still a primary draw back of the technology. LED based LCD panels that can turn off backlighting at specific screen locations help LCDs in this department greatly, but aren't yet available in very big screen sizes and are priced significantly higher than traditional LCDs.

Another area where plasmas edge out LCDs is in response time and problems with ghosting. LCD manufacturers try to combat this problem by decreasing pixel response times to very low levels, but most do it by applying more voltage to the liquid crystal gates. While the results do improve pixel response time, they introduce inverse ghosting problems, where certain colors will appear to be inverted.

For many consumers, the primary focus has been on LCDs, due to several factors, but mainly affordability. A quick visit to a retailer or even an online store will reveal that the majority of panels being sold are LCDs. So where's the saving grace for plasmas? Panasonic, the world's largest manufacturer of plasmas will still produce displays on the technology for the foreseeable future. Hitachi too, has its line of plasma TVs as well as other manufacturers.

If you're unable to pick up a Kuro display before they vaporize out of the market place, fear not. We're equally fans of Panasonic's line of plasma HDTVs. While they don't--yet--produce a Kuro's inkiness, they come quite close, and in some other areas edge out Kuros. The Panasonics also sell for way less, so check them out if you're in the market for a big flat panel TV. Of course, we're all in the market for big expensive TVs right now...

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  • 0 Hide
    gwellin , February 12, 2009 8:31 PM
    What is pioneer going to make then? LCD or invest money into OLED? What is their next step? I cant belive they are pulling out of the TV market all together.
  • 0 Hide
    wiyosaya , February 12, 2009 8:39 PM
    Hmm...LED Backlighting not available in large sets yet? 55", to me at least, is pretty big. Check out Sony's KDL-55XBR8. Or how about Sharp's 65" LC-65XS1U-S.

    Yes, quite a bit more expensive I agree, but unless you are looking for a panel larger than these, these two particular models are quite large.
  • 0 Hide
    wiyosaya , February 12, 2009 8:41 PM
    BTW - the Sony model I mentioned is considered a very close second to the best of the Kuro's in the same size class, and the price difference is insignificant, IMHO.
  • Display all 52 comments.
  • 0 Hide
    nukemaster , February 12, 2009 8:42 PM
    Actually, They are....

    well according to this...

    http://www.tomsguide.com/us/pioneer-hdtv-kuro-plasma-elite,news-3458.html
  • 2 Hide
    ram1009 , February 12, 2009 9:18 PM
    They don't mention how hot the plasmas run or that they consume almost twice the power for a given screen size. Also, I don't know where some get the idea that plasmas are more expensive than LCDs. Where I shop they are at least 25% less than equivalent LCDs. I guess I'm not much of a purist.
  • 1 Hide
    tayb , February 12, 2009 9:35 PM
    ram1009They don't mention how hot the plasmas run or that they consume almost twice the power for a given screen size. Also, I don't know where some get the idea that plasmas are more expensive than LCDs. Where I shop they are at least 25% less than equivalent LCDs. I guess I'm not much of a purist.


    I don't know what magical store you shop at but for the rest of us they are more expensive. Much more expensive.

    Take a look at newegg and you'll find the cheapest 42" 1080p LCD is $300 less than the cheapest equivalent Plasma. I'll take the LCD and pick up an Xbox 360 with the savings.
  • -1 Hide
    Humans think , February 12, 2009 9:53 PM
    I have both a a Philips Plasma 42" (720p) and a Sony LCD 42" (1080p), I bought them at the same price, and I can say that the Plasma outperforms the LCD greatly in viewing experience (except the resolution) so much that I regretted buying the LCD. It is sad that they are dropping the technology, I think it has a lot to give.

    One other thing that is important is that Plasma screens don't lose value. The same plasma model still retails at the same price if I wanted to buy a new one today. On the other hand the same LCD model has lost already 30% of its value...

    Pioneer sure left the market when it was still the King. "Look what I have done with this technology, now it's time to leave..."
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , February 12, 2009 10:35 PM
    LCD may be becoming cheaper than plasma at the 42" size.
    But plasma is about $1000 cheaper than LCD at the 50" size.
    And it gets even worse at higher sizes.

    I can get an LG 60" plasma for $A4000. But a 55" sony LCD is $10000.
  • -4 Hide
    Anonymous , February 12, 2009 10:46 PM
    I say good riddance. Anyone who owns a shortwave receiver knows what its like to have it rendered useless by the copious amounts of Radio Frequency Interference these piles spew forth. The FCC should never have allowed them on the market in the first place.
  • -2 Hide
    hakesterman , February 12, 2009 11:06 PM
    Plasma no longer rules the Tv market, 120 HZ LCD's looks and responds as good if not better than a Plasma TV. The cost of Plasma TV's have come way down, you can get a plasma for the same price as an LCD now if you want one. However emissions are much higher on a plasma and they consume twice the energy. If your eyes
    like Plasma better than go get the biggest one you can find.


  • 1 Hide
    ViPr , February 12, 2009 11:16 PM
    dammit! when are we getting OLED? i'm sick of the stupid quality of LCD. i only stopped using CRT because i read about radiation from them.
  • 4 Hide
    eklipz330 , February 12, 2009 11:18 PM
    they are power hungry, and im pretty sure lcd's will be going the same way once oled's are on the horizon
  • 0 Hide
    Tekkamanraiden , February 13, 2009 1:23 AM
    ViPrdammit! when are we getting OLED? i'm sick of the stupid quality of LCD. i only stopped using CRT because i read about radiation from them.


    Pretty sure your microwave kicks out more radiation than most CRT's And OLED is still going to be a while as they are still having problems with the longevity of the green.
  • 1 Hide
    ram1009 , February 13, 2009 2:31 AM
    taybI don't know what magical store you shop at but for the rest of us they are more expensive. Much more expensive. Take a look at newegg and you'll find the cheapest 42" 1080p LCD is $300 less than the cheapest equivalent Plasma. I'll take the LCD and pick up an Xbox 360 with the savings.


    I shop at Costco for TVs. I'm in there looking at least twice a week and their plasmas are much cheaper than equivilent LCD. You wouldn't really but a TV from Newegg would you? You need to read the return policy.
  • 0 Hide
    demonhorde665 , February 13, 2009 2:50 AM
    plasma's death was a given

    LCD has been getting increasingly cheaper to mass produce much faster than palsma , on top of that plasma's ahve a half life that kills many peopels interest in them , while an LCD may also have a half life , their bulbs can be repalced fairly cheaply to "renew" them , while a palsam has no such option once it hits it';s half life you sjtu ahve to deal with the faded color. anotehr bad side to plasma is teh extra pwoer it consumes to do prety much teh same job as a nice LCD.
  • 1 Hide
    demonhorde665 , February 13, 2009 3:12 AM
    ViPr :
    dammit! when are we getting OLED? i'm sick of the stupid quality of LCD. i only stopped using CRT because i read about radiation from them.

    Tekkamanraiden:
    Pretty sure your microwave kicks out more radiation than most CRT's And OLED is still going to be a while as they are still having problems with the longevity of the green.


    ok many people get some facts about radiation mmisconstrued in redards to electronics , my dad having been an electrical engineer clarified this sort of stuff for me.

    the "radiation" comign froma CRT , is the most basic and msot common form of radiation ther is , it's know simply as "radio waves" it was teh first kind of radiation discovered by man , and teh ammounts of it that are put out by a CRT or a music box, or even less known the ammoutns put out by a computers CPU are so low they will NEVER cause a huamn any actual harm , radio waves would have to be blasted at you at ungodly levels for you to actually become "radioactive", also of note radio waves surrond almsot every thing on planet earth , this fact is what makes it possible to transmit signals from point a to point b with radio equipment.


    next there are Microwaves, they are the next most harmful for of radiation, they can cook you pretty fast , but they can be blocked by any metal (this is why you don't stick metal in your microwave oven) escentially the inside a a MW oven is all metal painted with a non conductive paint , this makes the microwaves bounce around teh inteior of the oven to cook things more evenly , the paint serves the purpose of keeping the waves from arching.


    then there are x-rays , they pass throguh bilogical matter much liek allt eh other radiation types , this kind of wave is weaker than a microwave but stronger than a radio wave. meaning it cant "cook" you unless you get hit with unpresidented ammounts of it, but even at low levels it CAN cause damage to your cells , thankfuly this radiation can be blocked with led , other metals don't block it so well but lead does the job (if you ever had an x-ray done of your pelvic area , you may have noted the led padding right over your genital area , this was to prevent any cell damage to your sperm/reproductive system)

    last but not leaste Gama rays, This si the most elathal of radiation types, and nothing short of nuclear reactors and or bombs can produce this radiation through man made means. the smalles ammount of this radiation can cause permenant cell damage, and jsut abit more than teh smallest ammoutn can be leathal with into 2-3 weeks high doeses can kill ahuman with in days , NO material known can compeltely block this radiation, however our ozone does a fairly good job of blocking it in the manner that it only allows very very small ammoutns of gama to ever reach the planet surface this is becasue the ozone is so thick. some natural sources of gamma radiation ,are - Uranium , Plutonium . man made sources are basically any nuclear reactior and any nuclear weapons. (and of note even those require one oft eh natural sources)
  • 5 Hide
    AngryClown , February 13, 2009 3:25 AM
    I stopped reading those two comments^ after the 10th typo. Put a little effort into it, man!
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , February 13, 2009 5:30 AM
    "One other thing that is important is that Plasma screens don't lose value. The same plasma model still retails at the same price if I wanted to buy a new one today. On the other hand the same LCD model has lost already 30% of its value..."

    Ummm... no... you are talking about ASP's declining, that is different than depreciation (or losing value). You can not sell the Plasma you bought 3 years ago for the same price (even if the price of a new plasma is the same as it was 3 years ago).

    You can argue that the value of plasmas depreciates slower than LCD's, but for you to say plasma screens don't lose value is ridiculous...if you truly believe this I wish you luck in trying to sell your 3 year old plasma for the price you bought it at.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , February 13, 2009 5:35 AM
    Also you need to factor in the higher price, even if it is slower depreciation. If the plasma's value depreciates 33% over 3 years and you started at say $3000, you lost $1000 in value.

    If you bought an LCD at say $2000 and is depreciates at a higher rate over 3 years, say 50%, then you would also lose $1000.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , February 13, 2009 12:32 PM
    My god someone give demonhorde665 a spellcheck. I feel dumber even reading that pile.
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