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Why Plasma TVs Are Dying

By - Source: Tom's Guide US | B 66 comments
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Panasonic, the biggest champion of plasma TVs, is giving up the ghost and will be closing its last plasma factory in 2014, Reuters has reported. (In response to an email from Tom's Guide, Panasonic said, "The content of the report released overnight is not something that was announced by Panasonic.") 

Regardless of whether Panasonic is closing up its plasma shop, the technology is on a fast decline. "Plasma has some life left, but by 2015, the market opportunity is getting small," Steve Koenig, director of industry analysis at the Consumer Electronics Association, told Tom's Guide.

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The numbers Koenig provided make that very clear. In 2012, U.S. consumers spent $2.15 billion on 2.98 million plasma TVs; by 2015, they are expected to buy just 1.33 million sets for a total of $923 million. That's still a lot of money, but not necessarily the best place for a TV maker to invest. In comparison, Americans spent about $16.8 billion on about 36.2 million LCD TVs in 2012. Those figures are expected to increase slightly by 2015. 

But the business numbers only say so much. It's people's taste in TV that drives these numbers, and that taste isn't motivated entirely by quality, or even price.

"It would be sad to see such fine displays end production," said Joel Silver, founder of the Imaging Science Foundation, about Panasonic plasma TVs. Silver trains TV calibrators and consults with manufactures to improve the image quality and usability of their TVs. And his choice model for training sessions is a plasma TV from Panasonic's ZT line. 

The old wisdom goes, and it's still somewhat true, that plasma beats LCD in some quality respects — particularly wider viewing angles and the ability to show motion clearly, which is a plus for sports fans. Plasmas also excel at showing deep blacks, which equates to better contrast and more-detailed images. Plasma TV had also been known for better colors. The LED-backlit LCD TVs that dominate the market have closed the color gap, Silver said. But plasma was in trouble long before LCD was competitive from a quality standpoint.

It's no secret that the best quality doesn't always win — that's been the case from Betamax vs. VHS to CD vs. MP3 to Blu-ray vs. Netflix streaming. More surprising is that even better prices didn't motivate people to buy plasma. 

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For any size TV you want, plasma will provide a better deal. Say you are looking for a 55-inch TV with the works: 3D, Internet connection, top image-quality tech. Amazon sells one of Panasonic's best LCDs, the WT60, for  $2,889.99. Amazon also sells Panasonic's ST60 plasma TV, which got a 5-star rating and Editors' Choice from CNET, for $1,295.00. (The LCD comes with an extra pair of 3D glasses, but that hardly accounts for the difference.) 

The comparisons are similar at LG and Samsung, the two other companies that still make plasma TVs.

For some reason, LCD is perceived as better. Perhaps it's because the screens tend to be brighter (though plasma is far from dim) or perhaps because they may use a bit less electricity (even though plasmas are on a par with just a few incandescent light bulbs in terms of power use). Maybe it's because LCD is perceived as newer (at least it was in the last decade.) Plasma also got a bad name because of early models that "burned in" images that were left on the screen too long, thought that's not really a problem anymore, either. 

It seems that no matter what, people are not swayed to go for plasma — not on quality, not on features, not even on price. If that's the case, how could plasma possibly survive?

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Top Comments
  • 14 Hide
    ubercake , October 9, 2013 12:58 PM
    Even though they've made improvements in the area with plasma screens, burn-in has always been the major deterrent. Why worry when you don't have to? As LCD/LEDs have come down in price and provide great pictures even compared to plasma while using far less power, people are passing on plasma altogether.
  • 12 Hide
    XxXGunXxXGraveXxX , October 9, 2013 1:13 PM
    I am reading this article on a Panasonic s60 50 inch and it is crazy to think anyone would buy a lcd or led over this tv. I paid 650$ and everyone who comes over always asks what kind of tv mine is because the picture is so crystal clear. My best friend has a 60 inch led or lcd i cant recall which and he paid 2 grand for it and he even said he wished he would have bought the 60 inch version of my s60 pasma instead! Its just no one reaseaches tv's before they buy them and as a result uy the biggest piece of shi* walmart has thinking that has to be the best on the market....Thanks mindless drones for ruining the best quality displays on the market aside from oled's that cost 10 grand.....
Other Comments
  • -7 Hide
    patrick47018 , October 9, 2013 12:57 PM
    Because they only come in huge size, use a lot more power, and to me I prefer my LED IPS LCD.
  • Display all 66 comments.
  • 14 Hide
    ubercake , October 9, 2013 12:58 PM
    Even though they've made improvements in the area with plasma screens, burn-in has always been the major deterrent. Why worry when you don't have to? As LCD/LEDs have come down in price and provide great pictures even compared to plasma while using far less power, people are passing on plasma altogether.
  • 1 Hide
    jtd871 , October 9, 2013 1:13 PM
    Smallest sized plasma that I can find is 42-inches. My cabinet only fits a 39 or 40 incher. I would buy a plasma in the size I want.
  • 12 Hide
    XxXGunXxXGraveXxX , October 9, 2013 1:13 PM
    I am reading this article on a Panasonic s60 50 inch and it is crazy to think anyone would buy a lcd or led over this tv. I paid 650$ and everyone who comes over always asks what kind of tv mine is because the picture is so crystal clear. My best friend has a 60 inch led or lcd i cant recall which and he paid 2 grand for it and he even said he wished he would have bought the 60 inch version of my s60 pasma instead! Its just no one reaseaches tv's before they buy them and as a result uy the biggest piece of shi* walmart has thinking that has to be the best on the market....Thanks mindless drones for ruining the best quality displays on the market aside from oled's that cost 10 grand.....
  • 4 Hide
    outlw6669 , October 9, 2013 1:15 PM
    I have since a few years a 50" Plasma and I much prefer it over any LCD model my friends have.
    Deep blacks, great color and motion that smash what I see in comparison from the LCD camp; at less than half the price of any comparable LCD TV at the time.
    Aside from the somewhat higher power consumption, the only drawback I have found is the reflective screen.

    Quite disappointed to see another (mostly) superior, not to mention lower priced, tech being killed off :( 
  • 3 Hide
    dimar , October 9, 2013 1:18 PM
    Surely people would be persuaded to buy plasma if Panasonic gave it 10 years warranty.
  • 6 Hide
    _Cosmin_ , October 9, 2013 1:19 PM
    Well i own a Panasonic Viera (smart plasma) TV: it is the BEST... and it come with 5 yr warranty (most LED/LCD come with 2 yr only)!
  • -1 Hide
    Heironious , October 9, 2013 1:24 PM
    I bought a 42" LED LCD 3D tv because it was on sale boxing day for 450 dollars...FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS!!!!!
  • 0 Hide
    kawininjazx , October 9, 2013 1:29 PM
    I really love my panasonic plasma, the picture is great. It does eat up a lot more electricity than an LED, but I don't have issue with ghosting. If I watch a 3 hour movie with black bars and then I exit and go into the PS3 main XMB, there is a slight ghosting for about 30 seconds, that's as bad as it gets. I don't like the 120 or 240hz LCDs at all.
  • 8 Hide
    nikoli707 , October 9, 2013 1:37 PM
    the reasons for the popularity lcd is simply and purely.... lack of education. plasmas are vastly better than lcd's.
  • 6 Hide
    zero2dash , October 9, 2013 1:40 PM
    Plasmas haven't had burn-in problems in a long time but that hasn't erased the FUD.

    [wraps arms around my giant 46" Panny plasma]
  • 3 Hide
    Ninjawithagun , October 9, 2013 1:40 PM
    A lot of folks are very ignorant about just how great the latest generation of plasma TVs are compared to the first generation. I own a Panasonic Vierra VT30 55" Plasma TV and it is still hands down the very best picture compared to any existing LED TV on the market. The 3D is absolutely perfect with no ghosting whatsoever...unlike LED TVs where I see ghosting all the time. The standard 600Hz refresh rate also is the very best compared to other 'inferior' lower Hz LED TVs on the market. As for any supposed issues with plasma TVs and using them at high altitude, I live in Colorado. My house sits at 6,800 ft altitude, yet I have had zero issues with my plasma screen for over 2 1/2 years. Still running strong and is used several hours daily. And regarding power consumption. It's just a plain lie that plasma TVs are not energy efficient. My Vierra power consumption rating is on par with LED TVs within it's class range. It is a sad day indeed to hear that plasma TVs are being phased out :-(
  • 1 Hide
    geok1ng , October 9, 2013 1:46 PM
    Plasmas are dying because of market mambo jambo and the old ilusion taht new tech=better tech. There was a tiem when all decent priced laptop used an IPS panel. Now people pay USD999 for a TN panel. Plasmas are the best TV tech. And TV makers do not like plasma because it is expensive to manufacture and you can charge an arm and a leg for 10y+ tech stuff, so they introduced LCD and LED in the market. Only a complete blind person would ever consider purchasing a large TV that is not plasma. A blind idiot with deep pockets willing to pay double the price and receive the worst product.
  • 0 Hide
    ddpruitt , October 9, 2013 1:48 PM
    Plasma uses more power
    Plasma is heavier
    Plasma has ghosting
    Plasma's aren't improving much compared to LCD
    Plasma's are more expensive (comparing the models people commonly buy, not the high end stuff)
    There aren't as many plasma TV's as LCD

    That's why they're dying. In terms of quality both are so poorly setup out of the box it doesn't really matter which is better. As for screen viewing angles and glare it depends more on the face of the display, there are models in both classes that suck and are great, thankfully we're going back to matte screens.

    You have to remember, the electronics that survive are the ones that go mainstream and don't aim for the high end markets. That's why Betamax died (CD/MP3 and Netflix/BluRay are a different type of battle). Plasma's made the early mistake of trying to be too good instead of good enough, it cost them.
  • 1 Hide
    aznplayer213 , October 9, 2013 1:51 PM
    its only a matter of time as oleds start to roll out. hopefully in 5 years i can replace my led for an oled. my panasonic vt50 will probably be there till it fully breaks down...
  • 7 Hide
    alfaalex101 , October 9, 2013 1:53 PM
    When I go somewhere public and see an awesome looking HDTV, I can 9 times out of 10 tell if it is plasma or not.
  • 3 Hide
    garrettm , October 9, 2013 2:05 PM
    I've owned a hitachi 50" plasma for what will be 6 years in November and it still works as well as the day I bought it. Picture is excellent and I don't have any envy of an lcd. Far superior imo to any of the crap hanging on the wall at walmart. Too bad they are considering phasing them out. Sad
  • 0 Hide
    guardianangel42 , October 9, 2013 2:13 PM
    I would replace our Plasma ST60 with an LED LCD in a heart beat if I could. It's an amazing TV with good colors and great blacks, sharp picture and great response time.

    But I have it hooked up to a computer, and I lost count of the number of times an image remained on the screen for hours afterward. Everything from Youtube to Windows Explorer to the taskbar and the recycle bin.

    Plasmas are terrible as computer monitors.
  • 2 Hide
    fat_panda , October 9, 2013 2:14 PM
    I worked retail for the past 2 years, we slowly phased out Plasma TVs but they had the lowest malfunction return rates of all the TVs (1/20). We've replaced them with bunch of $500-900 Samsung LED/LCD with a return rate of 1/5 from faulty circuitry...I miss you Plasma.
  • 6 Hide
    deftonian , October 9, 2013 2:14 PM
    I like both Plasma and LED LCD, but I choose LED LCD because they are much lighter and don't eat up the room. My first HDTV was a Samsung Plasma and it was great... but man it made my room a toaster oven... and I live in Texas so can't afford more heat being put off. That's really the only reason I opted for LED LCD this round. Plus moving the LED LCD is a breeze since it's so light. Just my personal opinion and story :) 
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