LCD_ DLP_ Plasma – Oh My_ by forrests

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             LCD, DLP, Plasma – Oh My!
                                                               Tech Tip 122          - Chris Capelle

LCD v. Plasma

Introduction                                   Under the Hood:
Now that the “big” 32” CRT television in        DLP (Digital Light
your living room is fading fast, it’s time      Processing) HDTV
to deep six it and upgrade in style. But if     (High Definition
you’ve been out of the television               Television) is a
technology loop for the last few years,         proprietary
there are a number of unfamiliar terms          product of Texas
and concepts (not to mention acronyms!)         Instruments. DLP
to contend with.                                is descendant of
                                                digital       film
So where do you start, and what exactly is      p r o j e c t o r
the best choice for you? You want picture       technology which uses DMD (Digital Multi-
quality, you want a long lifespan, you want     mirror Device) chips, each containing
a TV that is ready for the upcoming FCC-        millions of tiny mirrors. A projection
mandated DTV (Digital Television) transition    light is passed through a rotating color
in 2009 (or until they change the date          wheel before striking the chip – producing
again) and, most importantly, you want          up to 16 million different color shades.
bang for your buck! But before you crack
open your wallet, you should do some            LCD televisions consist of two polarizing
homework. First you’ll see a bunch of           transparent panels with a liquid crystal
unfamiliar terms, like plasma, LCD,             solution in between. This technology
projection, DLP, and then you’ll have to        uses florescent light, which is scattered
decipher them.                                  by a white diffusion panel. In an LCD
                                                Television, each color pixel (picture
Fear not - is here to help!           element) is created by three sub-pixels
                                                with red, green, and blue color filters.
Before we go on, let’s take a quick look at     LCD technology allows each pixel on the
the three leading display technologies; a       screen to be activated individually.
little knowledge will go a long way when
it’s time to go shopping. Without delving       Plasma screens are made up of hundreds
too deeply into the weird science of            of thousands RGB (red, green, and blue)
television innards, here’s a quick summary      pixels, which depend on argon, neon,
of the three technologies:                      and xenon gases (sealed between glass

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  panels) to be electrically charged, which    very large, inexpensive screen, especially
  generates light and ultimately the           for latest-generation video game play in
  picture. Plasma screens are more             1080i/p, DLP may be your best bet.
  closely     related     to     traditional
  television screens.                          LCD:
Just the Facts, Ma’am – pros and cons           Generally   long
of various display technologies:                l i f e s p a n
(Naturally, the specifications/issues listed    currently claim
here are generalizations, some subjective,      >50,000 hours)
and will vary from brand to brand and
model to model)                                 Many new LCD televisions offer full 1080p
                                                (1920 x 1080) native pixel resolution

DLP:                                            Generally physically lighter and sleeker
                                                than DLP or plasma televisions
  Uber-long life expectancy – the main
  light source is projection bulb, which is     Low power consumption
  replaceable (not cheap, but certainly
  less expensive than buying a new              Generally poor relative black levels
                                               Biggest pros of LCD: Small size and
  The ultra-fast DLP chip has a 16             placement options give it the most
  microsecond response time                    flexibility when it comes to positioning
                                               the television.
  High resolution (1920 x 1080) – but others
  are catching up                              Biggest cons of LCD: Pixel response time is
                                               lower than DLP and plasma, which can
  Contrast ratios of up to 12,000:1            mean      ghosting   during     fast-action
                                               sequences. Color saturation and black-
  Usually comes with an integrated stand       levels lacking.

Biggest pros of DLP: Provides the best bang    Bottom line: Tight on space? Watching TV
for your buck as far as large screens go –     or viewing digital family photos? You’re
probably       the      price/performance      all set for LCD – just mount your LCD TV on
“sweet spot”.                                  the wall and go!

Biggest cons of DLP: Overall size and
limited flexibility on set positioning (In     Plasma:
other words, DLP screens are large, but so
is the rest of the set.) Best picture is        P l a s m a
obtained by positioning the set at eye          televisions
level. Lowest “sexy factor” of the three        offer     good
technologies.                                   pricing     for
                                                large screens
Bottom line: If the space/size restrictions
aren’t an issue for you and you want a

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  Contrast ratios exceeding 15,000:1 in          the third as possible.
  some models

  Allows the most flexibility as far as
  positioning the viewer in front
  of the set

  Many models top out at 1366x768
  native resolution, which equates to 720p –
  still High Definition, but not 1080x.

Biggest pros of Plasma: Superior color
saturation, excellent black levels, wide
viewing angles.

Biggest cons of Plasma: The image
retention (screen burn) issue has been all
but eliminated but pixel failure is still a
potential problem area. Potentially the
shortest lifespan of the three (“the light
that burns twice as bright burns half as
long.”) Can be big electricity hogs.

Bottom line: Movie and/or sports nut? Go
plasma. Widescreen helps with movies,
while the wide viewing angle is perfect
for when the whole gang is watching the
game together.

Unlike the VHS/Beta wars of yesteryear,
it’s possible for these different technologies
to peacefully co-exist in the marketplace;
breakthroughs in one platform forces the
others to not only keep pace, but to up
the ante, which (hopefully) gives the
consumer higher quality products at lower

In Conclusion
Modern large-screen televisions are no
different than many products or
technologies that follow the price/
performance triangle – in this case, you
can have it large, good, or cheap – pick
any two. The trick is to pick your two and
then find a product that has as much of

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