Plasma TV myths

It’s time to bust open these plasma TV old wives’ tales, because to hold faith any longer in these myths is to cheat yourself of an incredible – nay, the incrediblest – viewing experience possible on a TV.

Long life

Let’s start with one of the most enduring myths about plasma TV, especially when unfavourably compared with LCD, and that’s lifespan.

The common belief is that plasma TVs fade. The reality is that all TVs fade, based as they are around various methods of producing and manipulating light. LCD TVs are as susceptible to losing brightness as plasma displays – the same goes even for good old fashioned ‘tube’ tellies – but the good news for either display type is that it takes a very, very long time for this to happen and affect your viewing pleasure.

To put this concern into context, with the new G10 Series NeoPDP Full HD TVs from Panasonic (starting at $2,749 for the 42 inch TH-P42G10A), it’ll take 100,000 hours of continuous use before the brightness level is even halved (let alone fades away to nothing). And to put that context into a better context, that’s just over 34 years of having the TV on for eight hours a day, every day. And if you sit on your arse for that long every day for over 30 years, then you’ll have bigger problems to worry about than a slightly dimmer TV set at the end of it.

Won’t get burned

You’re not going to keep your HDTV for 30 years and you’re not going to leave it on the same, static image for a week without changing channel or turning it off, are you? No? But that’s exactly the fear addressed in the second myth, with ‘burn-in’.

Again, just as with brightness loss, burn-in – where a ‘ghost’ image remains visible onscreen even when the channel is showing completely different content – can occur on any type of television, regardless of the technology used. Those displayed in airports, even on regular ‘CRT’ TVs, often did this, and despite protestations to the contrary (from people who make them, usually), even LCDs can suffer from this effect, although the provenance is different and it’s referred to as ‘image persistence’.

To be fair, the burn-in phenomena it has its roots in truth, as early generations of plasma televisions did suffer from image retention when over-zealous sports fans would leave their TVs on all day and night showing the cricket on Channel 9, or not wanting to miss a single ball from Wimbledon, finding the logos of the TV channels hovering phantom-like in the corner and stubbornly refusing to ‘go into the light’.

But the good news now is that new plasma displays are nowhere near as susceptible to this kind of image retention, thanks to a continual evolution in the type, composition and mix of gases used in the technology, as well as active, post-sale features that work to reduce or eliminate any possibility of burn-in, even when a static image remains display on the TV.

Plasma manufacturers legitimately claim that, in any event, permanent image retention is now a thing of the past. Additionally, TV stations all now deploy ‘faded’ versions of their logos, eliminating the main culprit in one fell swoop.

Watt’s up, watt’s down – power consumption

So before we get on to the real benefits of the plasma format, let’s just slay another sacred cow; power consumption. Despite the regular cranking of alarmist reporting from disgracefully sensationalist populist TV programming, large screen TVs are not sucking up electricity like lounge-based, localised black holes and spinning your household into grief with the bank manager.

In reality, for a number of years now, both LCD and plasma televisions have actually been some of the lower consumers of electricity in your home when it comes to large appliances, and every year they’re becoming more and more energy efficient. This is especially true of the ‘standby power’ issue that has gained so much currency of late: even the two-year-old 127 cm Pioneer LX508A plasma TV I have at home uses only 0.4 watts of power on standby. That’s far less than a 2009 46 inch LCD TV from a certain leading brand uses, for instance.

But even in full flow, displaying moving imagery, sound and everything, an average large-screen TV is still seriously outpaced in the power-eating stakes by your air-con, refrigerator, washer-dryer and microwave, and won’t add much more than 50 bucks per year to your power bills – in other words, less in a year of entertainment than you probably spill every Friday night out with your mates.

The latest power-related innovation in plasma TVs means that the units can not only turn themselves off when not in use, but can turn anything else off connected to them (DVD player, PVR, etc), so if power consumption still keeps you awake at night, be sure to check the tech specs before you buy.