The first flat panel TV technology can still be the best.

The first large panel TVs were plasma. They were a revelation. An old-fashioned 80 cm glass tube TV was typically 500 mm deep. The new plasmas were only 100 mm or so deep. You could put them on their stand up against a wall, or even hang them from it. Try doing that with the old box-like CRT TV!

But they had two major drawbacks. First, they were low resolution. Since they were designed for the US, Japanese and Korean markets, they were designed to suit those countries’ lower resolution TV systems.

Second, they were expensive! The first widescreen plasma TV we saw was a 106 cm (42 inch) model that cost just under $30,000! And, yes, that was still a low resolution TV.

These days high resolution 106 cm plasma TVs are available for under $1,500, and they perform better in every other way as well.

What is plasma?

Plasma TVs work by having hundreds of thousands of tiny glass cells stacked into a grid. Inside each cell is a gas. When an electrical signal is applied to it, the gas emits a little ultraviolet light. This hits a coloured phosphor on the face of the cell and makes it glow. There are cells with red, green and blue phosphors in order to produce colour pictures.

So what these TVs do is actually create the light that you see in their operation (LCDs, as we shall see, are quite different).