Taking a wider view

Viewing angle may not be a big issue if you’re watching your 66 cm television in your CBD studio flat on your lonesome, but if you like to invite a crowd round to watch the Sex in the City reruns over a few chardies, those sitting off to the side would notice seriously compromised images with significantly less vibrant colours if you’ve chosen an LCD TV; whereas with plasma, everyone sees the same quality, with a practically 180-degree sweep offering equally good image reproduction.

Not to mention that with a 127 cm (50 inch in old money) HDTV in your lounge room your posse is all going to need to be sitting at least two metres from the telly (many people’s eyes are bigger than their bellies here, and they buy screens that are too large for the room), the viewing angle can still be quite important.

Contrast

The numbers quoted by over-enthusiastic (or under-informed) PR people are reaching ridiculous levels these days, but even contrast ratios are better with plasma. Ignore any mention of ‘dynamic’ and ‘full on/off’ contrast measurements that yield absurd and useless numbers, and look at static contrast ratio.

Savvy LCD makers don’t even put these specifications up on their websites, making direct comparison tricky for the average Joe, but for a more reliable and less excitable truth, it’s worth noting that the ISF (Imaging Science Foundation) calibration folk, while self-appointed experts, nevertheless know their stuff when it comes to HDTV picture quality and generally swear by plasma over LCD.

Matt Pearce, Product Manager, TV, from Panasonic Australia sums it up for us: “Superior motion picture resolution, contrast, colour and viewing angle combine to make plasma the best choice in large screen TV viewing”.

The upshot is that, if you’re a fan of fast-moving action – and if you’re male, that means practically everything you watch – then plasma is going to really do it for you.

Night and day

Plasma and LCD are both great. But retail salespeople will rarely, if ever, give you accurate, unbiased advice that is personally suited to your situation. And that is what you’re after, because very often the choice between the two technologies is partly, or even wholly, made for you.

If your lounge room is only three metres square, for instance, you’re probably going to want to look at a TV smaller than 107 cm or 42 inches, which would suggest you consider exclusively LCD (plasma isn’t made in the smaller screen sizes).

But if you don’t, you’re going to want to consider plasma over LCD, given the better motion handling, deeper blacks and higher contrast ratios, and bigger, better-value screen sizes

Innovation

Plasma manufacturers continue to innovate – Panasonic’s NeoPDP concept basically gives you even better performance with much lower power consumption. All Panasonic’s 2009 Viera plasma HDTVs have improved energy efficiency and feature the new energy star rating label as part of the voluntary labeling scheme.

Says Panasonic’s Matt Pearce: “Consumers can be confident that they are making an environmentally responsible choice when purchasing a Panasonic Plasma TV.” They’re making them even thinner, too, with the flagship, 54 inch Z1 NeoPDP model featuring 1080p wireless HDMI Full HD technology but still only being one inch thick!

Samsung is providing sets connected to the internet, and LG is making them increasingly beautiful with their ‘borderless’ designs. There’ll always be fans of both technologies, there’ll always be fierce competition – and that’s all good for us, the people who lay out the cash – but don’t dismiss plasma until you’ve had a really good, close look at it.