Should I Buy an LCD TV or a Plasma TV?

Can you still find a Plasma TV?

Young couple holding hands, shopping for TV
Young couple holding hands, shopping for TV. Getty Images - Credit: Juice Images Ltd, 535190890

In 2015, Plasma TV production was discontinued for the consumer market.

However, there are still some Plasma TV fans out there, with millions of Plasma TVs still in use. This means that those that own Plasma TVs can continue to use them, but those seeking to purchase a Plasma TV will have to settle for any clearance, refurbished, or used units that may still be available through major retailers, auction sites (such as eBay), or other sources such as

What LCD and Plasma Have In Common

Although they use different technologies to display images on a screen, LCD and Plasma do share some things in common, including:

  • Flat panel designs that allow them to be table or wall mounted.
  • The same types of connection options.
  • Can provide a 3D viewing option at the discretion of the TV manufacturers.
  • Smart TV features can also be provided on both as that is independent of the technology used to display images on the screen.

Plasma TV Advantages

In addition to what they share, Plasma TVs have advantages over LCD in the following areas:

  • Wider contrast ratio.
  • Better ability to display deeper blacks.
  • More color depth and range.
  • Better motion tracking response time) due to the implementation of Sub Field Drive technology, and wider viewing angles.

Plasma TV Disadvantages

The disadvantages of Plasma vs LCD include:

  • More susceptibility to burn-in (although this is not as much of a factor on more recent models to technology improvements, such as "pixel orbiting").
  • More heat generation (as well as more power consumption).
  • Does not perform as well at higher altitudes.
  • Naturally darker image and screen glare in brightly lit rooms.
  • Heavier weight (when comparing equivalent screen sizes), and more delicate to ship.

LCD TV Advantages

LCD TVs have advantages over Plasma TVs in the following areas:

  • No pixel burn-in susceptibility - although non-permanent image persistence is sometimes observed if the same image in on the screen for extended periods.
  • Cooler running temperature.
  • Typically has less screen glare unless the screen is curved.
  • More functional at high altitudes.
  • Longer display life (although the gap closed on more recent models of Plasma TVs).
  • Looks better in brightly lit rooms due to the ability to produce a naturally brighter image (which allows for the better implementation of HDR).
  • Less power consumption.
  • Typically lighter weight when comparing same screen sizes.
  • Although both Plasma and LCD TVs have been quite commonly available with 1080p native display resolution, with the advent of 4K, no via Plasma TVs were introduced with 4K display capability, other than sets designated for the custom and professional markets.
  • Although both LCD and Plasma TVs can be made a variety of screen sizes, Plasma TV models with screen sizes less than 42-inches were very rare, and on the other side of the equation, rarely larger than 65-inches. So, with LCD TVs widely available in screen sizes as small as 19-inches and as large as 90-inches, that further limits Plasma TV appeal.

    LCD TV Disadvantages

    However, even though the LCD TV platform edges about Plasma in a variety of areas, there are some key aspects that LCD has struggled with in comparison, such as Plasma televisions:

    • Lower contrast ratio.
    • Not as good displaying deep blacks.
    • Narrower side-to-side viewing angle.
    • Not as good at tracking motion. However, this has improved with the implementation of 120Hz and 240Hz refresh rates and additional motion processing, but that also results in an artifact referred to as "The Soap Opera" effect in which film-based content looks more like video than film.
    • Although LCD TVs do not suffer from burn-in, it is possible that individual pixels on an LCD TVs can burn out, causing small, visible, black or white dots to appear on the screen. Individual pixels cannot be repaired, the whole screen would need to be replaced at that point if the individual pixel burnout becomes annoying to you.
    • In the recent years up to end of Plasma TV production, large screen LCD TVs were usually more expensive than an equivalent-sized Plasma TV.

    The Mercury Issue

    One argument that Plasma TV manufacturers made about LCD TV in earlier years is that the LCD platform relied on use traditional florescent backlight technology to illuminate the screen surface, and, as such, employ Mercury as part of the chemical makeup of the fluorescent backlight system.

    However, this is a "red herring" with regards to choosing a Plasma TV over an LCD TV as the amount of Mercury used in some LCD TVs is not only small, it never comes in contact with the user. Also, keep in mind that most common high-efficiency fluorescent lamps, such as many used in video projectors, and the "green" lamps we are all supposed to be replacing our traditional light bulbs with also use Mercury.

    You are probably in more danger eating fish, that may contain traces of Mercury, a couple of times a week, than watching, touching, or using an LCD TV. On the other hand, with the increased use of LED lighting sources in most LCD TVs made since 2012 and, since 2016 almost all LCD TVs use LED backlighting, which is a Mercury-free light source.

    For more details on LED backlighting use in LCD TVs, refer to our companion article: The Truth About "LED" TVs.

    Quantum Dots

    Another advance incorporated into the LCD TV platform is the implementation of Quantum Dots. As of 2018, Samsung and TCL offer this technology under the label "QLED" on select high-end TVs in their product lines. Quantum Dots allow LED/LCD TVs to produce more saturated, accurate colors than was previously possible.


    Another aspect of LCD and Plasma TVs is that some 3D LCD TVs use the Active Shutter viewing system, while other 3D LCD TVs use the Passive Polarized viewing system, giving the consumer a choice when considering your preferred 3D viewing option. However, for 3D Plasma TVs, only the Active Shutter system is used. For more details on what this means a purchase or use decision, read my reference article: All About 3D Glasses - Active vs Passive.

    However, it is important to note that the 3D TV viewing option was discontinued in 2017. However, many video projectors still provide this option.

    The OLED TV Alternative

    In addition to LCD, TVs using "OLED" technology are also now available. This technology has been available to consumers as another TV purchasing choice but is very limited in selection and availability, as well as price. In the U.S. market, OLED TVs are offered by LG and Sony.

    What is interesting about OLED TVs is that they blend the advantages of both Plasma and LCD. OLED TV pixels are self-emissive, like the phosphors used in Plasma TVs, and can produce vivid color, and the TVs can be made very thin, like LCD TVs (only even thinner!). OLED TVs were also the first TVs to be made with both flat and curved screen designs - although some manufacturers have followed suit one some LCD TVs. On the negative side, OLED TVs can experience burn-in or image persistence and can have a shorter lifespan than LCD TVs.

    The Bottom Line

    The final decision as to what type of TV to purchase is really up to you. However, where once we had the choice of CRT, Rear-Projection, LCD, and Plasma, the only two choices available now are LCD and OLED.

    For any TV purchase, go to a dealer and really take a look carefully at the types of TVs that are available and compare performance, features, ease of use, and connectivity, and narrow down your choices to one or two of both types and make your decision based on what type will give you the most pleasing image, connection flexibility, and fits your overall budget expectations.

    Since 2016, LCD and OLED are really the only viable options for home theater viewing that includes a TV (video projectors are another option). Unfortunately, unless you go used, Plasma TVs are no longer available.