Plasma vs OLED

What are OLED TVs and plasma TVs, and how are they different?

A man using a smart TV

 Manuel Breva Colmeiro / Moment Open

Plasma and OLED are two types of displays. You normally see these terms when comparing plasma TVs and OLED TVs.

OLED, which stands for organic light-emitting diode, is a more common display type that's an improvement on the older LCD technology. The lesser-used plasma display panels (PDP) use plasma, which is one of the states of matter.

Plasma TVs have all but disappeared as OLED and other technologies like Super-AMOLED take over the scene. In 2014, because of production costs and lack of adequate competition with other screen technologies demand, Panasonic, LG, and Samsung stopped producing plasma TVs.

However, there are still places to buy plasma TVs, so if you're ready to purchase a new TV and aren't sure whether you should get a plasma TV or an OLED TV, you should know the differences to see what kind of experience you'll get with either.

Similarities Between Plasma & OLED

Compared to differences between OLED and LCD, and plasma and LCD, plasma and OLED are a lot more similar. In other words, both OLED and plasma are more alike than are either with LCD.

This means that for most people (i.e., if you aren't a videophile or super picky), you could view either and not notice that much of a difference (sans the price).

Both technologies do a way better job at portraying blacks than older tech, both are available in high resolution and large screen sizes, and both can be used for years without suffering color degradation or severe screen burns.

The refresh rate on both plasmas and OLEDs are relatively high compared to older screen technologies, so screen flicker is usually not a problem with either.

OLED vs Plasma: Where the Differences Matter

Where OLED uses organic material to light up the screen, plasma uses ionized gases. This means that the color of an OLED screen fades over time, so it won't last as long as a plasma screen. However, plasma relies on gases inside the screen to light up the images, so you can't use a plasma screen at really high altitudes or the pressure difference between the environment and inside gases will cause issues.

Interference is also a problem with plasma screens due to the ionized gases. OLED doesn't suffer from this problem, so you can listen to AM radio around an OLED TV without worrying about radio frequency interference.

OLED works in a way where when the screen needs to be black in a specific area, those particular pixels can be turned off completely, so the blacks on an OLED screen are 100 percent black since absolutely no light is shining through. This also means that the whites are much easier to see. Plasma screens don't have that level of precision, so blacks aren't as black on a plasma screen as they are on an OLED screen.

It's always been too costly to produce a plasma screen smaller than 32 inches. This means that all plasma screens are large enough to work as a TV or computer monitor. However, this also means that you won't find smartphones or tablets with plasma screens.

Plasma screens are heavier than OLEDs because they are covered in glass, also making them more susceptible to breaking. OLEDs use a thinner protection which makes them a bit more flexible.