Plasma vs. OLED

OLEDs are more durable, robust, and available

Plasma and OLED are two types of visual 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 use plasma. We compared plasma and OLED technology to help you decide which technology is best for your video viewing.

Plasma vs. OLED

Overall Findings

Plasma
  • No longer in production from most major manufacturers.

  • Display uses ionized gas (plasma).

  • Color resists fading.

  • Subject to radio interference.

  • Blacks aren't as deep or absolute as OLED.

OLED
  • Readily available.

  • Display uses organic LEDs.

  • Color fades over time.

  • Not susceptible to interference from other devices.

  • Blacker blacks.

Compared to the differences between OLED and LCD, and plasma and LCD, plasma and OLED are more similar. In other words, OLED and plasma are more like each other than are either with LCD.

The practical result is that most people could view either and not notice much of a difference beyond the price tag. Plasma screens have some slight advantages over OLEDs, particularly in terms of longevity. Their colors are less likely to fade over time.

OLEDs display darker blacks and aren't vulnerable to radio interference from other devices that are operating nearby. They're also easier to find since most manufacturers have stopped producing plasma screens.

Screen Quality: OLED Just Edges Out Plasma

Plasma
  • More vivid colors and deeper blacks than LCDs.

  • Susceptible to altitude.

  • Might suffer interference from other devices.

OLED
  • Better general picture quality than older LCDs and LEDs.

  • Colors may fade over time.

  • Environmental factors aren't as important.

Both technologies better portray 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 screen burns. The refresh rate on plasmas and OLEDs is also relatively high compared to older screen technologies, so screen flicker is usually not a problem with either.

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

Plasma TVs are more susceptible to interference, given the ionized gases. OLED doesn't suffer from this problem, so you can listen to AM radio around an OLED TV without any radio-frequency interference.

OLED technology turns off pixels representing black, so the blacks on an OLED screen are 100% black. 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.

Durability: Choose an OLED for Strength

Plasma
  • Glass screen.

  • Heavier.

OLED
  • Plastic or thinner-glass screen.

  • Lighter in weight.

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

If you have small kids or want a lighter set, and breakage is a concern, go with the OLED. At the very least, it will be easier to get into your house than a plasma screen with its thicker glass display.

Availability: Good Luck Finding a Plasma

Plasma
  • Difficult or impossible to find new, but likely available secondhand.

OLED
  • Readily available from a variety of major manufacturers.

Television manufacturers stopped making new plasma units years ago, so your best bet to find one is probably secondhand through services like eBay and Craigslist. OLED TVs, however, are available at major retailers from a variety of companies.

If you have a favorite (or at least preferred) TV maker, you'll have more options with OLEDs than plasmas because of the greater number available. With plasma screens, you have limits based on availability from local sellers.

Final Verdict

Plasma TVs have all but disappeared as OLED and other technologies such as Super-AMOLED have taken over the scene. In 2014, because of production costs and because the demand for other screen technologies grew, Panasonic, LG, and Samsung stopped producing plasma TVs.

OLEDs have advantages over plasmas, however, including lighter weight, less fragile construction, and resistance to environmental interference. You're better off going with OLEDs instead of the antiquated and somewhat temperamental plasma technology.