LCD vs. Plasma revisited

April 17, 2006

Samsung 409DBack in 2004 I wrote a post citing the merits of plasma displays versus LCD’s. At the time I was very pro-plasma and while I still consider plasma an extremely viable display technology, it’s time to re-examine LCD’s as I feel the displays have made significant improvements since my original post. A couple of areas in particular where LCD’s have shown great improvement of late are:

Price: To give you an example of how far LCD’s have dropped in price, back in 2004 a 37” Sharp Aquos LCD was $6,000, now a comparable display from Sharp can be had for less than $2,000. Another example would be the 15”-17” 4:3 LCD’s that in years past retailed for as much as today’s 20″-22” widescreen models.

Screen Size: An even better example of how much LCD technology has improved is screen size, or rather the price-to-size ratio. You can now purchase a 45” LCD for half of what that 37” display would have cost you just two years ago. Comparatively speaking, plasmas haven’t seen price drops this extreme because from the get-go manufacturers were focusing on plasma as the next-big-thing, but now that focus has shifted to LCD.

In terms of absolute screen size you need look no farther than Sharp’s 65” LC-65D90U for an example of how far LCD as come. The idea of a 1080p LCD that can display an image only 15” smaller than my front projector/screen combo kind of blows my mind, but hey I’m happy I’ll never have to worry about lifting it should we move.

Resolution: Plasma’s by and large haven’t bettered their nominal 1024×768 resolution, while 1080p (1920×1080) LCD’s are becoming commonplace. That’s not to say you can’t find 1080p plasmas, it’s just that those models have in essence flipped the cost paradigm around in LCD’s favor.

Image quality: Price, resolution and screen size aside, my biggest complaint with LCD’s in the past was always their image quality. Previous generations of LCD’s suffered from poor shadow detail, color shift and motion artifacts in fast moving scenes. I’m happy to say that many of these maladies have been minimized or, in some cases eliminated.

Recently I had the opportunity to put a Samsung LN-R409D through its paces and I was quite surprised by its performance. It only took a few seconds of programming on INHD to wake me up to the fact that I was holding onto some old preconceptions, with regard to what LCD was capable of. The 40″ LN-R409D had deep blacks that didn’t overshadow (pun) the shadow detail I was seeing and that combined with spot-on color reproduction prompted me to rethink my stance on LCD and ultimately to write this post.

Summary: LCD prices are dropping like the proverbial brick. This combined with the improvements mentioned above make LCD’s a must-see if you’re in the market for a new home theater display. There is, however, another piece of news that only reinforces my optimistic viewpoint for LCD technologies in the years to come.

Sony and Samsung (who happens to be world’s second largest maker of large LCD panels) have teamed up in a new two billion dollar venture to manufacture “eighth-generation” liquid crystal displays. This means the LCD price reductions we’ve seen thus far may be just the tip of iceberg.



Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Display Technology


Comments

  • tom blank

    I have a panasonic th-42phd8uy, a 1024 by 768 plasma with one of the best rated plasma pictures available. I saw the sharp LC-52G62u the other day at costco, and I must say that the blacks were very comparable(a shock) to my panasonic plasma, and the picture quality was very impressive on DVD, even action scenes. I now have to rethink what I used to know about LCD’s, they have come a long way in the last 2 years to where it really is as good as a plasma, and I didnt even see the higher resolution(1080p)capability at all, which is better than any comparably priced plasma. Next time it will be LCD for me.

  • tom blank

    I have a panasonic th-42phd8uy, a 1024 by 768 plasma with one of the best rated plasma pictures available. I saw the sharp LC-52G62u the other day at costco, and I must say that the blacks were very comparable(a shock) to my panasonic plasma, and the picture quality was very impressive on DVD, even action scenes. I now have to rethink what I used to know about LCD’s, they have come a long way in the last 2 years to where it really is as good as a plasma, and I didnt even see the higher resolution(1080p)capability at all, which is better than any comparably priced plasma. Next time it will be LCD for me.

  • Anthony Egnatuk

    That last comment about a 12-15″ lcd with a resolution of 1920×1080 or 1080p does not make sense.you could not tell the difference between a 1024×768 lcd and a 1920×1080 lcd on a 15″ screen. the pixels would be so small the human eye could not tell the differrence , you would need a microscope.

    higher resolutions are only neede on larger sets , which is the main reasons plasma tv manufacturers make thier 42″ and smaller sets with 1024×768 pixels and they are not true hih def but still look better than the 50″ plasmas with 1366×768 sets.its all about compensating for the size of the display. compensationg just enough as to where your eyes lie to you.resolution is not everything and Panasonic has proved that with thier plasma tvs.

    I must add that the new sony bravia 1080p lcd look better than any tv I have seen.Of course 2,073,600 pixels is going to look better than 786,432 pixels on the same size set at close proximity.just remember resolution is important but it is not the most important characteristic , certainly not.

    Just thought I would add that I got a 42″ panasonic plasma th-42px6u slightly used with minor scuff marks missing a remote control for $813 after sales tax from a dealer on ebay named lsidistributors.now that is an awsome deal!

  • Anthony Egnatuk

    That last comment about a 12-15″ lcd with a resolution of 1920×1080 or 1080p does not make sense.you could not tell the difference between a 1024×768 lcd and a 1920×1080 lcd on a 15″ screen. the pixels would be so small the human eye could not tell the differrence , you would need a microscope.

    higher resolutions are only neede on larger sets , which is the main reasons plasma tv manufacturers make thier 42″ and smaller sets with 1024×768 pixels and they are not true hih def but still look better than the 50″ plasmas with 1366×768 sets.its all about compensating for the size of the display. compensationg just enough as to where your eyes lie to you.resolution is not everything and Panasonic has proved that with thier plasma tvs.

    I must add that the new sony bravia 1080p lcd look better than any tv I have seen.Of course 2,073,600 pixels is going to look better than 786,432 pixels on the same size set at close proximity.just remember resolution is important but it is not the most important characteristic , certainly not.

    Just thought I would add that I got a 42″ panasonic plasma th-42px6u slightly used with minor scuff marks missing a remote control for $813 after sales tax from a dealer on ebay named lsidistributors.now that is an awsome deal!

  • Sam

    It would be awesome if the television manufactures produced 12-15″ 1920×1080 lcd tv’s. I do not want a television that is 70″ wide, since I have no room in my house for it. If given the choice I would choose smaller HD lcd tv instead of larger ones.

  • Sam

    It would be awesome if the television manufactures produced 12-15″ 1920×1080 lcd tv’s. I do not want a television that is 70″ wide, since I have no room in my house for it. If given the choice I would choose smaller HD lcd tv instead of larger ones.

  • B.Greenway

    Hi Andrea,

    I’d have to disagree that LCD’s haven’t caught up to the average plasma in overall image quality, sure there are examples of either technology looking better/worse than the other given any specific screen size, but on average LCD has improved quite a bit in the last few years.

    Just because you can find a 50” plasma for under 3k doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to provide a great image, plasmas vary greatly in quality from different manufacturers and model ranges.

    I do agree that in certain size ranges plasma is still the way to go, specifically the popular 50” range that you mentioned. At the moment LCD jumps from 45” to 57” and then to 65” so a direct comparison of plasma to LCD at 50” isn’t an option, yet.

  • B.Greenway

    Hi Andrea,

    I’d have to disagree that LCD’s haven’t caught up to the average plasma in overall image quality, sure there are examples of either technology looking better/worse than the other given any specific screen size, but on average LCD has improved quite a bit in the last few years.

    Just because you can find a 50” plasma for under 3k doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to provide a great image, plasmas vary greatly in quality from different manufacturers and model ranges.

    I do agree that in certain size ranges plasma is still the way to go, specifically the popular 50” range that you mentioned. At the moment LCD jumps from 45” to 57” and then to 65” so a direct comparison of plasma to LCD at 50” isn’t an option, yet.

  • Brian Hoyt

    I have always leaned toward LCD since I dual purpose TV and computer monitor. I have one of those $6000 Sharp LCD at work that has been a computer monitor 24 hrs a day for 3 years. I love it. The plasmas just never won me over since they were lower res, more expensive and suffered potential burn in. I think LCD’s will continue to improve faster than Plasma’s. In a few years it will be interesting to see the new tech.

  • Brian Hoyt

    I have always leaned toward LCD since I dual purpose TV and computer monitor. I have one of those $6000 Sharp LCD at work that has been a computer monitor 24 hrs a day for 3 years. I love it. The plasmas just never won me over since they were lower res, more expensive and suffered potential burn in. I think LCD’s will continue to improve faster than Plasma’s. In a few years it will be interesting to see the new tech.

  • Andrea

    On the other hand you might say that LCD image quality has still to better the one offered by plasmas. Which offer 50″+ sizes for less money.

    Furthermore, angle of vision remains a problem for all the LCDs I’ve seen. And motion blur has become less noticeable but it’s still there.

  • Andrea

    On the other hand you might say that LCD image quality has still to better the one offered by plasmas. Which offer 50″+ sizes for less money.

    Furthermore, angle of vision remains a problem for all the LCDs I’ve seen. And motion blur has become less noticeable but it’s still there.