Comparing Plasma TVs and LCD TVs

Guy Cosway I
3 min readApr 6, 2022

Although the production of plasma TVs ended in 2015, their use and sale continues in the secondary markets. Less technologically-savvy consumers may not know the key differences between plasma TVs and liquid crystal display (LCD) TVs, particularly due to their alike appearance. These devices feature similar panel design and overall shape. Additionally, both are mountable on a wall and may offer smart services like video streaming. Furthermore, their versatility allows users to customize their viewing experience through different resolutions and settings. However, the commonalities of LCD and plasma TVs do not extend beyond these areas.

As the name implies, plasma TVs use a matrix of cells containing neon-xenon gas in plasma form. When the plasma cells receive an electrical charge in precise intervals, they release light and create an image on the screen. This occurs as a result of the charged gas striking blue, green, and red phosphors, which combine to become the pixels that make up images.

In contrast, LCD panels function using liquid crystals and polarized glass, with the crystals trapped between two transparent glass sheets. When an electrical current travels across these liquid crystals, how much light can pass through them fluctuates according to the voltage the crystals receive. Varying the amount applied allows the light to produce images.

While plasma TVs’ ability to emit their own light makes them emissive displays, LCD TVs are transmissive displays that require a backlighting system. LCD TVs traditionally used fluorescent lights, but light-emitting diode (LED) backlights eventually replaced these. Regardless, plasma TVs consume more power during operation because they need to light up each phosphor. They also generate more heat and radiation than LCD TVs.

In terms of display quality, plasma TVs show black better than most LCD ones. Because LCDs need backlight, these televisions originally could not achieve a true black display. However, improvements to backlighting methods and the refinement of organic LED (OLED) technologies enabled LCD TVs to match plasma in this aspect within the last few years. The price of OLED TVs has dropped since their introduction, but LED TVs remain the more affordable option. For this reason, plasma may provide a better choice for simple home cinemas and everyday use.

Nevertheless, one downfall of older plasma TVs includes a phenomena known as image burn or burn-in. When a plasma TV displays a static image for a long time, this can result in an afterimage that remains on the screen permanently. However, this problem waned in younger generations of plasma TVs because they feature technologies like pixel orbiting that stop images from becoming static and burning onto the screen. Although immune to burn-in, LCDs can become afflicted by burned out or dead pixels that produce white or black dots on the screen.

When comparing the longevity of the two displays, LCD TVs generally offer the better life span. Whereas plasma-TV life spans range between 25,000 and 60,000 hours of continuous viewing depending on the generation, 60,000 hours of consistent use has become the standard for LCD TVs. LCD TVs can last even longer if its only malfunction involves the backlight, in which case all the user needs to do is replace the bulb.



Guy Cosway I

Guy Cosway I — Sr. Electrical Designer