Plasma TVs

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A Guide to Understanding Plasma TVs

In what some would call an LCD upgrade, man created the plasma screen TV. Named for their "plasma" display panel (PDP), or chambers lit by fluorescent lamps, plasma TVs provide vibrant colors and sharp images, particularly when used in conjunction with HDTV and otherwise high-definition programming.

Types of Plasma TVs

Plasma TVs do not vary in design, and most share the same functions. Additional features are available in some models -- such as speakers, HDMI inputs and anti-glare assistance -- but typically, plasma screens run on the same plane, with the same functions and dimensions. The screen ratio on a plasma TV is typically 16:9, which is ideal for a variety of movie formats, including widescreen.

Important Plasma TV Features

  • Speakers are included on very few plasma screen models. The models that have speakers typically have amplifiers, which are built into the sides and compatible with regular speakers. If your plasma TV does not include these amplifiers, then hooking the screen up to a home theater system would be ideal. If you do not want to invest in a home theater, then buying a plasma TV with speakers is your best option.
  • HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) inputs have a simple guideline when it comes to HDTVs: the more, the better. They combine the audio and visual cords into one, minimizing cord traffic surrounding your entertainment center. HDMI inputs are not also required for Blu-ray players, upscale DVD players and several computer hookups, and they have many security benefits in addition to simplicity benefits.
  • Anti-glare features are necessary for viewers who want to place their plasma screens in a well-lit room. Most plasma TV panels reflect light, causing intense glare when light is cast upon it. The anti-glare (or anti-reflective screen) will reduce the reflected light, allowing a better viewing experience.
  • Anti-burn-in features are not as necessary as they were previously. Tools such as pixel orbiter (which moves the screen image to avoid retention) and white wash (which displays a white bar on the screen and moves it side to side to maximize brightness) were once helpful or necessary to prevent a permanent burn-in image problem on the plasma screen. Newer models of plasma screens are less vulnerable to burn-in, so as long as the user does not leave a screen shot onscreen for too long, these features should not be necessary.
  • Resolution is constantly bettering itself, and plasma screens can now reach 1080-pixel resolution. This is ideal for larger screens and viewers who enjoy greater detail. However, many experts believe that if you have a screen smaller than 50 inches wide, then you can't see the extra detail from a standard seated distance. For this reason, sticking to standard 720-pixel screens may be best for standard-sized plasma screens. The extra cost of a higher pixilation may be unnecessary.

Plasma TV Setup

Because plasma screens are so large and heavy, you should have someone else help you with the installation, if you're not already hiring professionals. Be sure the location you have chosen has a flat surface that will accommodate your screen. For screens on stand, this should be a tabletop; for hanging screens, this should be your wall. Also, if you are hanging the TV on a wall, you will need to purchase and install a wall mount before installing the TV.

After the TV is installed, connect it to an electrical outlet. Then connect your audio and video sources. Be sure you have purchased cords long enough (or installed your TV close enough) that you don't pose any safety risks or fire hazards. Also, plan your connections carefully. Each TV only has so many cable inputs, so plan the rest of your entertainment system accordingly.

After hooking up the plasma television, be sure to adjust the brightness and contrast settings. This will help to preserve the longevity of your TV. Many plasmas offer preset options that will calibrate depending on your lighting conditions and video-watching patterns, personalizing the settings to best fit your personal needs.

Plasma TV Cost & Drawbacks

Plasma TVs vary extensively in price, but typically range from $2,000 to $15,000, depending on size and included features.

Although burn-in is less predominant in updated models than previously, another problem, called temporary image retention, can persist. Though less severe than burn-in, it can be somewhat annoying. What happens is a static scene on the screen leaves behind a "ghost" image that takes several minutes to completely disappear. This may appear similar to bright images your retinas register after having a bright light flashed in your eyes.

A large drawback with plasma TVs is their vulnerability to damage. Any hard contact with the screen can instantly destroy gas-filled tubes that provide the screen's glow. Replacement can often be costly, time-consuming and, in some instances, impossible. For this reason, extended warranties are popular (and also somewhat necessary) to prevent high maintenance costs. Also, the gas that creates the plasma in the screen can become less reactive over time, eventually leaking and blurring the picture on your plasma screen. Because of this, most people have to replace their plasma TVs after several years.

Last Updated: January 20, 2012
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About Emelie Battaglia Emelie Battagila is a contributing writer for

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