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Plasma TV Guide
- Is This The Best Flat Screen TV?

Are you thinking about buying a plasma television? Hopefully this plasma TV guide will convince you that you should be.

Make no mistake, a plasma should be on your list of possibilities if you are looking for the best flat screen TV.

It can be easy to ignore plasma TVs as there are so many cheap LCDs in the shops, and you may have heard about various plasma TV problems.

However, whilst there are some things to be aware of, for many people the positives of this technology outweigh the negatives.

So let us take a look at these flat panel TVs and find out a bit more detail.

Please note: since this article was written, all the manufacturers of plasma TVs have discontinued their production. Therefore, you will no longer be able to buy a new plasma TV. However, this article may still be of interest if you still have a plasma TV - or are  looking to buy one second-hand.

Plasma TV in a room with speakers and furniture

What is a Plasma TV?

A plasma TV is a type of flat screen TV; similar to an LCD TV.

However, it is made in a completely different way to an LCD screen and so has different advantages - and disadvantages!

To put it very simply, a plasma screen is made up of small pixels that are filled with gas. These pixels have a phosphor coating and, when fed with an electrical charge, the phosphor interacts with the gas to create colours.

By carefully controlling the electrical charge, a plasma screen can accurately create over 16 million colours - and it is this technique which creates the TV image.

Now isn't that clever!

Follow this link if you would like a longer, more detailed explanation on how a plasma TV works.

Plasma TV screen sizes

There is nothing like watching a movie on a really big flat screen television - it draws you in and you really feel part of the action.

The technology of plasma lends itself to the production of large screens, and the size of these TVs start at around 37 inches and go up to well over 60 inches.

Therefore this type of screen is an excellent choice if you are looking for a large flat screen TV.

Also, the fact that modern HD plasmas are relatively thin - about 4 or 5 inches (10-12 centimetres) - means they are often hung on the wall.

This can not only look amazing in your room, but it can create a whole load of extra space (which is always handy).

Alternatively, if you wish to have the TV on a stand or piece of furniture, you still create a sense of space in the room because you can have the TV closer to the walls or corners.

LG 50PB5600 PlasmaTVLG 50PB5600 Full HD PlasmaTV

Picture quality

For many people, a plasma flat screen TV is seen as the top dog when it comes purely down to picture quality.

This technology is widely regarded as providing a better picture than LCD TVs - although 'better' can very much depend on personal taste.

However, the excellent contrast ratio and colour reproduction of plasma TVs help to provide a superb picture with very deep blacks and strong colours.

They provide a very natural picture that really excels in low-light conditions - so if you like watching a movie with the lights down for that 'cinema experience', a plasma is definitely worth considering.

Go to this article for more details of why the best plasma TV beats the competition.

TV sound quality

The sound that you hear from your TV will depend on your setup.

A screen will usually have built in speakers (some 'professional' models may not - best to check to be absolutely sure before buying), and these will provide a decent, if unspectacular, sound.

The quality of the in-built speakers does vary, and so if you are going to be relying on these speakers completely for the sound, then it may be worth paying more for a model with better speakers.

However, many people will have a separate surround sound installation for a much better sound experience and may not use the onboard speakers at all - although this is not absolutely necessary.

Installing surround sound systems takes a bit more effort - but it's not that complicated and it will be well worth it in the end when you hear the improvement in sound. This guide recommends you seriously think about using a surround sound system - but in the end it is something that you can decide for yourself.

Samsung 51Samsung 51" F8500 Series 8 Smart 3D Full HD Plasma TV

Input connections

Modern day plasmas will also come equipped to accept a wide range of input connections.

The type, and amount, of connections on a plasma TV will vary between models - and so this is an important area to pay attention to.

For connecting video sources (for the picture), your new TV will have an HDMI port for connecting modern equipment such as DVD and Blu-ray players, but it should also have the capability to connect via component video, composite video, s-video connectors or by SCART connections. This allows you some flexibility when connecting other devices to your TV.

You will also find an aerial (antenna) connection if you need to use an external aerial to receive analog or digital TV transmissions. It can be helpful to think if you actually need a TV with an internal analog or digital tuner, as you may be able to buy a cheaper model if you don't need this - although these will be standard on many models.

Another common connection found on new TVs is an ethernet (wired) or wireless network connection. These are for connecting to your home network and/or internet connection. Access to an internet connection will allow you to stream video content from online, and some TVs may be 'DLNA Certified' for playing video and audio files from your home network.

If you want to connect a PC/computer to your TV then a DVI or VGA connector is often found on modern flat screen TVs - but not always! If your computer graphics card has an HDMI output, then you could use this to connect instead.

Common TV Connections Common Plasma TV Connections

There will also be a number of options for connecting the audio from your external devices.

If you are using HDMI or SCART connections for the video, then these can also be used to send the audio. The cables for these inputs are designed to carry the picture and the sound, and so these may be all you require.

However, you should also find red and white analog audio inputs (for connecting stereo RCA cables), and sometimes digital inputs such as coaxial digital audio or optical digital audio. These extra audio inputs are for devices that send the picture through component, s-video or composite connections and which require a separate audio connection.

If you are planning on sending the audio from the TVs internal tuner to a surround sound system, then you will also need an analog or digital output. Audio outputs are less common on flat screen TVs, so make sure that the model you buy has one of these if are going to need one.

Plasma TV Buying Tip!

It is one of the most important things to think about when buying a new TV - but it is also something that is easily forgotten.

Do you have enough input connections (and maybe outputs too), to connect all your external equipment?

Your external devices such as a Blu-ray/DVD player, cable TV box and games console may all have different video and audio output connections - so you need to make sure you have enough inputs of the right type.

Might you need to connect another device by S-Video instead - or component?

Do you want to connect a computer to the TV? How does this connect?

Some plasma screens have VGA connections for computers - some don't.

Give some thought to the devices you want to connect - and therefore which connections you need on your new TV.

Check this before you buy!

However, having warned you of this, there is one example where you may not need to be too concerned about the number of connections on your TV; and that is if you are using an AV receiver as part of your system.

In this case, the AV receiver will be the device that requires all the correct inputs, and you will only need one or two inputs on the TV itself to take the output from the receiver.

If you want more information about this, then go here for the article on installing a surround sound receiver.

HD or not HD? That is the question...

Which brings us to one of the main reasons for buying a plasma TV - high definition television.

All modern HD plasmas will be widescreen and capable of accepting a high-definition picture - either 720p, 1080i or 1080p.

If you don't have a high-definition source yet, then don't worry, you can still watch a non-HD picture on the screen - although the higher resolution of a flat panel may highlight the imperfections in an SD signal.

Some plasma TVs will be better than others at showing an SD picture - much depends on the quality of the internal processing of the TV itself. So if you know you will be watching plenty of standard definition TV for a while yet, this can be an important issue to look out for in the TV model that you decide to buy.

You will also want to be aware of the native resolution of the screen.

The smaller plasma screens, 37 inches to about 42 inches, are more likely to be 720p (1280 x 720) rather than 1080p (1920 x 1080) - although there isn't a hard and fast rule.

One thing that is often misunderstood - 720p or 1080p - they are both high-definition!

They will still look fantastic with a high-definition source, but for the relatively smaller screen sizes many manufacturers don't think you'll see the difference between the two at normal viewing distances - and they may be right!

In theory, a 1080p screen will show more detail than a 720p TV as it has a higher resolution (and will also cost you more) - however it's not quite as simple as that.

To put it in very simple terms, the further away you sit from the screen the more difficult it is to tell the difference between the picture quality of 1080p and 720p. Or to look at it another way, the closer you are to the screen; the more benefit you will get from a 1080p screen.

All the technical information can seem a bit overwhelming when you are looking around to buy a new flat screen television.

After all, you just want a new TV - not a qualification in electrical engineering!

However, the boring thing is, that understanding a bit about these things can make sure you buy the right thing for your home.

Follow the links below if you need some help understanding the dull technical stuff (and you'll probably end up knowing more than the guy in the shop!).

Who makes the best plasma TV?

So what is the best plasma TV on the market? Well, there are a number of brands to look out for.

There are less manufacturers making plasma TVs than for LCD or LED, so it's slightly easier to narrow down your choices.

There are three plasma television manufacturers:

  • LG
  • Samsung
  • Panasonic
  •  Pioneer

Any one of these will give you a high quality plasma flat screen TV - although there will be pros and cons between models.

Please note: all of these manufacturers have now discontinued the production of plasma televisions. Therefore you only be able to buy a second-hand plasma TV.

Plasma TV Guide Summary

The information in the plasma TV guide is here to help you make a buying decision.

If you are undecided about plasma vs LCD TV, then you really must consider a plasma if you are looking for a large flat screen television.

LCD and LED flat screen TVs are not your only choice.

Plasma flat panel TVs have many advantages and must be considered if you want to find the right choice for you.

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