Plasma TVs are great, but they are not without their issues. If you want to understand the problems with plasma TVs, you've come to the right place.
A plasma flat screen TV used to be a good option when you were looking to buy a new television.
Unfortunately, this type of TV is no longer manufactured.
However, if you already own one, then this article might be useful if you are having problems with your plasma TV.
Even though the picture quality was always terrific on this type of television, what were some of the issues with this technology?
To find out more about the latest TV technologies, check out the article on buying the best OLED & LED flat screen TVs.
1. Screen Reflection
Plasma flat panel TVs have a reputation for being prone to screen reflection.
This means that you can see your room reflected on the screen.
This can be distracting and can also affect the quality of the picture you see – the contrast and color will be worse.
This is one of the main plasma TV problems.
Therefore, in bright rooms with lots of daylight coming through windows, or if you have some lights on while you are watching TV, you may be bothered by this.
You will be more likely to notice this when there is a dark picture on the screen – with a bright picture you are unlikely to notice anything.
Some people will get annoyed by this and see nothing else but the dim reflection on the image – others will see the same picture and hardly notice.
Which type are you? Only you can decide.
Manufacturers of plasma panels have tried in recent years to put anti-reflective coatings on the screen and this does make some difference, but you will have to decide if your room environment is suited to a plasma TV.
There are also ways to reduce this effect. You can close curtains/blinds during the daytime or reduce the lighting while you watch the TV in the evening.
This effect is always worse if there is a light or window directly behind you as you a sat watching the TV, so try to avoid this.
2. Greater Power Consumption
Plasma technology generally uses more power compared to other display types, so your electricity bill may be affected.
Now, it’s not going to make that much of a difference to your bills – you’re not going to double your charges overnight or anything like that – but if your household has the TV running for 18 hours a day then you may see an increase compared to an LCD or LED TV.
Also, a plasma flat panel works in a different way to an LCD flat panel. The power that a plasma TV actually uses will vary depending on the type of image on the screen – whereas with an LCD this is constant.
If you have a dark image on the screen then a plasma TV will use much less power than when there is a bright image.
Therefore, if you only watch documentaries about black cats living in dark caves (at night), you’ll save yourself some money!
However, in today’s green eco-friendly society you may feel uncomfortable with any increased power consumption.
Your conscience (and budget) can decide this one!
3. Screen Burn
If you’re researching plasma flat screen TVs, it won’t be long before you come across the term screen burn.
This is also known as burn-in or image retention.
Well, here it is, you’ve come across it!
Historically, a plasma screen has been prone to retaining (or in extreme cases, burning) an image onto the screen. The different terms are actually slightly different things.
Pretty much all plasma TVs will have some ‘retention’ – where you may see a ghostly image left on the screen when you switch it off. This ‘retention’ will soon fade, but in extreme cases, the panel can be damaged permanently. This is called burn-in.
This problem can happen if you leave a static image on the screen for too long.
Such as, by pausing a movie or if you regularly watch certain TV channels that have static logos on screen all the time. This can be common in news, sports and children’s TV channels.
Retention is fairly common but isn’t much of a problem and will soon disappear. Burn-in is more serious and needs to be avoided at all costs.
In the picture here, you can see an extreme example of screen burn on a plasma screen.
Now don’t worry, this isn’t going to happen to your plasma TV unless you are really careless… and you aren’t going to be really careless, are you?
It’s here as an illustration of what screen burn looks like – and why you want to avoid it!
You may also want to think twice about a plasma TV if you are intending on using it for long periods as a computer monitor. The static icons and images could be a problem with extensive use.
The good news is that plasma screens are much less likely to suffer from screen burn than they were a few years ago. Manufacturers have made great efforts to reduce this problem.
That being said, it is still good to be aware of this potential issue and be careful when using the screen day to day.
Many people will ‘run-in’ their new screens for the first few hundred hours by keeping the contrast and brightness settings down. Or, by avoiding watching channels with fixed logos for too long at a time.
However, most manufacturers don’t actually recommend that this is necessary.
Although, they may warn about image retention in the manual and say that any damage will not be covered by the warranty!
Generally, if you are aware of the potential for problems and use your common sense, then you shouldn’t have too many problems with screen burn-in.
As a general guideline:
- Keep brightness and contrast around 50%. Avoid ‘dynamic’, ‘vivid’ or similar pre-sets – you really shouldn’t need these settings in your home anyway.
- Don’t keep static images for longer than 1 hour
- If a channel has static logos, change the channel now and again (advert breaks may do this for you as the logos will disappear for a few minutes)
- When the TV is new, keep 4:3 transmissions in full screen or with light-colored sidebars. You should be able to change the color of the sidebars in the menu of the TV.
- Use a screen saver when using the screen as a computer monitor
4. Phosphor Trails
Some models of plasma screen can be shown to suffer from a phenomenon called phosphor trails or phosphor lag.
This is shown up mainly in fast-moving, graphic-intensive computer games or some scenes in movies – especially black and white movies.
The issue is caused by a quick change from light to dark in an area on the screen and looks like green trails or flashes.
These green trails are caused by the phosphors changing color in the plasma screen (I shan’t bore you with the technical details). The green phosphors change color the slowest and so you the green color is ‘left behind’ when the color changes quickly.
You will most likely only really see this if you are carefully studying the screen and are looking for it.
However, some people find this distracting and annoying.
If you’ve got a very critical eye this may be a problem and I would suggest you research the model of plasma you are interested in carefully before you buy.
For most people, however, it won’t be an issue. If you do have trouble with phosphor trails, you can alleviate the problem by lowering the contrast of the picture, or by having more ambient light in the room.
5. Weight Problem?
No, not your increasing weight as you sit down in front of your new TV all day!
Plasma TVs are generally heavier than other types of panels. This won’t be a problem in most cases, but be aware of this especially if you are planning to mount the panel on a wall.
Depending on your room, it may be a factor when you decide on your choice of panel.
6. Short Life Span
You may be told that plasma screens don’t last very long or will need their gas re-filling after a certain amount of hours.
Rubbish. Nonsense. Drivel. Poppycock.
Stop the conversation immediately and leave the room. That person can be of no help to you if they’re reeling out those old chestnuts!
A modern flat screen plasma TV will be rated with a lifespan of 60,000+ hours.
This is the time it takes to reach half the brightness of when they were new. Even then, they would still be watchable.
At an average use of 5 hours a day, this would mean the TV would be good for about 32 years.
That’s good enough for me, I think I’ll be ready for a new TV before then!
Oh, and that’s also about the same as an LCD TV. Case closed.
So, that’s given us something to think about.
Plasma flat-screen TVs give a fantastic picture, and with a high-definition source, you will be stunned by the quality. However, there may be reasons why a plasma panel isn’t right for you.
If you are looking to buy a new TV, then these days you might want to consider an OLED TV.
These have many of the benefits of plasma technology, and many of the issues highlighted above have been overcome.
Take a look at 25 ways to buy a cheap TV and find out how you can save money on a new model.
About The Author
Paul started the Home Cinema Guide to help less-experienced users get the most out of today's audio-visual technology. He has been a sound, lighting and audio-visual engineer for around 20 years. At home, he has spent more time than is probably healthy installing, configuring, testing, de-rigging, fixing, tweaking, re-installing again (and sometimes using) various pieces of hi-fi and home cinema equipment. You can find out more here.