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Plasma Television Basics

Learn How Plasma TV’s Work

Don’t buy a Plasma Television before reading this first!

Plasma Television BASICS


How does a plasma HDTV work? Let me start of by saying that physics play a huge part in this marvel of gas made up of free flowing ions and electrons. Plasma TV’s use thousands of sealed, low level pressure glass chambers. These chambers are  filled with a mixture of gas, “neon gas” and “xenon gas”. Behind these chambers are 3 different colored phosphors, RED, GREEN and BLUE for each chamber. When energized these chambers of Plasma (Gas) emit invisible UV light. The UV light then strikes the RED, GREEN, and BLUE phosphors on the rear of the glass display enabling them to produce visible light.

How long will a plasma Television last?


Okay, we have all heard the rumor that plasma TV’s don’t last long and we should not waste our money on one. This is not the case... Depending on the brand of plasma television it can last you as long as an LCD television. I would be dishonest if I told you that Plasma life span debates has not been a hot topic over the years. What I can tell you is that during the first few years of the plasma TV they were lacking the technology to propel them ahead into today. Now that is just not the case. Improvements in technology have rapidly busted the plasma HDTV into living rooms all over the world. This is mainly due to the life span improvements made by most all plasma  manufactures. First generation plasma TV’s were rated around 30,000 hours. Now you can walk into almost any electronics store and buy a plasma HDTV rated for at least 50,000 to 60,000 hours and getting longer as technology advances.

What will you be using your plasma HDTV for?


What are you going to be doing with your plasma HDTV? Movies, video games, watching basic TV or an alternate computer monitor?

Whatever your needs are will determine what features are more important  than others. If you are going to be watching mostly High Definition movies & gaming then screen resolution, refresh rate, response time and contrast ratio should be some of your considerations. If your going to be using your plasma HDTV for basic TV viewing then you might be more concerned with screen size and price. If your going to be using your plasma HDTV for an alternate computer monitor you might be more concerned with it’s input options, screen resolution and aspect ratio. But whatever your heart desires there is an HDTV solution out there to fit you need and budget. We will help you get there! Remember plasma has been ahead of the curve when it comes to contrast, refresh rates, and viewing angle!

Specifications you need to know!

Okay, Lets get our first glimpse at what Specifications are going to be a deciding factor in buying your new HDTV.


Aspect Ratio

Most Plasma HDTV’s come in two different aspect ratios 4:3 and 16:9. Depending on what you will be using your HDTV for, should determine what aspect ratio you decide to go with. 4:3 is your standard viewing size “regular  TV size” 16:9 is your wide screen size “movie screen dimensions”. You can make your decision based on a few factors. If you have an entertainment center that is designed for a TV with a 4:3 aspect ratio you will have to sacrifice screen size if you want to put a 16:9 aspect ratio HDTV in that same entertainment center.  If you are planing to upgrade your entertainment center when you upgrade your HDTV then you should decide on what size TV you want first and then find a entertainment center or HDTV stand that is tailored fit to your new HDTV. Keep in mind that most HDTV’s on the market are 16:9 aspect ratio. So finding exactly what you want in a 16:9 aspect ratio is more likely and 4:3’s are being phased out by natural selection in the plasma world. If you decide to stay with your current entertainment center then you should measure it and shop your new HDTV according to you size requirements.

Native Screen resolution

most manufactures offer 2 different types of Native Resolutions 1080p (Progressive Scan) which equates to 1,920 x 1,080 pixels “This is the way to go if you can afford it”, next in line is 720p (Progressive Scan) which equates to 1280 x 720 pixels. Most HDTV channels broadcast in the last 2 resolutions listed, 720p or 1080i is the standard broadcast formats for most cable, direct TV™, and satellite feeds, the deciding factor should include your price range and what type of media you will be viewing. If you plan on viewing Blu-ray-disc™ then 1080p will do you lots of justice! The only down fall is the hit to your pocket book. Remember EDTV Resolution 840 X 180 has been discontinued.

There are other resolutions out there but we wanted to cover mostly

What you will be encountering in today’s market. For more information on resolution and native resolution check out our Resolution How Page.

Response time

Plasma television response times are almost instantaneous, and are not a deciding specification as with LCD TV's, this is because plasma televisions “like fluorescent lights” are a gas and the phosphors are illuminated instantly or within 0.002 milliseconds thus making them much faster then the fastest LCD refresh rate clearly giving plasma an edge in this arena! You might ask; how can a faster response time plasma TV benefit me vs a LCD TV? Simple, a faster response time means less motion blur “judder” in fast action scenes like sports, action movies and intense gaming systems. Matter a fact, you should not experience any motion blur with a plasma Tv, while you should experience some motion blur with an LCD television. Recent advances in LCD technology Some High end LCD TV response times go as low as 2 ms.

Contrast Ratio

Is the measurement used to show the difference in light intensity between the brightest white and the darkest black.


Example: Contrast ratio will read something like, 2000:1 or 5000:1, and can even go as high as 10000:1 and getting higher as technology advances! The higher the contrast ratio “left number” the blacker the blacks will be to whites and will result in fewer areas that look gray but are suppose to be black. Remember this is an important number but you should always judge by your eyes. Simply put, what looks good is good! And use the contrast ratio as a guide to get started in the right direction. Plasma TV’s generally have a better contrast, resulting in deeper richer colors. The Blacks are black with little to no gray shading where it’s suppose to be black. This results in spending less money for a better contrast. I would suggest determining your price range first, selecting your desired screen size second. Then go to your local HDTV store and view your desired screen size, Doing this will assure you get the right size HDTV with the best looking picture for your budget! Remember a good balance between HDTV features is the smart way to go! Check out our expert review matrix for great combinations of features, prices, sizes Etc.

Viewing Angle

Is not a huge factor to consider, especially since plasma’s are known for there extra wide viewing angles, making plasmas ideal for off angle viewing! You can usually sit at least 75° off the axis and still see a perfect picture. Although most manufactures state that there viewing angle is much more than this you will notice little decrease in color saturation, brightness and contrast in the picture when exceeding the maximum viewing angles. Plasma televisions offer greater viewing angles than LCD’s. This is due to it individual pixel layout. Most manufactures offer 150° up to 177° of viewing angle. Yes plasma takes the ball in this arena. Check out LCD Vs. Plasma or our Expert Review Matrix.

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