Before I go to buy a Plasma or LCD I need help!

peaches12345May 31, 2007

I hate to go to an electronics store because I am so technically-challenged with anything new and ask stupid questions. The salesman sees he can then sell me anything.

We are buying a Plasma or LCD and I am investigating the pros and cons of both. Where I need help is with what else we will need to buy!!! A poster on another thread here said in addition to the tv itself you need to buy speakers, receiver, line conditioner? I'm lost! (We will be hooking up to digital broadband cable if that makes a difference.) Thanks in advance for telling me all we will need to buy.

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It depends on the unit you buy and if you are planning on surround sound. You can still purchase a televsion with speakers, a tuner or both. For instance, I bought a 46" 1080p Samsung LCD. It has its own speaker on the bottom of the unit. I chose to hook it up to a surround sound sound system (Receiver with 5 speakers and a sub woofer) but it was not absolutely necessary.

I take it you will be hooking up the TV to a digital cable box? If you are planning on enjoying high definition programming I strongly suggest you get ready to buy a HDMI cable to hook up the cable box to the TV. The cable houses the audio and video at a very high bandwidth so you will not loose any signal. HDMI cables can be expensive depending on the quality you choose (buy Monster brand) but figure at least a hundred dollars a cable (It's worth it).

If you buy a 1080p high def TV, you may want to also have an upconverting DVD player. This will make the standard definition DVD signal look just like a high definition signal. Also plan on connecting via another HDMI connection.

Unless you have a very weak cable signal or a lot of noise in the line, you wont need to get any type of line conditioner.

Just be sure the TV you buy has at least two, preferably three, HDMI connections (and a speaker if you don't want to invest in surround sound).

Now for the choice between LCD and Plasma......

    Bookmark   May 31, 2007 at 8:03PM
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Thanks you so much, klaa2. I'm still 'challenged', but do understand what you are saying. I was just afraid I would buy it and have no sound if we didn't do the whole surround sound thing right at the time of purchase. I was confused (obviously) though I have looked at Samsung online and saw where bottom speakers were mentioned.

Yes, we definetely will get High Def. We do have a new Sony Wega in the bedroom (flat screem with tube) and love it. Comcast will do the digital cable hookup for us. My husband would not be w/out high def anymore! When you are over 60 you can plead ignorance and get a lot of help from serviceman! When we bought our dvd the salesman at Best Buy actually drew me pictures of the hookup with color-coded lines to tv installation sites.

I take it you are happy with your Samsung LCD? I am educating myself on the difference between LCD and Plasma and am leaning your way w/ LCD, esp since we also are in the 40"-46" range which should make LCD affordable .

Thanks again for your help and any other advice (Samsung? LCD?) would be appreciated if you have time.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2007 at 8:52AM
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patty... you may have missed the 1080p notation in the first response. That is short hand for the statement:
1920 by 1080 native resolution, which is the "newest" as far as I know, and the most expensive. There's a lot of 1366 by 768 out there for a LOT less $$$ and I can say it looks GREAT. I don't know how good your "over 60 eyes" are, but too much resolution, like too much fidelity, are lost on my eyes (or ears). I also believe the lesser resolution is of little importance if you buy a "smaller" screen, say 32 or 37 inch. Maybe with a 50 inch the higher resolution is critically important. For my money, don't buy what you can't see, hear, taste, use....

    Bookmark   June 1, 2007 at 8:40PM
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LOL, Jerry. I know exactly what you mean. Thanks for the alert. I had noticed the 1080p and did look up on Consumer Reports what it meant. But... your explanation that most expensive is not always best if you can't benefit from the additional resolutions is very informative and good info to know. We will not be getting anything like 50"; probably the 37-40 range. We are not wallmounting and have limited space where we will put it on a stand. Heaven forbid if we don't have a tv in every room!

    Bookmark   June 2, 2007 at 6:35PM
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Whoa, wait a minute. A little info about high definition is needed here.

For the time being, forget about the maximum resolution of the television. First let's talk about the signal and how it is projected on the screen.

Standard definiton in the United States (NTSC) is 480 lines of resolution. The original televsions that employ a cathode ray tube (CRT) used an electrode ray gun to shoot lines across the screen. Now imagine a piece of loose leaf paper. The lines are labelled A then B repeated for the length of the paper. I hope I'm not loosing you. The CRT television would display the A line then the B line 30 times a second. This is fast enough to trick the human eye and look like one picture. This is called an interleaved display or 480i. Now you know what the "i" means.

Progressive displays do not interleave, or alternate, the lines. All lines are displayed (effectively making it 60 times a second). This makes the picture MUCH better in and of itself.

There is a lot of talk about 720i, 720p, 1080i and 1080p. Which is better? What do you need? Etc..

720 lines of resolution is considered high definition. 1080 lines of resolution is also considered high definition, sometimes referred to as FULL HD.

Obviosly 720 lines of resolution, either i or p is much better than standard definition. The 720p will look twice a crisp as 720i.

Here's where things get a little cloudy. Right now, the best signal you can get from any cable provider in the USA is 1080i. Interleaved, not progressive. In order to view a full high definition progressive image (1080p) you need to have a Blu-ray DVD, HD-DVD, PSP3 or Xbox. some new DVD players upconvert the standard DVD signal to 1080p by multiplying information in the signal. It may not be true 1080p but I have one and it looks as good.

Okay. I know it's a lot but hang in there. A 720p signal will look almost identical to a 1080i signal. This is why most people do not buy a 1080p television. Since the 1080p signal is not broadcast YET by any cable provider, they feel that a televsion which can display 720p is good enough. This is where you have to make your decision. I'm absolutely sure that all cable providers will eventually broadcast everything in 1080p, when? I'm not sure, but it will happen. Also, the DVD industry is already making the move towards Blu-ray and HD-DVD over the standard DVD. This will cause everyone to buy those same movies again. Ahhh marketing.

I can tell you that if you see a properly displayed 1080p picture, you will absolutley see the difference from all other resolutions.

Now, back to the resolution of the television. If you are going to be able to see a true high definiton picture in 1080p you need the 1920x1080 native resolution televsion screen. Those without that capability will still display a picture but it will be altered.

I hope this helps in understanding the differences between the HD resolutions. I personally would rather spend the extra money now knowing that my television will not become obsolete in the next few years.

Now about LCD vs. Plasma.... next post.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2007 at 9:48PM
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You guys (I presume) are great. I am getting an education! I understand what you are saying about not becoming obsolete almost as soon as you buy and I know with technology being what it is this can easily happen. (Anyone want to buy about a hundred vcr tapes?)

Now---- on to LCD and Plasma, please. I am thinking LCD at this point as we are not buying a huge size screen which would take us out of a reasonable price range, but.. I will wait to hear more!

    Bookmark   June 3, 2007 at 10:34AM
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Okay, here we go.

Plasma - Imagine thousands of little boxes sandwiched between two pieces of glass, in a graph paper type pattern. Each of these little boxes is coated with a paint-like susbstance which can glow red, green or blue. Inside each of these boxes is a special gas (plasma). When electricity is applied to the gas, it reacts with the paint-like susbstance to make it glow red, green or blue. The circuitry of the televsion applies the electricity to each of the boxes to make the picture. Simplified, but that's how it works. More on Plasma after I explain the others.

LCD - Again, this is a very basic explanation. One of the first things to know is that light contains every color. Have you ever taken a crystal and shined light through it? If you twist the crystal, as it turns it allows a different color of the light through and blocks the rest. For a LCD television, picture two plates of glass with thousands of crystals held between them. When electricity is applies to the crystals it makes them filter light and allow only a certain color to pass through. The crystals themselves do not produce the light. LCD televsions have a bright light behind the screen and the thousands of crystals filter the light to create the picture.

DLP - Digital light processing televesions. These televisions work by reflecting light off millions of tiny moveable mirrors. Light is generated by a source in the TV which is then projected through a spinning color wheel. The resulting color is then bounced off the tiny mirrors and focused onto the TV screen. Sounds complicated, it is. because it works by projecting light, these TV's can't be flat. You weren't asking about DLP, so I wont go any further with it..

Differences between LCD and Plasma TV's:

Because a LCD televsion has a bright always projecting behind the crystals, it is almost impossible to block all light from coming through, therefore, it is hard to achieve a perfect black. On the other hand, plasma TV's can create blacks by not generating any light in the boxes. In reality, this is a technicality and with new sets, unless you are Superman/woman, you most likely will not be able to tell the difference.

Because Plasma TV's employ that paint-like substance (actually called phosphor) in each of the boxes (actually called pixel cells), they are prone to something called burn-in. This occurs when the box is made to glow one color for a long time. It can cause it to remain only capable of glowing that color. LCD televisions are not susceptible to this. As technology gets better, plasma sets are also getting better at dealing with this. Some sets will not allow one picture to stay still long enough for this to occur by moving it ever so slightly (you wont notice) and also they are creating better paint-like substances which are less susceptible. One thing that I kept thinking about when I made my decision was the little logos that some channels keep plastered in the bottom corner of the screen. they don't move often.... Also, my children will occasionally leave Playstation on and on and on and on.

You might have heard someone mention refresh rates. This is important, especially if you will be watching anything with fast moving action (like sports). Both types of TV's have pretty much made this a moot point but it goes to say that orignally, plasma was better because it's refresh rate was a lot faster than LCD. Not really true anymore. Make sure you get the fastest refresh rate you can afford.

Over time, plasma displays will lose thier ability to display light. This is due to the loss of gas and the aging of the paint-like substance. There was a rumour out that you could 'refill' a plasma set with new gas - no, you can't. So, I've heard that a plasma set in five years will only be able to display half the brightness is can the day you first turned it on, depending on how much you use it. Again, newer sets are producing a longer life span according to manufacturers. Since LCD TV's use a separate light source, it can be replaced if it ever starts looking dark (most sets require a professional to make the replacement)

LCD televsions suffer from their own problem. If any of those crystals 'burn out' over time, you will see a dot on the screen. They can't be individually repaired.

Either way you go, I suggest an extended warranty. I know a lot of people don't belive in them but if you spend a few thousand on a TV doesn't it make sence to protect the investment?

Some other things to consider:

Plasma TV's are effected by altitude, so if you live in a high altitude you may want to seriously consider LCD.

Plasma TV's look best in a dark atmosphere. If the room you will have your TV in is bright, LCD will look better.

LCD's will better up close because of the way they generate the picture. A plasma up close, will look boxy.

Plasma's generate more heat than LCD's. Though LCD's do generate heat too.

LCD screens do not give off any radiation. Plasma's do, albeit miniscule amounts and only up close.

Because of the way they generate their pictures, plasma TV's generally will have a wider viewing angle than LCD. This means that if you are standing at a sharp angle to the TV the picture on a plasma will display color more accurately. Unless you watch TV from a really severe angle, which most people do not, this again, is moot.

I suggest that you go look at different types on display. Hopefully the store you look at has a home like atmosphere and not a hundred TV's lined up on a wall. You want to see them in the same type light that you will have it in. Also ask to see what the TV's brightness and contrast are set to. Most stores have them cranked up as high as possible to make the picture bright in the stores light. You do not want to do this with your set unless you only want it to last a few years. Either way, when you finally buy one, you should also get a set-up DVD to properly adjust the settings for the atmosphere in your home.

I hope this was helpful. I tried to be as accurate as possible while keeping it as simple aas possible. All these technologies are amazing, and complicated. They each work good or else there would only be one on the market.

I researched and researched and decided on the LCD because of the burn in issue and the fact that I was skeptical about the longevity claims of the newer plasma's. I did not want a TV with a half life.

I found a dealer with a home like atmosphere setting with displays and they let me test to my hearts content.

I am extremely happy with my choice and wouldn't change a thing.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2007 at 4:57PM
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My Panasonic 42" plasma bought on 9/28/2002 looks as good today as it did then. I don't expect it to suddenly go to 1/2 brightness in three months.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2007 at 7:29PM
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Well, my understanding is that the older models loose half their brighness in about five years. Perhaps, hopefully, you are fortunate. I didn't just make this up. This was a huge concern for the plasma technology when they appeared on the market. How is your unit? I hope it performs to your liking. Thanks for the feedback. The new models are supposed to far outlast the older models. Different phosphor i believe. How many hours a day does it play? Have you had any issues with burn in? This is good for our frineds trying to make decisions. Thanks for contributing.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2007 at 7:39PM
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The concern over loss of brightness and burn-in is overblown, in my opinion. All phosphor-based displays, including the venerable CRT, lose brightness as part of the aging process. The phenomenon is not unique to plasma panels. That didn't stop anyone from buying a CRT in the past, did it? :-)

The concern with plasma, I think, is primarily because of the high cost (as of several years ago, anyway) along with the largely-unsubstantiated warnings of potential trouble and the mystique and technobabble surrounding the term "plasma." The average consumer doesn't know how a plasma panel functions, hears false snippets such as "the gas leaks out and must be refilled yearly" and gets put off by the fears.

I paid nearly $7000 for my 42-incher, and haven't regretted it for even a moment (except I wish now I had gotten a 50"). However, spending that much on a television should make reasonably one a little more conscious about taking proper care of it, as compared to a $200-jobbie from the local discount outlet that can be used-and-abused and tossed out in a few years.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2007 at 12:29AM
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I can't thank you all enough for the education and information! KLAA2, your LCD/Plasma comparison was especially helpful and I thank you so much for the time it took to make it so clear. No doubt we will know a lot more than the salesman! I find just a wee bit of investigation assures that happening in most cases nowadays.

I think we had just about decided on LCD, though our son has had a 42" Samsung plasma for about 5 yrs with no trouble (that we know of). However, where we will be putting this set is the lowest lit room in the house- facing west and surrounded by trees. So we will reread all your advice and weigh the pro's and con's. (If anyone can overthink a decision it is I!) But it is a major expense and we don't want to make a rash decision and regret it.

Again thanks so much, all of you, and I will post what we end up doing.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2007 at 11:35AM
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dadoes, I agree, there is a lot of overblowing the negatives of plasma televisions. That is why I tried to include some of the info that gets either over exaggerated or just plain made up. Their picture can be just as nice as any other type available. They are definitely cheaper costing(much)than LCD when you get over the 40 inch range.

Have you had any issues with burn in or ghosting? I almost went with plasma but to me, the Samsungs picture was far better than any other set I looked at.

Patty, I look forward to hearing how you make out. Have fun with whatever you go with!

    Bookmark   June 5, 2007 at 12:57PM
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KLAA2- Glad you came back. Hope I'm not a pest. I never asked you about brand. Sometimes that is just personal preference for no discernable reason. However--- one thing we never do with anything we buy is go with off-brands or the cheapest. I know we will get either a Sony (our present sets are Sony's) or Samsung, just because I know we will. You are still happy with your Samsung, I take it,and have no regrets?

    Bookmark   June 5, 2007 at 1:09PM
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No regrets what-so-ever. As it was, I was poised to buy the Sony Bravia but I felt that the picture was not as good. It actually looked blurry to me. Again, this is my own personal opinion. Additionally, the Bravia is more $$. Two of my other TV's are Sony Trinitrons and they have been very good to me.

I'll make one more suggestion. A lot of times these big electronic chains will let last years model go a lot cheaper than the brand new model. Sometimes the only difference between this years and last years model is the contrast ratio. While it is true that the higher the contrast ratio the better your picture, sometimes the difference is something like 6000:1 vs. 7000:1. Again, I'll bet most people will be hard pressed to see the difference..especailly for a thousand dollars. Please remember, this is my own opinion. If you do go after a left over model, make sure it has all the features you were looking for in a brand new model.

You have a tough decision to make. Will there be a gaming system, like Playstation, hooked up to the TV? Will there be anyone who will leave a static picture on the set for a really really long time? Will the set be kept in a room that is bright most of the time? If you answered yes to all these questions, then you'd be better off with a LCD. If not, then you'll be able to get a bigger screen for a lot less if you go with plasma.

One other thing. How far away will you be viewing the TV from? Most people think thas getting a gigantic set and plopping themselves down three feet from the screen will give them a movie theater like experience..buzzzzzz, wrong. The only thing it will do is first give you a headache and then make you angry because the picture will look like a million little boxes. In any case, LCD's look less boxy close up. Again, see these things for yourself when you go looking.

By the way, you're not a pest. ;-)

    Bookmark   June 5, 2007 at 9:06PM
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Games- NO
Static pic left on- NO
Room bright- NO Very shady wooded location
Viewing distance- 10'-12'

We would be looking at a 37"-42" max. I don't call that gigantic nowadays. The room is not big enough for anything larger and we are not setting up a media room or home theater anyway. Just a living room I love, but we don't ever use because there is no tv. (Tv room/den is very small w/ a 15+ yr old Sony Trinitron.) From your questions I'm thinking a plasma may serve us very well there and for less $$$?

I'll debate you on being a pest. You have a great deal of patience!

    Bookmark   June 6, 2007 at 2:32AM
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I agree with you that plasma may be the way for you to go. You can probably even get a full hd (1080p) set at a fairly inexpensive price at 42". Good luck and remember - try them out and make sure they let you adjust the picture in the store. Take care.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2007 at 2:25PM
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There are so many quality TVs out there for pretty reasonable prices, that I'm sure you'll make a good decision. Just make sure you do your research on price before you commit. Best Buy provides a decent amount of service, but they are by far not the cheapest. If you're in the northeast, then I would check out b&h photo ( They have been around for a long time and have a great brick and mortar store in NYC. Their internet prices are pretty good all around and their service has always been good.

Another word of advice.....don't spend $100 on an HDMI cable. You can get a perfectly reasonable one for less than $40 at Costco, Target, etc. The tests that Monster runs that show their cables are better are for 10 meter runs. Most likely, you'll use a 6 ft cable unless you are wall mounting and running to a machine closet somewhere.

Believe me, I'm one of those people that have spent a rediculous amount of money on cables for my stereo and tvs over the years (I have a whole box full of the standard rca cables that come with electronics), and while I can tell the difference between some cables in my stereo set-up, I have yet to tell the difference between the $39 HDMI cable from JCPenney hooked up to our 42" plasma in our bedroom and the $79 monster cable we use in our family room to connect the cable box and DVD player to our 50" plasma. As far as line conditioners go, unless you live in a house that has old wiring, you probably won't need a a conditioner. However, I would alway use a surge supressor that is rated for Home Theater just to protect your investment should you have a power surge or your house gets struck by lightning. Once again, there is a wide range of prices. You probably won't need to high end stuff. Just get something that comes with an equipment warranty. (check Target)

    Bookmark   June 8, 2007 at 12:46PM
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