“Let our rigorous testing and reviews be your guidelines to A/V equipment – not marketing slogans”
Facebook Youtube Twitter instagram pinterest

Plasma TV Performance - page 2


In order to better understand the results, it's important to know a bit about how the human eye works. Unlike the equipment used to take measurements for these tests, our eyes are not equally sensitive to all frequencies (colors) of light. Notably, our eyes are more sensitive to red as compared to blue and green. As such, although ISF tested the color capabilities of all nine TVs, we report more on how the "reds" fared than other colors. Similarly, our eyes are very aware of blacks and different levels of black (or gray) and are more sensitive to changes in black than changes in white. The amount of "black" in a video image, therefore, has a profound impact on the range of colors that are visible to our eyes. Contrast ratio, on the other hand, which essentially measures the difference between the black and white signals, is not a good indicator of image quality. Displays with high contrast ratios may still look washed out if the white levels are extremely high, but the black levels are only modestly low. So what's the verdict on plasma? Our test results and other research show that, while there may be a tiny glimmer of truth in some of these statements, they are all myths. Plasma TVs are an excellent choice for consumers who are willing to pay the relatively high price for these displays and want accurate image recreation, particularly in viewing environments with controlled lighting.

First, while image retention can occur in modern plasmas, the effect is temporary. After the 48-hour torture test, all three of the plasma TVs that were tested showed clearly visible images from the game menu, whereas none of the LCD or MD rear- projection-based sets showed any image retention. However, after regular video material (a DVD movie set to continuously loop) was played through the sets for 24 hours, the image completely disappeared from all three plasmas, leaving no trace. Unlike early generation plasmas, where those type of images would not go away and could actually "burn" onto the screen, modern plasma TVs enjoy a combination of more robust screen materials and subtle image-shifting technologies that have rendered this former issue moot.

Second, the accelerated aging tests show that plasma TVs maintain consistent image quality and brightness even after extending viewing. The image quality of all televisions (and all displays, for that matter) degrade somewhat over time, but in our tests plasmas results were typically within 5% of their "out of the box" performance at the conclusion of our testing. While this is not a definitive statement on product lifetimes.true lifetime tests are impossible without a several year test cycle.it is a reasonable proxy of extended performance. In fact, many plasma TV vendors now claim 60,000-hour lifetimes (translated: 8 hours of daily viewing for more than 20 years before the screen reaches half of its original brightness). Third, when measuring black levels, the plasma TVs as a group actually outperformed the reference CRT monitor as well as the TVs using the other two technologies. The tangible benefit of this is that a deeper range of colors can be displayed, which translates into a richer overall picture.

Fourth, the viewing angles for plasma TVs were the most consistent of all the TV types tested. In other words, regardless of where you are in the room, the image quality on a plasma will look very similar. Also, even if you're seated in a fixed position, you won't be able to see any difference when, for example, a person walks across the screen or a football flies from one end of the screen to the other. Fifth, although the absolute brightness of plasma TVs is lower than other TV technologies, it is the most consistent from side-to-side, making "hotspots" or "deadspots" less likely, regardless of where you view the TV from within a room. The LCD TVs and microdisplay rear projection sets that were tested had brighter pictures when viewed head on, which could make them a better choice in rooms where viewing positions are limited and the lighting cannot always be controlled (such as those with lots of natural sunlight). When tested from different angles, however, both the overall brightness and the color performance varied on the sets using LCD and microdisplay rear projection technologies.

Finally, when it comes to color accuracy, the end goal for all televisions continues to be SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) standards, which are red, green, and blue color frequency specifications that Hollywood producers adhere to in the mastering of their content. We found that plasma TVs generated colors that were closest to that of HD SMPTE, particularly with low brightness (e.g., movies) signals.

Of course, there's more to the TV purchase decision than performance.price, in particular, plays a critical role. In that regard, the plasma TVs were the most expensive option tested, with an average price of $3,999, versus $3,599 for LCD and $2,266 for microdisplay rear projection.

Situation Overview

Understanding the real nature of television performance is getting harder and harder as more technologies come to market, more vendors introduce new products, and more FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) is generated in this increasingly competitive marketplace. IDC set out to determine which issues about plasma televisions were genuine and which issues were not, by conducting a wide range of performance- focused tests in conjunction with Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) test personnel. The detailed results of those tests are discussed below.


Confused about what AV Gear to buy or how to set it up? Join our Exclusive Audioholics E-Book Membership Program!