Plasma vs LED vs LCD TVs

Updated Feb 15, 2014 By Cedric Demers

The most important decision when buying a new TV is the type of display: a plasma, an LED or an LCD TV. As shown by the pictures below, they all have their advantages. However, most people will prefer an LED TV unless they have a dark viewing environment.

Plasma TV Plasma TV
Samsung F5300 Plasma TV
  • Best for dark rooms
  • Cheaper
  • Best blacks
  • No motion blur
  • Not suitable for rooms with windows
  • Occasional temporary image retention
  • Bulkier
  • Slight buzzing noise
  • Best for bright rooms
  • Biggest seller
  • Very bright
  • Very thin and light
  • Low power consumption
  • Not very good blacks
  • Motion blur on lower end models
  • Backlight uniformity issues
  • Limited viewing angle

We removed LCD TVs from the comparison because they are obsolete and practically the same as LED TVs. As explained here, an LCD TV has just a different light source behind the screen. The picture quality of an LCD TV is the same as an LED TV.

LEDs, while basically the same thing as LCDs, are the biggest sellers. Their picture quality are not as good as plasmas, but good enough for almost everyone. They also offer greater practicability and can get a lot brighter. The majority of people should opt for an LED TV. You should buy an LED TV, especially if your TV is located in a living room with a lot of windows.

Plasmas have the best picture quality hands down and are also cheaper. However, they are not very bright so they are only suitable for dark rooms. They suffer from occasional but not permanent image retention and have a slight buzzing noise on bright pictures. Go for a plasma TV if you want no compromise on the picture quality and if you will not have a heart attack each time an image retention shows up for more than 2 minutes.

The best LED TV for the money that we tested this year is the Samsung H6350.
While the best plasma TV for the price that we reviewed this year is the Panasonic ST60, it is now out of stock almost everywhere. The Samsung F8500 or the cheaper Samsung F5300 are great alternatives.

The following table shows the major differences between a plasma and an LED television so you can compare them. Each difference is explained more in details in the next pages of this article.

Plasma LED
Average Viewing angle 70° 37°
Average Black Luminance 0.05 cd/m2 0.15 cd/m2
Average White Luminance 100 cd/m2 250 cd/m2
Colors Good Good
Motion Blur Best Great
Cost Average Cost for 40" 450$ 645$
Longevity Good Best
Average Yearly Electricty Cost for 40" $11 $8
Form Average Thickness 2.5" 1.8"
Average Weight for 40" 42 lb 27 lb
Market Year introduced to general public 1997 2008
Sales trend Slightly Up Up
Range of sizes Between 40" and 65" All
Summary table of Plasma vs LED TV comparison
A lot of people are wondering why LED TVs sell more even though they don't have an as good picture quality. Most people have bright living rooms, not a dedicated dark room. LEDs perform better in this kind of environment because they can get significantly brighter.