Updated Dec 09, 2013 By Cedric Demers

Plasma vs LED

Year Introduced to General Public

Year Introduced

LCD screens have been used in televisions for a long time now - since 1988. Sharp introduced the first commercial LCD television in 1988 at a size of 14". Due to size constraints and low refresh rate, it took LCDs until 2007 to surpass CRTs in worldwide sales.

While the size had already been present in the display industry, the first 42" television was introduced by Fujitsu in 1997. Plasma TVs enjoyed fast growth initially because they were much bigger than the current LCDs and had a faster response time. That growth stagnated quickly, though, and LCD sales surpassed Plasmas in 2006.

The first edge-lit LED TV was introduced by Sony in 2008.

Sales trend

A good way to see how a technology performs is to look at its sales figures and what others are buying.

LCD screens (both CCFL and LED backlight) account for the large majority of today’s worldwide sales. Plasma has seen some slight growth, but still represents only a small portion of all HDTVs sold (less than 10%). The increase is a bit surprising, given that a few years ago everyone thought plasma was dying.

In Q4 2013, Panasonic announced that it will stop producing plasma TVs and will concentrate on new technology. This leaves only two manufacturers of plasma left: LG and Samsung.

There has been a major shift in LCD backlight technology since 2010. The LED backlight is replacing the old CCFL backlight, and now accounts for the majority of LCD screens sold. There was quite a buzz around full array matrix LED backlight in 2010, but now companies are avoiding it due to higher cost and marginal picture quality improvement.

You can see more statistics on the DisplaySearch NPD Group site here.
Winner: LED


plasma vs led tv price chart
Available Sizes
PlasmaBetween 42" and 65"

As mentioned before, it is very hard to build a smaller plasma display due to the constraint on the size of the cells. That’s why the smallest plasma TV available for purchase is 42". What’s more, the largest available is 65". On the other hand, LED offers the full range of sizes, from very small 20" TVs to extra-large 100" models.


This concludes our comparison of plasma and LED TVs. To figure out the best TV for your needs, you can check out our buying tool. Otherwise, you can go directly to our selection of the best TVs by size.

Feedback is always appreciated. Send us your comments at feedback@rtings.com. Thanks!

Questions & Answers

We really like the plasma TVs, but were told they will not do well in a room that has a lot sunlight. Is this true?
Yes, although they are improving every year.
Our Panasonic plasma TV has no buzzing sound. The image retention thing is only if a certain image is paused for an hour or so and left to run on the screen. But that retention image fades away after about an hour of being off or unpausing and even then you don't notice it at all with a picture, only when the screen goes dark between scenes. It's very faintly noticeable and you have to be purposely looking for it. We have kids that play video games for hours on the plasma with no image retention whatsoever. Panasonic does brag about that ability not to retain the image. The reflection thing is the same as it was with the old picture tube TV's and we all lived with that just fine. LED/LCD TV's have the same reflection, it's just a bit more muted and blurred. I don't find my plasma to be any bulkier then the same size LED/LCD. I personally can't stand watching LED/LCD TV's, the picture looks less dimensional and no where near as natural or rich looking than plasma does. They don't have smooth action flow, pixelation happens a lot depending on how fast the action is happening or how busy the picture is, not to mention they cost more. With all those cons against LED/LCD I can't imagine why people are buying them. The only con I can think of against a plasma is that it uses more electricity. My 50" plasma uses 235 watts - about the same as two 100 watt incandescent bulbs we all used to use and some still do for lighting. The estimated monthly energy cost to run our plasma was $3.75 vs $1.25 for LED. People spend more than that just for coffee each day and they are complaining that a plasma uses too much electricity in a month?
Indeed, the downsides of a plasma are not that bad. It mostly has a bad reputation from the early days of the technology where it hadn't matured enough. It is unfortunate that Panasonic has decided to cease producing them.
I have been using a plasma TV for five years now and have had no issues. Believe me, plasma offer great value for the money. LEDs are gimmicks. In TVs, I believe in size and picture quality, and when compared to LED, plasma offers a bigger size for cheaper. Plasma has the best quality of picture, and LEDs are also not good for the eyes as they are too bright.
Agreed, although bright LEDs are useful in very bright rooms.
Since Plasma TV's have better picture quality and less motion blur, why is it that they are doing so poorly on the market compared to LED/LCDs?
A few reasons:
  • They are more prone to image retention (even if it is only temporary now)
  • They do not get very bright and usually have more reflections, so they are not suitable for bright living rooms (which also makes them look bad in a retail store)
  • They are bulkier
  • Slight buzzing noise
  • And most importantly, LED TVs offer picture quality that is good enough for the majority of people
I would like a smaller plasma TV around 30". Any ideas where I could purchase one?
None exist. As of 2014, the smallest ones available are 43".
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