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Plasma vs LED vs LCD TVs

The most important decision when buying a new TV is which type of display to choose: 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.

Update: Plasma TVs are now officially dead. Panasonic stopped producing them in 2013. Samsung and LG announced that 2014 will be their last year. If you are looking for a picture quality equivalent to a plasma TV today, your best bet is an OLED TV. Check out our OLED vs LED TV comparison for more details.
Plasma
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
LED
LED TV LED TV
LG LN5400 LED TV
  • 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
LCD

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

LEDs (which are basically the same thing as LCDs) are the biggest sellers. Their picture quality is not as good as that of plasma TVs, but still good enough for nearly everyone. They also offer greater practicability and they can get a lot brighter. The majority of people should opt for an LED TV - especially if the TV will be located in a living room with a lot of windows.

Plasma TVs 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 it will not bother you each time an image is retained for more than two minutes.

To help you compare, the following table shows the major differences between a plasma and an LED television. Each difference is explained in greater detail in the next pages of this article.

You can see our top picks for the best LED TVs of 2015 that we reviewed here.
Plasma LED
Picture
Quality
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 have greater sales despite having worse picture quality. A big reason is that most people have bright living rooms, and not a dedicated dark room. LEDs perform better in this kind of environment because they can get significantly brighter.

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