LED, LCD, and Plasma – oh my!

This is an older article which was originally published in the Register-News.

If you haven’t already purchased a new-ish flat panel television, chances are that you will soon. The good news is that up to 40 inches are relatively cheap at around $300 for an inexpensive set. Larger models up to 55 inches can be had for about $600. These are prices for average sets, not high-end models.

When you do go shopping for your first flat panel or your replacement there are several choices available that might be confusing to you. I’m going to try to explain in simple terms what some of the differences are and what matters in my opinion.

To begin, all LED televisions are LCD. LED refers to the lights that make the screen bright. In older or cheaper sets the lights are fluorescent like the bulbs in your house or office. LED lights tend to last longer and can be mounted behind a screen rather than just along the edges.

The LEDs can be located along the edges like the fluorescent bulbs or behind the screen since they are so small. If the LEDs are behind the screen they can be lit and dimmed according to how bright or dark a part of the screen is at any time. If you are looking to buy a nicer television then an LED would be the preferred way to go.

Any LCD television is better suited to a bright room. They have more vivid colors and get brighter than a plasma television. Unfortunately, LCD does suffer from pixelation (squares) when fast moving action is happening as in sports or in dark, foggy scenes.

The other option available is a plasma set. Plasma seems to be getting phased out by the manufacturers. You can still find sets at bigger stores in bigger sizes like 40 inches plus. Plasma does not suffer from the pixelation from fast movement and has better response to dark scenes. Plasma does not get as bright as LCD and is better for dark rooms or dedicated theaters such in a finished basement since it has a glass front.

Whatever whiz-bang features the box lists or the salesperson tries to impress you with, these are the basics. Checking online will get you reviews from other folks and professionals. If you are looking to score a deal on closeouts or floor models, be sure to check big box stores in the late fall or near the end of the year. New models are released in the fall for the holidays so November through January are the best times to score a deal.

More deal tips coming soon. Have questions or comments? Tweet me @DanVoyles or email using askageek@register-news.com.