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Thursday, August 7, 2008 

LCD, DLP Or Plasma? Oh My!

Currently, there are three main types of high-def televisions available: plasma, LCD and DLP.

DLP

Let's first look at with the least expensive, the DLP. DLP stands for Digital Light Processing, and is actually a rear projection TV. In DLP projectors, the image is created by a matrix of tiny mirrors, with each mirror representing one pixel on the screen. Though less expensive than other hi-def choices, this technology can still deliver 1080p resolution - the highest currently available.

While DLP televisions are no heavier than the other high definition types, they are quite a bit thicker (about 15-20 inches) and are not designed to be wall-mounted as of yet, though that may change in the near future.

Other minor drawbacks include the possibility of annoying fan noise in some models, and since the technology is more "mechanical" than plasma and LCD, there may be a higher incidence of breakdowns. Projection televisions of any type also are burdened with poorer viewing angles than the direct view sets, and color resolution may not be as sharp.

LCD

At a decidedly higher price point is the next type of set to consider: Liquid Crystal Diode televisions, also known as LCD.

LCD televisions utilize two "polarized" panels that sandwich a thin liquid-crystal gel. That gel is divided into individual pixels, each of which can be darkened or lightened according to how much precise voltage is passed through it - the more voltage, the darker the pixel. Since some light always leaks through the gel, an absolutely black screen is almost impossible for an LCD television to achieve, but advances in LCD technology have put these TVs nearly at the same level as plasma.

LCD computer monitors, because of their light weight and small footprint, quickly became the technology of choice in the industry. The smaller screen sizes created sharp LCD images, so small-screen TVs became LCD's niche. But in the past few years screen size has grown larger and larger while maintaining sharpness, and the previously poor viewing angles have become as good as plasma televisions can offer. Hi-Def LCD televisions are now a viable competitor to plasma televisions on the home entertainment field.

Plasma

Built in a similar manner to an LCD TV, in that a sandwich is created by two panels of glass, the material between the two panels is not a liquid gel, but rather a gas.

Though the gap is narrowing, plasma TVs generally exhibit greater brightness and sharper contrast then the competition - especially as the screen size increases. Plasma televisions can be may measure under 5 inches, and have a very wide viewing angle.

The usable lifespan of a plasma TV is 60,000 hours - which would allow you to watch TV for 6 hours a day for 27 years. Hi-Def plasma televisions can boast of contrast ratios of 30,000:1, a significant advantage over less expensive hi-def televisions. Although screen "burn-in" has been an issue in the past, technological advances have reduced this potential drawback to a minimum.

How to Choose

As with every other aspect of your long-awaited home entertainment project, in the long run the amount of money at your disposal will be the biggest factor in which television you ultimately choose. You would need to itemize the components you must buy, and prioritize it.

Audiophiles could choose to spend more money on a hi-tech surround sound system; others might choose to turn over a greater percentage of the budget to the designer. But no matter which option you choose, be comfortable knowing that any of the choices open to you are vastly superior to to what was available even in the recent past.

Frank Sarntarpia
Home Theater
Home Remodeling Blog

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