Plasma TV Buying Guide

More than 10 years ago, the plasma television was the first flat screen TV to hit the market, revolutionizing both the quality and design of televisions available to consumers. If you're in the market for a new TV and are looking for an ultra-flat model with great picture quality, here's what you need to know about purchasing a plasma TV.

TV buyers often ask the question "What's the best TV?" Every model and type of television has advantages and disadvantages. It's important to start the process by deciding upon the features that are most important to you. Think about your budget, the space you're displaying the TV and which features you're most likely to use, such as built-in Wi-Fi. With this in mind, you'll be better positioned to choose the best model for your home.

Plasma basics

Plasma display technology has been around since the 1960s, but it has taken decades to further develop and refine the technology to make it commercially viable for TVs. It's called "plasma" because it uses millions of small cells filled with electrically charged ionized gases ? essentially tiny fluorescent lamps. This results in a brighter display and better color quality when compared to regular televisions. In large part, this is because the blacks are blacker on plasmas, which allows for better color contrast. These are key factors in a high-quality TV image.

Screen size and display

If you are in the market for a big screen TV, you're going to love plasmas.  Plasmas typically range in screen size from 42" to 65." There are a few models that are larger than that, going all the way up to a stunning 150." You will have a difficult time locating a smaller plasma TV.  The thickness of the TVs is also quite low, ranging from 2" to 3.5." These TVs are a good choice for owners who are looking for a model that can be easily wall-mounted.

The picture quality trifecta

Three factors are behind a high quality TV image: the brightness of your screen, the color saturation levels (how black does that black really look?), and the contrast ratio between the two. The brightest TVs can be watched in a sun-drenched room without having to squint or deal with glare. This is where the plasma TV scores high marks. Plasma TVs produce the brightest pictures, the blackest blacks and the highest color contrast ratios of any flat screen television technology, with the possible exception of the newest OLED technologies. This results in a picture quality that seems breathtakingly vibrant and realistic.

Movements are sharp and clear

Images and action come alive on the plasma TV. Movements are rendered with superior accuracy, and fast refresh rates mean there won't be any blurring of motion, even in fast-action sporting events. This feature minimizes image distortions that can sometimes occur on other TV models. Viewers are given the opportunity to enjoy the highest-quality versions of shows about wildlife, televised sports and major action films just like in the theater.

Higher resolutions

Plasma TVs are capable of much higher resolution displays than standard televisions. Most 42" models will have a resolution of 1024x768, but higher resolutions of 1280x768, 1366x768 and even 1920x1080 are available. If a standard-definition signal is coming into the television, it will upscale the signal to match the television's resolution capability. Plasma yields some of the clearest, crispest and richest TV viewing currently available on the market.

Wide-screen aspect ratio

Plasma TVs are wide enough to allow for a 16:9 aspect ratio. That means, when you watch a movie on a plasma TV, you will be able see it the way the director intended. You don't have to watch the "reformatted for your TV" version you'd watch on a standard television. Many television programs, however, are still broadcast in a 4:3 aspect ratio. On a plasma TV, you can choose to either watch it that way, with either black or gray bars on either side of the image, or the image can be expanded to fit the screen. Plasma brands handle this differently and with varying results, so be sure to look into whether you like the approach of a specific model.

Disadvantages

Plasma TVs are amazing, but there are some potential disadvantages you should be aware of. In older models, "burn-in" was a problem. Burn-in happened when a single image would remain on the screen a long time, damaging the cells in that area of the screen, leaving the appearance that it were burned into the screen. Newer technologies include a pixel orbiter that slowly moves the image (so slowly, the human eye can't detect it). This greatly reduces incidences of burn-in. Another concern is that plasma TVs don't operate well at high altitudes (1.25 miles and higher) because of the difference in air pressure, which can result in a buzzing noise from the set. Check the altitude parameters supplied by the manufacturer if you live in the Rockies or another high-altitude location.

Plasmas offer some of the highest-quality television watching you'll find anywhere. If you're ready to see if a plasma TV is right for you, Sears has the best models on the market for you to explore.

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