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Plasma TVs buying guide

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Introduction to Plasma Televisions

A plasma TV can be expensive, and you want to make the right decision. After all, you probably don’t buy a new television very often, and technologies are constantly changing. Your friends may all have different opinions about the best type to buy, and you’re bombarded by advertisements all pushing a different product. How do you know what’s the best TV for you, and how do you know it’s a good deal?

Plasma TVs use a flat panel display and are usually larger than old fashioned CRT screens, such as a 37 Plasma TV, 42 inch Plasma TV, or 50 inch Plasma TV. Plasma televisions are all widescreen plasma TVs, and popular brands include Panasonic Plasma, Sony Plasma TV, Hitachi, Samsung Plasma, and Phillips Plasma TV.

Plasma televisions work by using lots of tiny cells held between two sheets of glass that hold noble gases. The gas is turned into plasma, which emits light. Plasma is different from LCD technology, which is another common flatscreen TV option.

Price Inspector has researched the different options for you. Our buying guide will help answer your questions, and we’ve done the research to let you buy a cheap plasma TV that you’ll love. We’ve shopped for the best deals at all the UK stores for your shopping convenience. The good news is that plasma TVs are dropping in price as technology, and manufacturer competition, increases.

Useful tips to consider when looking for a new plasma tv

  • Know what to expect for your price range. Here are some typical price ranges and sizes so you can begin your budget. For 300 to 500 pounds, expect the TV to be less than 42 inches. For 42 to 50 inches, expect to pay 500 to 1,000 pounds. If you want a plasma TV between 50 and 58 inches, you’ll spend between 1,000 and 1,700 pounds.
  • As with most TVs, the larger screens usually cost more money. Once you’ve decided on your budget, decide what size TV is right for your viewing room. With a wide screen TV, you should sit between 1.5 and 3 times the TV’s diagonal measurement away from the screen. This will keep you from noticing a quality loss by sitting too close or too far away. For example, with a 42 inch TV, you should sit between 1.6 metres and 3.2 metres away, while a 60 inch TV requires a range of 2.25 metres to 4.5 metres.
  • Entertainment centres: If you have an entertainment centre, make sure you measure every dimension, leaving several centimetres on all sides to allow ventilation. If you don’t use an entertainment centre, you might consider wall-mounting the TV.
  • There is a wide range of picture quality between different makes of plasma TVs. Make sure you compare resolution, contrast, and viewing angles. Read reviews before buying. The top plasma TVs provide high image quality, producing deep blacks, outstanding colour, wider viewing angles, and fast resolution.
  • Have a look at the refresh rate of the screen. If the refresh rate is too slow then the picture may look as though there are ghost images on it, especially when watching high speed pictures such as sports. The lower the refresh rate (e.g. 5ms) the better

Pros and cons of Plasma TVs

Plasma TVs definitely have their advantages, but they’re not right for every situation. Before you decide whether a plasma TV is right for you, we let you know the good parts and the not-so-good parts of this technology. The selling features are:

  • Plasma TVs have a slim profile, which means they can be wall-mounted.
  • They are lightweight and don’t have the bulk of rear projection TVs.
  • They offer better, more accurate colours than LCD televisions, with deep blacks for superior contrast.
  • They provide wider viewing angles than LCD TVs, and they have fast response times to eliminate motion blur.

However, there are some disadvantages, which you must consider before deciding if a plasma TV is right for you. You may have heard that plasma TVs are subject to screen burn-in or image retention. This was true of older models, but it has been eliminated in newer models. It’s still a consideration if you buy a used TV, however. Other disadvantages include:

  • Newer models are still susceptible to so-called “large area flicker,” where you may see coloured pixels in large black areas, especially using your peripheral vision.
  • Plasma TVs are only available in larger sizes, usually at least 32 inches.
  • They are subject to a reflective glare if viewed in a bright room.
  • Although still lighter than CRT models, they are heavier than LCD TVs because of the glass screen that holds the gases.
  • On average, they use more electricity than an LCD.

Top Plasma TV brands

  • Panasonic: Panasonic generally provides great colour saturation and their plasma TV's use less power than previous models. They have reduced or eliminated flicker, and provide outstanding black colours. Their downside is that they are expensive and provide less accurate primary colours. The high-end Panasonic models deliver some of the best overall picture quality of any plasma TVs.
  • Samsung: Samsung reproduces the deepest black levels, providing Yahoo widgets and accurate colours. They are expensive, and they don’t offer S-Video inputs. They offer great picture quality, but not the absolute best. While not the best, they are a strong contender.
  • Hitachi: Hitachi provides a less expensive plasma option with decent anti-glare functionality. However, the blacks are light, producing a soft picture, and the primary colours are not accurate. It’s not a good picture, but if you’re on a tight budget, it might be a consideration.
  • Sony: Sony provides an attractive design and lots of features, but it is expensive and does not provide good colour decoding. It’s not one of the better choices for plasma.
  • Philips: Offers deep blacks and accurate primary colours, and their backlight can reduce eye strain. The downside is that there can be false contours in some scenes. Overall, however, it’s a good option to consider.

Understanding key features

  • When buying your next TV, it’s important to understand and compare the available features. TV manufacturers distinguish their upper-end models and their base models by adding additional features, so you need to know what you’re willing to pay extra for.
  • Picture-in-picture: This feature, also known as PIP, lets you watch a second show in a little inset window. Some models will let you resize the window or move it to a different location on the screen so you’re not blocking something important on your primary show. However, if you have an external tuner like cable or satellite, you can only watch one show at a time, unless the box has a two-tuner PIP feature.
  • Universal remote: Many TVs come with a universal remote that controls other A/V equipment. They can work with your satellite or cable box, and some will control DVD players or A/V receivers. If you watch TV or movies in a dark room, make sure the remote has glowing buttons. Most remotes are programmed with certain control codes, so if you have an off-brand or older model, you might need a learning model. This will let you use the existing remote to program the universal remote.
  • TV sound: Most TVs have stereo reception and speakers, as opposed to older TVs that only offered mono sound. If the TV has a listing of 5 watts per channel or higher, it’s a good audio system as far as TVs are concerned. TVs that offer simulated sound provide a sound similar to rear speakers. However, TVs just can’t duplicate an actual audio system, no matter how good it is. If you are dedicated to a home theatre audio experience, you will need a separate audio system. If you already have a home theatre sound system, your TV’s sound system is not a factor, and you shouldn’t pay extra for better sound.
  • Tuners: Some TVs have a built-in tuner that provides extras like favourite channel lists or channel surfing functions. However, most people use external tuners like satellite or cable boxes. In that case, your TV tuner’s extra features won’t work, so don’t pay extra for them.

Jargon Explained

False contourWhen colours are displayed a little differently than intended
PlasmaA partially ionized gas
LCDLiquid-crystal display.
Viewing angleThe maximum angle from which you can watch the TV with acceptable performance.
CRTCathode Ray Tube. The CRT is a vacuum tube with an electron gun and a fluorescent screen. With CRT televisions, the front of the tube is repeatedly scanned in a fixed pattern. Images are produced by controlling electron beams for each primary colour.

Buying Guide to Plasma TVs
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