Dear Lifehacker, I’m planning on buying a new television, but I’m not sure what kind to get. I understand the difference in features, but I don’t know the benefits and downsides of different screen types. When should I buy Plasma instead of LCD? And what’s the advantage of OLED? I’m just not sure of the right type of panel for me, or if I should even care. Please help! Puzzled by Panels
The different kinds of flatscreen panels used in televisions are a detail that most people don’t think too much about because, when shopping in an electronics store, it’s pretty hard to notice any real difference. Nonetheless, there are a few things worth considering with each type of panel. Let’s go over the most popular and the pros and cons of each.
On the plus side, because plasma panels are used less and less their prices are down. If you buy plasma, you’ll generally be able to get a larger television for less money — you just might make up that cost with your electric bill. Plasma panels are also known for their better contrast ratios, rendering of rich colours and deeper blacks, and little to know ghosting effects when displaying fast-moving images.
On the other hand, LCDs have never been great at rendering blacks or avoiding the ghosting problem with fast-moving images. Although the 120Hz and 240Hz refresh rate modes can help with this problem, this can make the motion in films look kind of like they were shot with a consumer video camera. If you’re OK with switching between these modes when you’re switching between sports and film, this isn’t much of a disadvantage. LCDs are also prone to dead pixels, and it’s fairly common to purchase a TV with at least one dead pixel. Generally many pixels have to die before a warranty claim can be filed, so if you have one or two dead pixels and it bothers you a lot you should exchange the TV before your exchange period runs out.
But How Do I Choose?
When choosing a type of panel, you really have to choose which kind offers the biggest advantages. If many people are going to be watching in a wide room from various angles, you’ll probably want to pick up an LCD with IPS. If you’re primarily watching sports, a plasma display or LCD with a faster refresh rate (of 120Hz or 240Hz) will serve you well, but a plain old LCD might not be the best option. Of course, if you can afford an OLED panel and can find a suitable television with one, that’s probably your best bet. But in the end, you’re going to need to figure out which features matter most for you and choose based on that. Happy viewing!
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