Ask LH: Is ‘Burn-In’ Still An Issue On TVs And Monitors?

Dear Lifehacker, In the old days of CRTs, my dad would warn me about dreaded “burn-in” on my computer screens and TVs. I know there was a big debate about plasma TVs and burn-in too, but is it still a problem? Does it affect LCDs? Do I need to care at all? Sincerely, Screen Saver

Picture remixed from psdGraphics, Hans, FotograFFF (Shutterstock)

Dear Screen Saver,

Burn-in generally isn’t the problem it once was. However, you should still be aware of what it is and how to prevent it. Here’s what you need to know.

What Is Burn-In?

Burn-in is permanent damage to a screen caused by displaying the same image for a long period of time. For example, if you have a TV on which you watch CNN 24 hours a day, you will likely experience the burn-in of the CNN logo in the bottom right-hand corner. Even when you change the channel or turn off the TV, a faint outline of that logo will still be there, because it’s “burned in”.

Burn-in is permanent, but it’s often confused with “image persistence”, which is a temporary version of the same thing. Burn-in is most prominent in CRT and plasma screens, which use phosphors to create the image on your TV or monitor. However, it’s also possible to cause image persistence on an LCD-based screen, though it’s rarer. Picture: Nate/Wikipedia

The Current State of Burn-In and Image Persistence

CRTs and older plasma TVs were quite susceptible to burn-in, but many modern TVs have features designed to lower the risk. Many contain a feature called “pixel shifting”, for example, that shifts the image on your screen just enough so that the pixels are regularly changing, (but not so much that it’s noticeable to you). Some cheaper plasmas may be more susceptible, so this might be one of those areas where you get what you pay for.

That said, you should still practise good habits with your TV and monitor. Screens are most susceptible to burn-in in the first 100 hours of use, says CNET, so for those first 100 hours, keep your contrast low (below 50 per cent) and try to avoid watching non-widescreen shows. Those black bars on the sides of the screen can cause image persistence. Other than that, just use common sense: turn on your computer’s screen saver. Don’t leave your TV on the CNBC ticker for days at a time, and don’t play video games without breaks (since their menus and overlays stay in the same place). You don’t need to go overboard with worry, just treat your TV with a little care — primarily within those first 100 hours — and you’ll be fine.

How to Get Rid of Image Persistence

If you do experience image persistence, it’s probably temporary, and you can get rid of it with almost no effort. All you need to do is watch some TV. Make sure its widescreen, try to avoid anything that has the same image that’s burned in (obviously), and it should go away within a few hours, depending on how severe it is.

The chances of getting permanent burn-in are pretty slim these days. You would have to actually try to burn in your screen. With regular home use, you are probably not watching the same persistent image for long enough. If you have a business that shows the same image on screen all day long, that might be a different story, but for personal use, you shouldn’t have to worry. Picture: Aaronyx/Flickr


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