A burning question has been whether or not plasma is better than LCD due to all the known problems with LCD. Dr. Raymond Soneira of Displaymate took on this task with Widescreen Review publishing his findings under the title of LCD-Plasma Display Technology Shoot-Out. This is a great educational series covering video standards with an unexpected outcome.
Part 1 was published September 2009, volume 18, number 5, issue 142
Dr. Soneira covers differences in the technologies based on color space, gamma, brightness, contrast ratio and black luminance. Much revolves around viewing angle since this is an LCD problem. What I did find missing was discussion on how plasma is limited in light output, dynamically scaling light output based on picture content to avoid over driving the power supply. Unlike LCD or other lamp based technologies for front projection, with plasma you must calibrate grayscale and gamma with a window pattern due to this anomaly. Our old CRT technology suffered from the same and was calibrated in similar fashion.
Part 2 was published November 2009, volume 18, number 7, issue 144
Dr. Soneira covers LCD response time measuring motion blur ending with a comparison of calibrated LCD versus calibrated plasma displays with real world imaging in a controlled viewing environment for the shoot-out.
The Shoot-Out was fully operational for several months, so we had lots of time to study and compare all of the effects, and over that period of time we had several dozen people come by to see it running and evaluate the effects themselves, including industry experts, manufacturers, engineers, reviewers, journalists, and ISF instructors, all of which are trained observers.
While many of the issues with LCD were found to be true, under controlled conditions Dr. Soneira found LCD doing just fine right next to a plasma.
1) LCD response time specifications are a useless measurement of image performance and there was no visually detectable difference between LCD displays with different response times.
While there was considerable motion blur in the moving test patterns, motion blur was simply not visually detectable in real live video content during our extensive side-by-side testing. Whenever blur was detected in live video, we always found it to be in the source content.
2) Motion processing is best left turned off. You can ignore all the hype about 120, 240 or 480hz motion processing bells and whistles.
3) There was no discernable difference between LCD and plasma with real world video content
It’s also very easy to think that you see blur when you are looking at lots of fast action on a single TV, and a lot of it undoubtedly has its origins in the human visual system. It just doesn’t stand up to the extensive side-by-side testing that we’ve described here.
And in typical video standards fashion that rails against the marketing and hype...
if you stick with the mid to top tier models from the reputable brands, you should ignore Response Time specifications, not worry about LCD motion blur, and don’t spend extra for 120hz or higher refresh rates, strobed LED backlighting, or advanced motion blur processing.
Due to changes in how manufacturers market their products this statement needs some perspective. The key here is to not concentrate on these bells and whistles. Yet you may get them anyway when buying mid to top tier models, in which case, turn those features off if video standards is your viewing goal!
Bottom line: Plasma still retains one advantage, viewing angle for both color accuracy and maximum dynamic range. For the singular videophile desiring an experience based on video standards LCD is comparable. The plasma advantage affects only other viewers because they will not be sitting in your seat. Therefore, if you are buying an LCD, go to the store and reproduce the viewing angles for your family and guests so you can see the difference for yourself on the model you are thinking about purchasing. I bet you find these differences are acceptable. If not check other models while you are there since it is the panel technology that affects this. If you are still not satisfied or simply desire every angle be color accurate with maximum dynamic range then buy a plasma!