Sound advice: Plasma TVs still worth seeking out

  • Article by: DON LINDICH , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 10, 2010 - 2:32 PM

Answers to your multimedia questions.

Q I recently went to a big chain store in search of a 42-inch TV for less than $1,000. They really talked down plasma and pushed LEDs. While admitting superior picture for the plasmas, they noted as downsides the weight, electricity use, potential burn-in and gas leakage, and a more reflective screen. I really only saw the reflective screen as a concern, but this set won't get a lot of daytime viewing. What are your thoughts?

A It must be the season for misinformed, unknowledgeable big-box store salespeople to spread falsehoods about plasma.

Modern plasmas are almost impossible to burn in, and each individual pixel is a sealed cell filled with gas, which doesn't leak out. Modern plasmas have energy usage close to LCD sets. Even when they consume more power, the difference is minute. The difference between the most power-hungry 60-inch plasma and the most efficient 32-inch LCD set is only a few dollars a month in additional electricity. Among same-sized sets it would be much less.

Consumer Reports just published test results of the best 3-D sets on the market, and plasma was a clear winner. Plasma is still my favorite flat-panel TV technology and the choice of videophiles. At current prices, it is a tremendous bargain. In fact, profit margin might be one reason the stores are pushing LED-LCD sets so hard. (Note that what are touted as "LED" TVs are actually LCD TVs with an LED backlight, not TVs that use LEDs to create the image.)

Plasma standouts for about $1,000 are the 42-inch Panasonic TC-P42G25 and the 50-inch Samsung PN50C550.

Although the store employees acknowledged the superior picture quality of plasma, it is still subjective and some people might prefer the bright, punchy look of an LED-LCD set.

One of my favorite televisions is the 1080p 42-inch Panasonic TC-L42D2, an LED-LCD HDTV that lists for $1,299 but sells for $849 and $899. It combines the best qualities of plasma TVs and LED-LCD TVs. It has the natural look and flesh tones of plasma combined with the hyper-sharpness and bright, deep color of an LED-LCD set.

To achieve this picture quality, all I had to do is set the television on the standard picture setting and the color temperature to warm. Motion rendition was excellent, as well, and it had none of the slightly unnatural look I see in many flat-panel LCD sets with strong motion processing.

The TC-L42D2 is a model I would strongly consider over comparably sized plasma sets and is worth checking out for anyone seeking a sub-$1,000 television.

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