It used to be the case that buying a new TV was a pretty simple excercise, choose a brand that you like and you had more or less selected your TV. These days things are a little different. Each brand has a plethora of different models all with varied features and in different screen sizes. Even when you know what screen size you want you face 4 or 5 different models from each brand. And all that's before trying to understand the differences between Plasma screens, LCD TV's, High Definition TV, 3D TV, Flat Screen TV etc. It can all leave you more than a little confused. Fortunately for those that don't have the time to trawl through the internet researching the differences, we have done the hard yards for you. Our Television guide explains the differences between the various technologies and gives you the information you need to make an informed buying choice. Well at least that's the aim!
Flat Screen TV
Flat Screen TV's also known as Flat TV's or Flat Panel TV's are simply the new generation of Televisions that as the name suggests are flat in shape. The thickness of the screen does vary from model to model but in general most Flat Screen TV's are between 4 or 5cm and 10cm. Which when compared to the old CRT sets is pretty close to being as flat as a pancake. It is important to note that Flat Screen TV is not a new technology in itself but just a description of the TV's appearance. Within the Flat Screen family so to speak you have various new TV technologies including Plasma, LCD, 3D, LED and lastly OLED. All of these are just different technologies that are used to create the Flat Screen appearance and they each have their own strengths and weaknesses. To help you understand these strengths and weaknesses we have compiled a brief synopsis of each one.
Plasma TV's or Plasma Screens are the most associated with the term Flat Screen TV as they were the first of the technologies to make it into the mass market. They work by utilising tiny gas cells to illuminate the picture. This means that picture is 'lit' at once rather than scanned across the screen as is the case with traditional TV's. As a result Plasma TV's offer a sharper image and can deal with different contrast levels on screen very well. Another benefit of how Plasma screens work is that they handle fast moving action such as a sports broadcast far better than the other Flat Screen technologies. It also provides better colour reproduction and deeper black levels and therefore can be viewed in any light as well as at different distances and viewing angles. So combining better motion tracking, with higher contrast ratio's and more accurate colour rendering means that Plasma TV's offer a superb picture whatever you're watching.
The disadvantages of this technology are that they can be susceptible to screen burn, whereby if you watch thousands of hours of the same TV channel continuously then you may notice very slightly the appearance of static image like a logo when you change channel. To be honest most Plasma screens don't suffer from this issue any more and even then to make it an issue you would have to watch a ridiculous number of hours of the same TV channel. Plasma also tend to run a little hot and as a result use fans for cooling and therefore can be little noisy. But all in all the issues with Plasma screen are fairly trivial & should not be a factor of concern when choosing your TV set.
One last thing to consider is that Plasma TV's generally cover the larger screen sizes and therefore are more suitable for a larger room. Plasma screens start at 42" and go all the way up to 100".
Though LCD screen technology has been around since the 60's it only made its way into the TV mass market at the turn of the millenium. Initially restricted to small screen sizes and with issues of ghosting and problems with duplicating black levels, LCD TV's struggled in comparison to Plasma Screens. Since then LCD technology has improved massively and now it is more than an addequate rival to Plasma TV's.
Firstly LCD is the most preferred TV technology by all the major manufacturers. While LCD TV's are produced by all the manufacturers, only Panasonic, Samsung & LG are left in the Plasma market. LCD means liquid crystal display and each pixel is controlled by tiny liquid crystal cells. This means LCD's can produce a wider colour pallet plus increased brightness, resulting in an image which is more vibrant than it's rival. LCD's are also just as effective in providing detailed pictures when faced with bright sunlight room or reflection from artificial light. While LCD's can still struggle very slightly with acheiving accurate blacks and quick motion most of the latest generation of screens have overcome this after a great deal of research and investment. For example Sony's Motionflow technology deals with the issue of fast moving action by quadroupling the frame rate to leave you with smooth sharp images.
LCD TV's are available in much wider screen sizes currently starting at 15" to 60". They are also lighter and consume less power making them the UK's most popular Tv type.
One of the ways LCD TV's have been rejuvenated is through the use of LED technology. By using LED to create the backlight LCD TV's have overcome perhaps it's main achilles heel, that of black reproduction. It now means that LCD/LED hybrid is a match for Plasma screens when dealing with contrast ratio and dark colour reproduction. These new screens combine all the advantages of traditional LCD TV's with almost none of the downsides. However this new hybrid technology has caused some confusion with many manufacturers simply labelling it as LED TV when it is in fact a combination of the two.
LED TV's are generally found in the higher end models from each manufacturer and as such are usually in the larger screen sizes.
This latest technology has yet to break into the mainstream market but is the future course of televison. OLED stands for Organic Light Emitting Diode and it is the successor to LED technology. Creating a vivid more responsive picture courtesy of higher contrast ratios, better colour reproduction and easier handling of fast motion. And all of this is combined in the thinnest possible screen.
While OLED may well prove to be the future of Television at the moment with screen size of no more than 20" and prices over £2500 they are some way from becoming adopted en masse.
The newest innovation in TV technology has been the introduction of 3D TV. This new format is available in Plasma, LCD & LED TV's and transforms the picture from standard 2D setting to a 3 dimensional quality. 3D TV works by adding depth to the image to create the impression that you're viewing a 3 dimensional image. To view the 3D effect you have to wear specially optomised glasses, which are supplied with most 3D TV's. Although you can also purchase additional sets.
And with more and more programming being shot in 3D including blockbuster movies such as Avatar & Toy Story 3 there is plenty of viewing options for your 3D TV set. Also it is important to note that you can watch standard 2D TV programmes on a 3D TV.
While that deals with the principle TV formats there is plenty more to understand about Television including High Definition and Digital TV services, Which we cover in the next section.
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