Plasma TVs and Burn-In

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 28, 2007

Q: I started talking about plasma and LCD TVs with a man at a local electronics shop and he said that he has heard that by 2010 plasmas will be phased out due to their high cost of repairs. He went on to say that LCDs and DLPs are the wave of the future. If this is true I am glad that I found out before buying one. Your thoughts?

Randy J. Mogle
Homer City, PA

A: The year 2010 is only two and a half years away. It’s too early to say what will happen in the world of televisions.

It is true that plasmas do have high costs of repairs. LCDs also have high costs of repairs and so do CRT TVs. In short, all TVs are expensive to repair! Plasmas do seem to be more repair-prone than other technologies, and there is always the specter of burn-in, where a logo or image can become burned into the screen if you are not careful. Believe me, this CAN happen to you, and I can say it with some authority because besides being the columnist here, burn-in happened to me!

It was one of those things you never thought would happen to you, but it then it does and you feel dumbfounded by it. I have a high end CRT projection TV and recently discovered a very faint burn-in image of the “pause” icon from my DVR, obviously from all the times I paused playback to take a phone call or get a snack. It took a couple of years and it is extremely faint, but now it’s there and to replace the tubes would cost several thousand dollars. The burn-in isn’t visible during most viewing, but when one of the Apple “I’m a Mac/I’m a PC” ads comes on with the white background, the burn-in is apparent. I really love that TV and you can’t buy premium performance CRTs anymore. If you are going to pause your DVR with yout CRT or plasma TV, turn it off after you pause it, then turn it on before you resume playback. It may seem like a bit much to do so every time you pause playback, but I believe the precaution to be worth it.

Plasma is even more susceptible to burn-in than CRT sets are, though some manufacturers have announced technology that is burn-in proof or can reverse the effects of burn-in. I haven’t seen these in action so I cannot comment on them. In the final equation, plasma usually beats LCD handily in picture quality and until that changes, plasma will be around. Major players, like Panasonic, are heavily invested in plasma, as well and they aren’t about to let their investment go to waste.

As for the wave of the future, the more I see of DLP the more I like it. I recently saw Disney-Pixar’s Ratatouille (great movie- go see it!) at a theater featuring DLP Cinema projection. I was pretty much blown away by the sharpness as well as the depth and palette of color. If you are going to see Ratatouille, be sure to find a cinema that has DLP. When I go to the big-box stores to compare sets, it is the DLP models that always seem to stick out with their beautiful colors and sharpness. The prices are very reasonable, and thinner and thinner DLP TVs are being introduced and may one day rival flat panel plasma and LCD.

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