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Plasma Television Purchasing Advice

Plasma TV's can provide the best picture quality available today, and the fables about limited life, gas leakage, and damage from laying them flat are not true.  The last generations of Pioneer plasma display panels were rated to maintain at least 50% brightness for 80,000 hours.  If you watch 8 hours a day, that's still 27 years!  Plasma is the favorite technology for home theaters and for the dealers who install them.  Pioneer made the best but, unfortunately, quit making TV's in early 2010.

LCD and LED flat-panel TV's can have brighter pictures than plasma, so customers who compare them side-by-side in a brightly lit store are often seduced by the flashier LCD picture.  Unfortunately, a blindingly bright picture is not what you want in a normal living room.  The more realistic picture from the plasma set will look much more pleasing.

Be aware that many of the cheaper plasma TV's are still being sold with 768 line displays, instead of the current 1080 line High Definition standard.  Sometimes, these have been sold as "720p" TV's, which they are not.  The original plasma TV's were designed with the 1024 x 768 XGA standard in order to interface with computers for use in electronic signage, such as airport arrival and departure information boards, and the manufacturers have continued to produce these plasma panels for consumer sales, although they do not give picture quality as good as a true 1080 line set, or even a true 720p TV.  Any TV with a 1080 line display will say "1080p," "Full High Definition," "True High Definition," or similar wording right on its box.

Also, don't be swayed by the claims of 600Hz plasma TV's.  Plasma pixels can only be on or off.  To get shades of brightness, all plasma TV's turn each pixel on or off 8 or more times, or subframes, per frame.  60Hz x 8 = 480Hz, giving 256 levels of brightness; 60Hz x 10 = 600Hz, or 1024 levels of brightness.  Either way, you only get 60 frames per second.  "600Hz" sounds better than "480Hz," until you realize that no video sources exist that supply more than 256 levels of brightness.  Fortunately, plasma pixels turn on and off so fast that they don't need the higher frame rates used on LCD and LED TV's.

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Currently, the best brand of plasma TV is Panasonic, followed by Samsung and LG.