Posted on Nov 4, 2011 in Home & Living, Tech & internet
I’m interested in replacing my ancient TV, but I have no idea what this new stuff is. Plasma, LCD, LED — what’s the difference? It’s all Greek to me.
So you’re still rocking that 27″ CRT that you thought was so hot back in 1999 ,and you realize that it might be time to catch up to the current decade. Or maybe you’re so sick of all those little tickers being illegible from the couch because, every single show on TV these days is designed for large-scale, HDTV sets.
Unfortunately, you haven’t shopped for a television since Clinton was in the White House, and you have no idea about current technology. That’s okay! Just sit back, relax, and read along.
Since all of the TV types you are asking about are flat panel technology, I’m going to stick to those for the sake of keeping this even moderately simple. Yes, rear-projection TVs are still out there, and they have their own pros and cons, but we’ll restrict ourselves to what you’ve already asked about. Having said that, here we go.
A plasma screen is comprised of thousands of tiny gas-filled cells sandwiched between two glass plates, along with some electrodes, dielectric material, and a couple protective layers to keep you from crushing the whole mess. When the gas is charged by the electrodes, it is ionized (or turned into plasma, hence the name) and emits ultraviolet light, which illumninates a phosphor material inside the cell. This is a really fancy way of saying it’s a “highly-advanced neon sign.”
An LCD, or Liquid Crystal Display, is somewhat similar in that stuff is sandwiched between two plates of glass and some electrodes. In this case, instead of gas, it’s liquid crystals. There are also two polarizing filters as part of the basic construction. When electricity is applied, the crystals align themselves to allow certain amounts of light through, of a certain color. The big difference here is that LCDs require a form of backlight, as the crystals do not generate light of their own. In most cases, it is a form of fluorescent light, however recently LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) have become common backlights, as they are more compact and far more energy efficient. Thus, an LED TV isn’t really a separate technology, merely a subset of the LCD. We’ll talk about the pros and cons of the LED separately. Here’s the breakdown for the LCD:
As discussed above, LED TVs are not technically a different technology but are LCD TVs that use a different backlight technology. Having said that, they certainly have their own advantages and disadvantages, so let’s take a look:
What you really need to do is go to the store and actually spend some time looking at the different TVs. For a little bit, don’t worry about specs or type or even price. Pick out a few favorites. Then, using the pros and cons I’ve listed here, compare. Weed out the ones that are too much, the ones that don’t meet your criteria, and so on. No one says you have to buy from that store — you’re just test driving. But don’t just read this and go “oh I must go buy the most expensive TV in the size I want, because it must be the best.” It might not be. Take your time. The truth of the matter is, after your house and your car, this might be one of the bigger investments you make, and you’re going to spend the next ten years or so watching it, so pick one you like.
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