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What is the Difference Between Plasma and LED?

By Edited Mar 25, 2016 2 0
LED or Plasma
Credit: mjpyro

The are two major types of tv technology currently available for purchase. You have the choice between the newest LED televisions, or you can opt for the traditional plasma television.

If you are wondering why I did not include LCD televisions, the reason is that they are simply LED televisions that are backlit by an older technology called cold-cathode fluorescent lights (CCFLs),  but they are on their way out. In fact, the only ones that are still available for purchase are those from the lower end manufacturers.

For the last several years, all of those Door Buster televisions have been mostly LCDs. As LEDs become cheaper, they will disappear altogether.

Plasmas and LED use different technologies to bring the picture to a television and both have their pros and cons which I will discuss.


Plasmas are the oldest of the technologies for flat screens but still one of the best. Early on, they developed a reputation for something called the "burn-in effect", where ghost images of previous logos or other items would remain.[1]

You had to be very careful with pausing DVDs or live television of more than a few minutes, or watching a lot of channels that have the eternal crawl of news updates or stock tickers at the bottom.

However, that issue has all but been resolved with more recent models in the last several years with features like a screen saver if an image is paused for a configurable amount of time. You would have to intentionally want to cause the burn-in issue now on a plasma television.

Plasmas utilize small cells containing electrically charged ionized gases separated by a narrow gap filled and sealed with neon xenon gas.[1] When the plasma tv is used, the gas is charged then strikes red, green, and blue phosphors which produces an image on the television.[1]

While many still prefer the overall picture quality of plasma, the technology appears to be on its way out as more and more manufacturers stop making them.

Currently, there are the only four manufacturers that still produce plasma televisions.  Panasonic dropped out of the market in early 2014 which is unfortunate because they have long been the preferred choice among serious tv watchers for plasma makers.[2]

However, if you are looking for a plasma, a quick search by plasma on Amazon shows tvs from LG, Samsung, Vizio and Seiki.

What is the Difference Between Plasma and LED?
Credit: mjpyro


  • High resolution, excellent quality
  • Higher refresh rate good for action and fast scenes
  • Vibrant colors with deeper blacks and excellent contrast ratios
  • Able to view from any angle without losing quality
  • Great for dark home theater or man cave settings


  • Use more energy that LED tvs
  • Run hotter than other television technologies so they should not be put in cabinets which trap heat
  • Use more power than LCDs and can add $$ to your electric bill
  • Picture loses quality and become washed out in bright rooms with a lot of windows
  • Must be kept upright when transporting to avoid damage

Light Emitting Diode (LED)

An LED tv is just an LCD display that uses light emitting diodes to backlight the picture. In can easily spot an LED tv over an older LCD in store like Best Buy because the LEDs are noticeably brighter. However, brightness is sort of a gimmick stores use to grab our attention and does not always equate to better picture quality.

The technology that was used by LCD television had trouble with contrasting the colors white and black white whites. However, that is much improved in the new LED tvs.  The difference in picture quality between LED and Plasma is largely a wash at this point if you get a quality LED television from a reputable manufacturer.

However, if you have a room that has a lot of light coming in from windows, then you should go with an LED television. Over the last several years, they have dropped significantly in price and will continue to do so as the next generation organic light-emitting diodes (OLED) tvs drop in price.


Best Features of LED TVs

What is the Difference Between Plasma and LED?
Credit: Amazon.com


  • Thinner and lighter than plasmas allowing for a sleeker profile on the wall
  • More energy efficient than plasmas
  • Superior picture quality over LCD tvs
  • Non-reflective, anti-glare screen
  • Virtually no burn-in risk
  • Better for cabinets and enclosed tv stands because they do not produce heat


  • More expensive than plasma, but prices are dropping fast
  • Side and up or down angles negatively affect the quality of the image
  • Suffer from motion blur at low refresh rates although the technology is rapidly improving
  • Low quality speakers because of their thinness
VIZIO E500i-B1 50-Inch 1080p Smart LED TV (2014 Model)
Amazon Price: $599.99 Buy Now
(price as of Mar 25, 2016)

Final Thoughts

Plasma or LED tv?
Credit: mjpyro

I own an LCD and a 60 inch Panasonic plasma. I love my plasma and have never noticed any issues with it. It reproduces excellent color and Blu-Ray discs look great. It also has the built-in apps that runs programs like Netflix and Hulu Plus from the menu.

The quality and color gap between LCD, LED and plasma TVs is closing and the next generation OLED tvs that appeared at the end of 2013 offer better color and motion representation to the masses in a much thinner and lighter design.

However, at this point, the price places them out of the reach of the average middle class American, but they will come down over the next several years just as the other technologies did.

If you are on the fence over whether to buy an LED or a plasma right now, I would consider how much natural light the room has entering from windows as the primary consideration at this point. Plasmas look faded out in bright sunlight so I would go with a large LED television.

You might want to wait another year if you can squeeze a little more life out of your current set. Prices for OLED will plummet at some point and lower OLED prices will also mean lower LED prices as well.



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  1. "How Plasma Displays Work." How Stuff Works. 25/12/2014 <Web >
  2. "Slate." You Won't Be Able to Buy the TVs With the Best Picture Quality Anymore. 25/12/2014 <Web >

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