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Are Plasma TVs the Next BetaMax? 514

Lev13than writes "An article in the Toronto Star questions whether the battle between LCD and Plasma is the next VHS vs. Beta: "LCD is now in plasma country, and this means war — a war some say plasma can't hope to win". Rationale for LCD's victory include plasma's burn-in vs. LCD's ruggedness, improved images and falling prices. While the Beta analogy isn't particularly helpful (since both technologies play the same content), the article does raise interesting points."
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Are Plasma TVs the Next BetaMax?

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  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <> on Sunday August 20, 2006 @12:09PM (#15944244) Journal
    Of the currently commercial available technologies, I'd predict that DLP will be the long-term winner.
  • by Simon (S2) ( 600188 ) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @12:09PM (#15944245) Homepage
    It costs less than a plasma or LCD, has no Burn in, needs less electricity and works great. I've choosen the Sony KDF-E50A11, and i've never looked back. The only downside is that every 6000 hours i have to change the lamp, which costs about 180,00$.

    (This is not a commercial, i'm just a happy customer :))
  • by EulerX07 ( 314098 ) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @12:27PM (#15944308)
    Personally, I expect SED to win over the high-end because it shares the strenght of CRT televisions with the large screen size and small form factor of LCD/Plasma. The middle-end should be split between LCD and the better DLP projections, while the low-end will be the cheap DLP projections and whoever can put out the smaller tvs for the best price (read: who gets the walmart account).

    Anyways, they should have at least mentioned it to make their story complete from a 2006/2007 point of view.

  • by namityadav ( 989838 ) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @12:27PM (#15944310)
    .. when I started my hunt for a HDTV. But TVs in my budget had a huge difference in PQ between LCDs and Plasmas (With Plasmas being the clear winners). So I ended up buying a plasma. I think that for now (And for near future), plasmas are still going to have the best PQ. And don't forget the status symbol that plasmas are. If Joe has heard about HDTVs, he'd want to buy a plasma because (a) For a lot of people, an HDTV means plasma (Others are look-alikes), and (b) PQ in a plasma makes him see the difference between SDTV and HDTV even from up-close. Not so much with LCDs and DLPs, and (c) He knows that if he buys a 'Plasma', he'll get a 'Whoaaaa !!!' from his friends. But just an 'Eh!' if he bought anything else. Eventually, LCDs will evolve to plasma quality and will get cheaper. At the same time LCDs will have lesser issues, better resolution, less power consumption, longer life and lighter weight. So people will start moving for them. But looking at the slow pace of evolution in this field, I don't see that happening very soon (At least a couple of years). DLPs and its sisters are just stop-gaps. These technologies are not going to stay for long. LCDs will eat every other technology for lunch as soon as it becomes affordable.
  • by non-sequitur ( 179054 ) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @12:31PM (#15944319)
    I suppose I don't like to see judgement until all the evidence is in, and I think it's very difficult to get a balanced view on anything noawadays - including things that seem very straightfroward.

    I have a Sony CRT-based HDTV, and I really would love a flat-panel big screen. I think right now I'd favor LCD, but that preference is partly based on hearsay about Plasma (supposedly high power and supposedly short life), not direct experience.

    I have had direct experience with LCD, and I love it - except for the uneven fading of the CCFL backlights (maybe LED would improve this?), and the poor image quality when viewing non-native resolutions (which is improving with newer technology, and is mainly a problem only with PCs or SDTV).

    I haven't really warmed up to DLP - poor off-angle viewing and relatively dim image - but I can see the economy in it.

    So, I'm torn - each have strengths and weaknesses, but I'd hate to see one drop out simply because some information wasn't brought up.

    I imagine if people knew that Betamax was capable of better image quality without breaking backward-compatibiltiy, it might have trumped VHS (okay, there was also the closed-source problem, and the legendary porn industry influence).
  • by non-sequitur ( 179054 ) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @12:37PM (#15944337)
    I wouldn't hold my breath - manufacturers always prefer that you replace the whole appliance, unless they can reap both higher gross and higher margins from replacements.

    Replacing the CCFL backlight is not cheap for a laptop - how can it be cheap enough for a 42' or bigger screen?

    Even if it was easy to swap out, the margin must be high for the manufacturer to benefit, so the savings would not be passed on to the customer.

    let's hope I'm mistaken....
  • by Jeremi ( 14640 ) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @12:39PM (#15944344) Homepage
    And when they do, they're prohibitively expensive to replace.

    True... I wonder why some manufacturer doesn't make an LCD display with an easily replaceable backlight(*). I'd pay extra for a display if I knew I wouldn't have to throw it away in a few years.

    (*) Actually, I have some ideas as to why, but they are too cynical to be worth repeating here

  • by Bertie ( 87778 ) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @12:40PM (#15944348)
    Neither plasma nor LCD are good enough to persuade me to part with my cash. Why should I pay about twice as much as I would for a CRT when the quality's not as good? Plasma's got the burn-in problem, and the power consumption's colossal. LCD screens can't do proper black. Neither cope well with anything but their native resolution, and both completely fall to pieces when there's any kind of fast action on the screen.

    The way I see it, they're both stopgap technologies that are persuading impatient people to part with their cash until they can iron the creases out of SED or OLED technology and get them production-ready.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 20, 2006 @12:42PM (#15944355)
    Early in the development of the automobile it wasn't obvious what kind of power plant would prevail. Electric cars were a good deal more civilized than gas or diesel ones. Steam was a better understood technology and had the edge as far as development went.

    Once the electric starter and automatic spark advance were developed, the contest was over.

    Plasma might become better with more development but I don't think it will get the chance.
  • That's a good thing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @12:44PM (#15944362)
    for the TV industry, sell a product that needs replacing every few years. Worked for bike racks. Yakima and Thule used to sell racks so durable they were only replaced when someone bought a new car and you couldn't buy compatible roof clips. Nowadays critical components are made of cheap plastic that'll wear out in a few years (and good luck buying just the components). I gather it works well for cars too. What's annoying is all the landfills full of busted consumer goods. I mean, would it really be that hard to design these things to be repairable? Probably no more so than making a refillable ink cartridge.
  • by bsane ( 148894 ) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @12:47PM (#15944375)
    the margin must be high for the manufacturer to benefit, so the savings would not be passed on to the customer.

    I have no idea whether or not swapping out the backlight is feasable, but your wrong about the economics.

    If it can be done someone will probably offer it. If its seen as a benifit then it will be sought after by the consumer, and non-replacable LCDs sales will fall.

    There is plenty of competition in the TV market and there is no mega-corp making decisions about whats available and whats not (other than the MPAA and the broadcast flag :-) ).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 20, 2006 @12:50PM (#15944387)
    They do have burn in, a more permanent type of burn in. I have a rear-projection TV and the manual indicates that in order to avoid burn-in, it should not be used with video game or computer systems for extended periods of time. way-remove-burn/ [] has a bit of discussion about burn-in on rear-projection tv's.
  • Re:Awful Quality (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ilgaz ( 86384 ) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @12:55PM (#15944399) Homepage
    I own a Samsung 19" CRT monitor which works perfect and because of same reason as yours I really hope CRT doesn't become unavailable when it dies. I have even thought about a secondary (or primary) 21" CRT additionally. It is really hard to figure why would one buy a LCD display while he/she has lots of space to spare at home. LCD display/monitor just became fashion, it was intended for offices where space matters. A bank accountant can live without "pure white" of course.

    However there is an easy way to figure if LCD/Plasma finally reaches to colour correctness of CRT. Those "set photos" from Holywood. If you see Holywood finally switches to LCD from the classic, amazing quality small Sony CRT monitors, it is time to think about LCD or plasma as an option.

    Plasma is good for large HDTV home displays. E.g. 42" , 50"'. It is not very clever to have a 50" CRT you know and if you project it (back projector even) you need to have a dark place all the time.

    If anyone buys one of those monsters, make sure they are at least "720p" (HDTV) btw. I have seen some PAL/NTSC Plasma/LCD with cheap prices. They are NOT cheap, you will figure it in 3 years when HD becomes common and you watch excellent HD programs on NTSC or PAL resolution by seperately purchasing HDMI adapter.

    You know what would really kill both LCD and Plasma? If this stupid BluRay vs HD-DVD war ends with no winner. E.g. no $120 BluRay or HD-DVD player device ships.

  • Re:Awful Quality (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tomhudson ( 43916 ) <> on Sunday August 20, 2006 @01:01PM (#15944423) Journal

    No, its because the tech really does suck. The dynamic range is poor compared to a crt. That's why you'll almost always see them demoing with animated movies,or scenes with large areas of similar colurs.

    The same people who think LCD and plasma displays look great don't notice the annoying artifacts in satellite tv broadcasts either.

  • by non-sequitur ( 179054 ) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @01:05PM (#15944435)
    You may be right - we won't know for a while.

    I agree it CAN be done, but don't forget that to replace it will not require both a manufacturer (of the backlight), a cooperative TV manufacturer, and most likely a competant installer.

    #1 - The backlight manufacturer wants to profit from the market. The backlight manufacturer may be the most motivated in this scenario. It's possible that the TV manufacturer may be the middleman, but that's going to drive the price up even more.

    #2 - The TV manufacturer will need to design the panel to be easily disassembled. This doesn't come for free. Extra parts, hinges, snaps, fasteners, stiffeners, connectors - whatever. It's almost never going to be as cheap as an integrated part.

    #3 - The consumer may be able to install the backlight, but more likely (due to the size and fragility), the consumer will have to have a competant installer do it. Most likely as a hou$e-call.

    I'm being overly cynical, and maybe I'm wrong...
  • Re:Not true HDTV... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gatzke ( 2977 ) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @01:27PM (#15944520) Homepage Journal

    720p and 1080i at the same frame rate are about the same amount of information / s. 720p is actually a bit more than 1080i even though 1080i results in a higher resolution (although half the image is displayed per pass). The argument is 720p is better for fast stuff (sports) while 1080i is better for other stuff.

    With the right processing, you can interpolate the 1080i to 1080p nicely, I think.

    I personally like high res stuff, so I am holding out for 1080p capable display. There are some nice LCDs for less than $2k right now, but plasma is very spendy in 1080p.

    I have a 2650x1600 LDC by Dell at work. Now that is a sweet machine. No 1600p video out there that I know of...
  • by ThePhilips ( 752041 ) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @01:28PM (#15944522) Homepage Journal
    I'm torn - each have strengths and weaknesses

    In situations like that I go to shop and buy first thing I like.

    It's pointless to worry about future problems. Solve problems when they come: burned out plasma or dimmed back light both are not lethal to human life ;-)

    I sort'a can relate to your problems. I'm going to buy TV that autumn. And most likely it would LCD: prices are now start at €800 for 32". Since I haven't found decent review I would just buy cheapest one of my preferred brands - Philips or Panasonic. And then will face the music.

    P.S. Honestly I more worried about that "HD-ready" v. "HDMI" thing. It's kind'a scary to have thing at home you do not control. In VHS time, I successfully avoided that braindamaged Macrovision, but now with HD it seems that I have not much choices left.

  • by Ethan Allison ( 904983 ) * <> on Sunday August 20, 2006 @02:09PM (#15944696) Homepage
    If you watch TV for 8 hours a day, the lamp only burns out every two years. With what people are saying, at least being able to replace the lamp (i.e. in an LCD) would be a viable option.
  • by nick_davison ( 217681 ) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @02:16PM (#15944726)
    No, your CRT is like having eyes...

    There's a reason CNET use Sony's 34XBR960 was selected by them to use as the reference to judge all other HDTVs (plasma, LCD, DLP, etc.) against.

    Sure, it's the size of a typical european car and weighs about the same but, for picture quality, there's a reason why most stores quietly moved it away from the much higher markup flat pannels they'd rather still be able to sell.

    Granted, the follow on model (34XBR970) actually dropped picture quality (from 1440 horizontal scan lines to something like 1100) to get set reliability up. The point still remains: For reference picture quality, people still seem to be picking CRT after a decade of promises about the latest flat pannel having the greatest ever picture.

    It's true the average consumer doesn't see that. Then again, they're remembering their $199 CRT of yesteryear and comparing it to a $1,999 flat pannel. Compare the budget end of any line, even an overall superior one, to a line that barely has a budget line and typical models cost ten times as much as the other's budget end and, sure, it'll give you a skewed result.
  • by courtarro ( 786894 ) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @02:28PM (#15944756) Homepage

    You can pry my CRT out of my cold, dead hands. If I have to lift weights to maintain the ability to move my 21" Sony tube, then I'll gladly do it. I'll continue hoping that companies will invest a lot in SED [], since it has the potential to show the best of both worlds. Until then, I lament that Sony has discontinued their Trinitron tubes and hope that my current one will last until SED is viable.

    I work for the newspaper for my uni where we have an office full of Dell LCD screens, except for the photo editor. He uses two large Dell CRTs (which have Sony tubes in them) for his photo editing because the LCDs just can't approach the color representation. This whole Plasma v. LCD v. DLP battle bores me as someone who values the color and contrast of a CRT, and worries me that people have forgotten what is so great about CRTs. Who cares if my 32" TV weighs 100 lbs? It's worth it in a home theater.

    I'm primarily afraid that any pro-CRT views will soon be relegated to the same class of people who insist that LPs have better quality than CDs. The other /.ers who love CRTs will be the ones sitting in the back of the room when we're well into our years, saying "Back in my day, TVs weighed 500lbs, and they looked better too! Whippersnapper!". That, and I'm only 23.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 20, 2006 @03:01PM (#15944847)
    Let's calculate:

    3000 * 0.05 = 150 ($150 dollars per bulb replacement)
    3000 / 24 = 125. If you were watching your projector for 24 hours straight, it would last you 125 days. That means, that you would have to replace your bulb at least twice a year.

    Let's add it up:

    800 + 250 = 1050 in the first year. Then, 250 each year afterwards providing the price does not go up.

    If on average one would spend about $3,500 for a plasma TV, you might be a little bit off better. However, remember, plasma TVs dropped in price dramatically. I purchased mine about three years ago and for what I paid then, I could purchase a nice, 52" plasma today.

    BTW, when you watch HD, LCD TV doesn't come even close to plasma (I know, I have both).
  • Power consumption (Score:2, Interesting)

    by OriginalArlen ( 726444 ) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @03:08PM (#15944869)
    I haven't seen anyone else point out the difference in power consumption. LCDs are much more frugal. You may not think it a big deal now, but wait the real cost of oil trickles down to your household electricity bill.

    We just got a quarterly bill for 70 quid -- this time last year it was over 300 -- the difference being (a) solar water heating, and (b) pointing out to the other inhabitants that a TV on standby burns a /lot/ of current just to power the LED (and similar injunctions about not overfilling kettles, not washing up every plate as soon as it's used but doing it all in one batch in the evening, and so on.

    About the only easy-to-reach economising measure will be upgrading the three remaining CRT screens (TV, two monitors) to LCD... when the TV gets upgraded (presumably to a nice hi-def widescreen display), it's not going to be a plasma screen.

    Note that none of this stuff is really affecting our lifestyle, and we're using a LOT less electricity. Somewhere down the line, that means less CO2 in the atmosphere.

  • by Rande ( 255599 ) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @03:35PM (#15944948) Homepage
    I've got a Sanyo DLP projector, which has an auto bulb kill at 2500 hours. However, once I did the reset sequence to tell it that I'd put in a new bulb (even though I hadn't), it came back and is still running 3500+ hours later.
    I suspect that I'll just buy a new projector than replace the bulb - an equivalent new projector would only cost 50% more than the bulb itself.
  • Bad analogy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tlh1005 ( 541240 ) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @04:08PM (#15945048)
    1. I have yet to see an LCD greater than 42 inches which doesn't show motion artifacts while displaying sporting events. 2. LCD black level and contrast level is not as good as plasma. Two points that have a lot to do with overall image quality. I would expect LCD sales to be higher....... LCD comes in much smaller screen sizes which makes it more afordable to the average buyer. I can see more people in the market to spend $1700 or less for a smaller LCD rather than doubling that for a 50 inch plasma. I'm tired of hearing the complaint about burn-in and the life of the plasma screen. Burn-in can happen on ANY television if used imporperly and the life span of the screens have increased greatly by the plasma manufacturers, companies like Panasonic are on the 9th generation + of the technology and I believe the 40K hour quote the article gives should be more like 60k. Even if it was 40k hours, when you do the math that is ~ 14 years of watching television for 8 hours of day, 365 days a year. I'm thinking the majority of us buying either technology at this point aren't thinking these will be our main viewing sets in 14 years. At times this article is just inaccurate. As far as the rest of it goes, all it says to me is that there are different consumers with different needs, but non of it spells the end for plasma.
  • by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @04:12PM (#15945066)
    Anyway, my LCD is actually "silent", and I love it. Unless DLPs become fan-less I'll never buy one again.

    Funny you should say that... Samsung finally shipped their LED-based DLP a few weeks ago. 9w-dlp-with-led-backlight/ []

    I don't know if they have removed the fan altogether, but they have removed the color wheel (one less thing spinning at 10k+ RPM...) and the LEDs generate a LOT less heat than the traditional bulb, so I'd imagine it's effectively silent.

    Going a bit off topic (well, not really, we're talking TVs!) Sony was showing off a prototype SXRD (ie LCoS) TV at CES 2006 that was about a foot deep (they had it hanging on a wall). Combine these innovations in projection TVs (true 1080p DMD/LCoS chips, LED lamps, thin cabinets, etc) and amazingly they may start taking some of the plasma/LCD market segment, ie low footprint HDTVs - especially in the 50"+ range, where there is a huge price advantage for projection TVs.
  • by niceone ( 992278 ) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @05:35PM (#15945342) Journal
    I have a DLP projector too - for me the biggest drawback is the fan noise.
  • Re:flicker (Score:3, Interesting)

    by metamatic ( 202216 ) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @05:54PM (#15945431) Homepage Journal
    I found it wasn't CRTs' flicker I was allergic to; it was the fuzziness of the vertical lines on conventional tubes. I could handle a CRT, but only a Trinitron tube. Anything else would give me a headache inside half an hour.

    This was kinda hard to explain at work, unfortunately. I ended up wandering the halls looking for spare monitors and trying them out until I found one with a Trinitron tube. They were (and still are) too cheap to buy LCDs, but fortunately I've been moved to a laptop now.

    It was also a pain in that I really wanted an iMac at the time when Apple was only selling CRT iMacs. I ended up paying significantly more for a G4, which was hellishly noisy.

    I got rid of the last CRT from the house early this year. Glad to see the back of the damn things.
  • Re:flicker (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Cederic ( 9623 ) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @07:30PM (#15945719) Journal

    Tell them to do some proper TCO calculations on monitors. LCD = less power + less heat (= less aircon) = far cheaper to run. I've worked for two companies now that have (independently) demonstrated cost savings by switching to LCD monitors.

  • by xazos79 ( 931382 ) on Sunday August 20, 2006 @10:05PM (#15946149)
    Not sure if anyone has mentioned anything about the SED displays due out in 2008 that will (and have according to various websites) wipe the floor with plasma and LCD. And are apparently cheaper to mass produce.
  • Why not LED's (Score:4, Interesting)

    by phorm ( 591458 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @01:34AM (#15946726) Journal
    I've always wondered why devices can't use ultra-bright LED's? I'm not sure what the maximum lumens of output an LED can output is, but I've got a multi-LED flashlight that was cheaper, lasts longer on smaller batteries, and shines a whole lot brighter than most of the competing bulb-lights at the same size.

    The LED's themselves are supposed to have a very long life-expentency compared to standard bulbs, likely due to the fact that they don't use a burning filiment or other hot method of producing light.

    Anyone know of good LED-backlit projection units?
  • by Afrosheen ( 42464 ) on Monday August 21, 2006 @03:04AM (#15946933)
    I'll tell you from firsthand experience that LCD is far superior. I bought a 32" Sharp Aquos this year and it rules.

      I looked at a ton of different makes and models for months before settling on this one. Let's see the pros and cons laid out for plasma vs. lcd.

      Plasma: Pros
    1. Relatively cheap at large sizes
    2. Good contrast
    3. Nearly perfect refresh, just like a CRT, so fast moving imagery doesn't ghost
    4. Bright and viewable from all angles

      Plasma: Cons
    1. Eats alot of power and generates a ton of heat. Put your face next to one and it's like standing under a hair dryer.
    2. Image burn-in is *still* a concern
    3. Glass covering screen doubles as a mirror. Very distracting.
    4. Looks really bad close up due to CRT-style pixel gates, can count the columns
    5. Low native resolutions regardless of size. Most 42" and below only do 1024x768 native, which is a 4:3 resolution, so displaying a pc on one guarantees a stupid looking stretched desktop since the screen is actually 16:9 sized.
    6. Fragile and delicate
    7. Supposedly short life

      Now for my friend the LCD.

      LCD: Pros
    1. Proven technology used for computers and other devices for years.
    2. Light and durable, easily moved at nearly any size.
    3. Contrast and black levels have improved dramatically over the last 3 years.
    4. High native resolutions; most screens give you a true 16:9 ratio out of the box with 1366x768 being the standard.
    5. Anti-reflective coated screens ensure that you're watching the movie instead of watching yourself eat popcorn. Similar to laptop and other LCD screens in that respect.
    6. Some models feature user-replaceable backlights (mine does)
    7. Latest screens have very fast (8ms or less) refresh times, no more ghosting or problems watching sports
    8. Save quite a bit of power when compared to CRT or plasma screens

      LCD: Cons
    1. Expensive when you get into 42"+ territory
    2. Can exhibit dead or stuck pixels eventually, sometimes this is user-repairable, sometimes not
    3. Still not 100% 'contrasty' like plasma or CRTs, this is changing though

      So the way I see it, an LCD is the clear winner. All of my clients bought LCD instead of plasma, even though they all tend to be thrifty and save money wherever they can. A trip to a very good home theater store, and you'll see why they (and I) chose LCD over plasma. It really is worth a few extra bucks.
  • The one thing i find truly unbearable about LCD is its inability to run at any resolution besides the actual pixel count of the screen, watching enormous LCD screens take a low res and heavily compressed Sky TV stream and scale it up to fill the available space produces one of the worst television experiences i've ever encountered. Is this kind of problem purely an issue with older LCD flatscreens or would the same issue plague a brand new HDTV ready LCD until all content is available in HD format?

    This is also the reason i don't have an LCD monitor attached to my PC as i don't have the graphics hardware to comfortably drive 3D games at the same resolution i'm likely to want my desktop to run at.

Trap full -- please empty.