3D Plasma TV vs. 3D LCD / LED TV

Another coming battle between these two technologies is brewing. Upon first inspection one might think that plasma and LCD technologies will show 3-D content in much the same way. However, this is not the case as the two technologies are very different in the way the process and display content information.

3D Plasma vs. 3D LCD
Panasonic's VT25 Series 3D Plasma
won multiple awards at CES 2010

One of the main differences between the two which will also have an impact on 3D TV viewing is processing speed. LCD technology has come a long way in attempting to increase processing time (refresh rate) with Hz rates improvements to 120Hz, 240Hz, and now some claim 480Hz (this is a manipulated specification and not true 480Hz. By contrast plasma TV technology has never had an issue with motion blur, and side to side jerky panning and therefore never really had to advertise such superiority since it was the first technology to market in larger size televisions. Now with increased marketing efforts of LCD manufacturers to remove the stigma of slow refresh rates by touting these ever increasing Hz rate figures, plasma technology manufacturers have taken a stab at refresh rate times by somewhat measuring speed of processing; calling it "sub field drive," or "sub field motion technology." Both of the major manufacturers with these specifications put a number on processing speed of 600Hz.

Why does this matter with 3D TV viewing? For the simple reason that LCD TVs will typically not be able to show 3D content in full HDTV 1080p. Through some light math and experimentation, our best estimates come in at about 600 lines of effective resolution capability for a 120Hz LCD HDTV, and 700 to 800 lines of effective resolution for a true 240Hz LCD TV. Plasma technology has the speed to delivery the full 1080 lines of resolution to each eye.

3D Plasma vs. 3D LCD
LG's 9500 series was just one of
many 3D capable LCDs on display

Is this a big problem? Probably not very much since 600 to 800 lines of resolution per eye is still a very high definition. From a practical standpoint it does not bother me initially, especially since most 3D content will initially be animated anyway. However, what may be a bigger differentiator is whether or not there is motion blur, or panning issues with 3D content in LCD 3D TVs. Some of the animated 3D content looked very nice on LCD 3D TVs at CES 2010, while other TV programming did not. My bet is that normal TV programming, and film reproduction does not initially look great, and that animated is excellent.

One other advantage that I believe plasma technology will have in the 3D TV race is depth perception. Plasma starts with an advantage here, as the pixel structure of a plasma cell has always yielded slightly better depth of picture.

I would put black levels between the two at a push if comparing superior model against superior model. Some of the newer LED TVs have very good blacks to compete with plasma.

In brightness and color vibrancy I would give the edge to LCD/LED TVs, while in color rendition and accuracy I give points to plasma TVs.

Overall, I believe plasma will be the most adaptable technology for 3D TV content. Quality varies a lot between brands, and model quality varies within brands. But plasma gets the nod on the whole.

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