LED TV vs. Plasma TV; 14 Point Comparison - Plasma HDTV vs. LED HDTV
Updated for 2017
New LED backlighting is changing the nature of how we view LCD TV in such a way that we must re-assess the advantages of LED-LCD and Plasma over one another. All LED Televisions contain an LCD display element (front panel). The difference of LED TVs lies in the backlight. Rather than the standard florescent backlighting systems of the past, LED TVs have LED bulbs (light emitting diode) as the backlight for the LCD panel. This has been a godsend for LCD TV manufacturers as it has allowed them to better compete in picture quality against plasma TV technology – eliminating some of the issues that LCD TVs have endured.
For a look at how plasma and LED match up see the following:.
1) Picture Quality
With the new LED backlighting, there have been tremendous improvements in our picture quality ratings of top LCD TVs. Read below to see how plasma and LED compare in the varying divisions of Picture Quality.
This shot shows the fine detail and deep black levels of the Samsung PN64F8500 Plasma TV
Contrast ratio is a measure of the blackest black to the whitest white. Black levels are grouped with contrast because without deep dark black levels contrast ratio levels will be weak. With the new LED backlighting there have been tremendous improvements in black levels and contrast. Plasma achieved very high contrast levels a good while ago.
While manufacturer specifications are overblown, unrealistic and not important to consider when considering contrast, we have been impressed by our own testing of some of the new LED TVs. Plasma displays achieve such impressive black levels by using internal algorithms to block the power to particular pixels in order to render a pixel "dark" or black. While this can limit a plasma television’s gray scaling, it does produce exceptionally black blacks – depending on the manufactured plasma display element (i.e. glass).
LCD (liquid crystal diode) displays, by contrast, utilize electric charges to twist and untwist liquid crystals, which causes them to block light and, hence, emit blacks. LED backlighting gives LCD manufacturers far greater flexibility with tools like local dimming that help to emit deep black levels.
Advantage: Even, though some of the better LED TVs in the market are measuring higher contrast levels, this is primarily coming from higher peak whites from the brilliant LED backlighting. Plasma TVs are still measuring darker black levels which is the more imoprtant measure.
This shot of the top tier LED TV from Samsung really shows off fantastic contrast
Plasma Televisions are still measuring excellent black levels – nearly perfect in some cases. This is the most important measure when considering contrast because colors, and other information on screen appear to pop more and create a more 3-dimensional appearance when black levels are very deep and dark.
Color Accuracy and Realism
In plasma displays, each pixel contains red, green, and blue elements, which work in conjunction to create billions of colors. Insofar as each pixel contains all the elements needed to produce every color in the spectrum, color information was more accurately reproduced with plasma technology than it was with other display technologies. The chromaticity coordinates were more accurate on most plasma displays however lately LED TVs have closed this gap through manipulation of the new backlighting system. Colors can certainly be more vibrant on an LED TV while more subdued on plasma. Both are calibrating well to D6500K – the standard color temperature used in the film industry. When it comes to color, it is now coming down more to preference and room conditions than technological factors. In the end though I believe the colors in a good plasma TV are more realistic, so I give the edge to plasma.
This shot shows excellent blue color saturation in the Panasonic ST60 Plasma TV.
This is one of the biggest areas of improvement for LED TVs aside from Black levels but there is still more room to increase side viewing angle performance. Previously with LCD TVs contrast was drastically reduced when viewing the TV from 30 degrees or more off center. Lately, with some of the better LED TVs we've tested contrast does not begin to degrade significantly until 75 degree off center angle is reached. Plasma TV technology has always been perfect in this area due to each individual pixel being lit.Advantage: Plasma, but LED TVs are getting better.
This is an interesting comparison due to the new 120Hz and 240Hz refresh rate technologies in LED TVs. These faster frame rate conversions were originally presented to reduce motion lag in LCD TVs. But they also do strange things to background information, especially from film based material. Overall, I think LED backlighting has helped LCD TVs a lot in this area. The backlight can be manipulated much easier than can the pixels of a plasma.Advantage: Plasma in a darker room environment.
This is an easy win for LED TVs with super bright light emitting diode backlighting. Some new plasmas have made a dramatic comback in this area though and are giving LED TVs a run for their money in brightness. LED TVs are especially effective in brighter rooms with lots of incoming light from windows for the simple reason that they have brighter peak whites.
Here you see a shot from the Sony KDL-55W900A demonstrates the brightness of color LED lit TVs can achieve
Lots of reviewers harp on this being a huge disadvantage with LED TVs. There are some issues but by keeping the backlight picture setting at a reasonable level (usually turning it down) there is little distraction from the LED lighting being brighter near the edges of the screen. Plasma TVs have no problems with uniformity due to each pixel being lit individually.
2) Functional Considerations
Computer Use and Gaming
Response rate makes a lot of difference in gaming and computer use. LED TVs response time increases to via 120Hz and 240Hz refresh rates are dramatic improvements in this area.
I have always favored LCD technology with computer resolution display. The technology seems to display computer images better.
Advantage: LED TVs are generally better for gaming but it depends on the display. Hz rate is especially important here in choosing and LED TV. Gaming can cause burn in in lower end plasma TVs.
Fast-Moving Video Playback
Due to the 120/240 refresh rates of many new LED TVs, there is much improvement in reducing motion related blur. Plasma displays have always been excellent in this area.
This shot of the European Championships shows good depth, color and light on the Samsung F6400
But something interesting has happened. When viewing sports programming with 120/240Hz refresh rate options turned on, LED TVs display images in a more "in the picture" way. There is more background information coming forward. Foreground images really pop off the screen.
Advantage: Plasma has no problems with fast moving playback but LED TVs have gotten better especially at the higher end.
Both LED TV and Plasma TV manufacturers tout 100,000 avg hours of use.
While both types of TVs can be very attractive, LEDs can have almost no bezel framing thus giving that ultra modern look and super thin design.
Advantage: LED TV
New plasma technologies have been developed over the past few years by top quality manufacturers to combat burn in. They work. In all of our recent tests with plasma we have not developed any image retention in the screen when leaving an image static for an hour or less.
LED TV has no image retention concerns due to the LCD screen technology "twisting crystals".
Advantage: LED TV has no burn in. Plasma has gotten much better.
Power Consumption/Energy Usage
As the planet becomes more green conscious, so do the marketers of TVs. Though there are new energy saving technologies present on both LED and plasma TVs, most will not be used by the consumer due to the simple fact that they reduce the brightness of the picture in a way that makes the picture unattractive. An economical way to extend the life of your TV and save energy is to follow our post calibration picture settings. Also see our article about calibrating your TV.
Advantage: LED TV, though plasmas have improved dramatically, sometimes to their own detriment.
The Panasonic TC-P65ZT60 is the top of the line plasma for 2013/14. As you can see, color rendition, detail, and black levels are all excellent
While plasma TVs easily won this category the last two years the contest is getting closer. LED backlit LCD TVs are becoming dynamic in picture presentation and the larger sizes have been coming down rapidly in price - especially some of the Sharp and Vizio 60 and 70 inch models. Let's compare comparable quality plasma and LED-LCD TVs of various sizes:
Highest End LED-LCD Price:
Samsung UN60ES8000/UN60F8000 60" - $3000
Samsung UN55ES8000/UN55F8000 55" - $2500
LG 55LM9600 55" - $2500
Sony KDL-55HX850 55" - $2400
Second Tier LED-LCD:
Sharp LC-60LE847U 60" - $1800
Samsung UN60ES7500/UN60F7500 60" - $2700
Samsung UN60ES7100/UN60F7100 60" - $2000
Samsung UN55ES7500/UN55F7500 55" - $2197
Samsung UN55ES7100/UN55F7100 55" - $1500
LG 55LM7600/55GA7900 55" - $1500
Sony KDL-55HX750/KDL-55W802A 55" - $1500
Highest End Plasma TV Prices:
Samsung PN60E8000/PN60F8500 60" - $1900
LG 60PM9700 60" - $1800
Panasonic TC-P55VT50 55" - $1999
Second Tier Plasma TVs:
Panasonic TC-P60GT50/TC-P60VT60 60" - $1900
Panasonic TC-P55GT50/TC-P55VT60 55" - $1350
Samsung PN60E7000 (not replaced for 2013) 60" $1600
Samsung PN60E6500 (not replaced for 2013) 60" $1600
LG 60PM6700/LG 60PH6700 60" - $1200
As we can see from the above examples on average there is still a nice discount for quality plasma TVs generally around $300 to $500 in the 55 to 60 inch size range although it changes a lot at extremes.