Pros and Cons of LCD, Plasma and CRT

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The different technologies – Cathode Ray, LED and Plasma – all have their advantages and disadvantages. It does help to know beforehand and then decide what is the right device for you. We are here to help with a decision.

Before we look at the modern systems lets try and figure out what was wrong with the good old Cathode ray tube. And be warned; this might come as a surprise.

CRT: The biggest advantages of the old system are surprisingly enough picture quality and viewing angle. Both are unsurpassed by any of the other systems. CRT manage to display proper black for example which is a lot more difficult than you might think.

Also, CRT are very cheap and reliable. The only real disadvantages are size and weight. CRTs are bulky and quite heavy in comparison. With the latest models the size issue was addressed but they will never be as slim as an LCD or Plasma. They are still suitable for small screens but you will hardly find them above 22″.

Let’s agree then that for 16:9 widescreen, where size really does matter they are not suitable. Let’s look at LCD and Plasmas then.

Comparison LCD and Plasma televisions

Viewing Angle

The Plasma beats the LCD but only about just. With modern devices the angle is 178° to 175°. That isn’t much of a difference BUT as a rule: Plasmas are slightly better when it comes to higher viewing angles.

LCDs initially were designed as computer screens where a user sits in front of the screen. They have improved since but still suffer a little bit from this original concept. The best picture you will get when sitting more or less in front of the TV. There you will get the brightest picture with the highest contrast. For most people this is not a problem.

Refresh Rates

Plasma wins; again and for the same reason. LCDs weren’t designed for moving but rather for static pictures. Refresh rates since have improved to a point where you will hardly notice the difference but when compared to a CRT then Plasma is the closest thing.


A big screen is a bit of an investment so what is the average lifespan of these devices? There is good news. Both system last for 30.000 to 60.000 hours. That is considerably higher than a CRT. With Plasma you do have to be a little more careful though. Static pictures can produce burn-ins. LCD’s don’t suffer from burn ins but that doesn’t mean ghost pictures cannot occur. With LCD it is called retained pixel charge. Generally speaking; you don’t have to worry about it. There is some bad news though. Plasmas have a reputation of being a bit fragile. Shipping is therefore tricky and they should best be installed by a professional. LCDs are not that sensitive. Both should be treated with care though.

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This is where the LCD takes the lead. Plasmas are considerably more heavy. This has an effect on wall mounts for example and transport. Since you probably don’t transport them very often it is not a big deal.

Picture quality

Here it gets tricky. In theory a Plasma television will deliver a better picture simply because of brightness and contrast. Plasmas are better at creating black for the simple reason that LCDs are backlit. In order for them to create black light must be blocked. Plasmas with their individual pixels can produce black by switching off the pixel. Plasmas television have a problem though. They best work in the dark. Under normal condition – so when you are not exactly having ambient light in your living room – the LC might look better simply because it’s screen surface doesn’t reflect as much light as a Plasma. With a Plasma you may have the problem that the reflecting screen makes it difficult to see anything. You basically cannot use it opposite a window.

Running costs

The allegedly biggest disadvantage of a Plasma is its power consumption. It is considerably higher than of an LCD; or so they say. Independent tests showed that it actually depends on the manufacturer and on how one uses it. Dark pictures require less energy than very bright ones. Resolution is another factor. A low resolution plasma apparently doesn’t use any more energy than a similar sized LCD.

A real breakthrough are LCD with LED technology. They reduce the energy costs significantly. More about this relatively new technology you can find here: LED Televisions