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Plasma's, LCD's, and non-glare screens....

F

Fish Chris

Guest
During my search, for my first LCD / Plasma TV, I made an interesting observation. {btw, I am currently thinking of a 37" to 42" inch set... so both LCD and Plasma are an option for me}
I had previously read that while Plasma screens typically had higher brightness ratings, the non-glare screen of most LCD's made them "appear brighter" in real world situations, in which some external light was typical.

....So I'm at my local dealer, where they had about 8 Plasma TV's , and 8 LCD's, all hooked up, but facing the entrance of the store, which was letting in a LOT of direct sunlight ! I got there about an hour before dark, and the LCD's just looked SOOO much better. But as I walked back and forth, reading specs, comparing images, and talking to dealers, the sun went down.

Right before the store was to close, I took one walk back around, and WHOA ! I think somebody must have switched the Plasmas and LCD's around ! (not really ;-) But geez ! Talk about having second thoughts ! Suddenly the plasmas looked much better !

I'm sure this had everything to do with the glare issue of the plasma screens. I did see a couple of the larger, more expensive plasmas online, which talked about having a non-glare screen coating"....

But anyway, what are your thoughts on the issue of Plasma vs. LCD, regarding screen glare issues ?

Curious,
Fish
 

andrewfee

Prominent Member
After owning Plasma, LCD, and LCDs with glossy coatings, I have to say that which is best completely depends on the lighting conditions, and I would make my purchase based on that.

While Plasma is often rated at 1000cd/m2 or higher, that's before all the glass/anti-glare coating etc goes on. In reality, you're maybe going to get 300cd/m2 max out of one. With current LCDs you're going to get at least 500cd/m2.

In a bright room, you cannot beat a matte LCD - you get virtually no reflections whatsoever, and the displays are bright enough to combat even the highest ambient light. If you're going to be watching during the day, especially in a room with a lot of windows, these offer the best picture. They're good with indoor lighting at night, with the latest panels still giving perfect blacks, but not that good in a completely dark room.

LCDs with Glossy screens cope well in high ambient light situations, but you generally have to keep the backlight maxed on very sunny days, and reflections are occassionally an issue. With low levels of ambient light (night with the lights on) they can provide an incredible image, giving a huge amount of depth and richness to the image. The LCDs I've seen that have glossy coats tend to be small though, and don't have nearly as good black levels as the best matte LCDs I've seen - you can't tell this when the lights are on, but in a dark room, they tend to look the worst of the three (my current one has 0.75cd/m2 for black, at least twice as bright as the latest BRAVIAs) as no ambient light stops the glossy coating "working."

All plasmas I've seen (including the 9th gen. Panasonic I had) are crap with high ambient lighting. The image completely loses all contrast, looks dull, and contrast has to be turned right up. (a no-no for plasmas, as you're then risking burn-in/image retention) In a dark room, plasma blacks are superb though - easily as good as a CRT properly calibrated for shadow detail. (around 0.2 cd/m2 with the Panasonic I had) and there's a great amount of depth and richness to the image. Under these conditions, Plasma really begins to shine. However, even turning on the dimmest light (a 9 watt one, in my case) blacks turn grey again. Colour reproduction is still really nice though. It's a toss-up between regular LCDs and Plasma under these conditions - the LCD has far better blacks, but colour reproduction isn't as natural. (that said, I've yet to run a fully calibrated LCD under these conditions other than my glossy Sony LCD - which looks stunning)

I've not done a direct comparison with Plasma at its best and a Glossy LCD at its best, so I can't really say which is better. I will say though, that I prefer not to watch in a pitch-black room most of the time, and that matte LCDs have the least "depth" / three-dimensionality of the displays. (but as I mentioned, they're easily the best in very bright rooms)

EDIT: I should also mention that LCDs look terrible if they are in their "bright room" settings but not actually in a bright room. You need to lower the backlight level to get things looking good again. You can just leave them at a lower level for viewing in a darker room, but then you lose the advantages of being able to see well on a bright day. Many models have a brightness sensor that adjusts the backlight based on the brightness of the room, but the majority I've seen/used don't work very well. They'll get the brightness right in a bright room, but will either go too low, or not low enough in dimmer conditions. (or even worse, not settle on one and keep changing, as I've seen on Samsung displays) I've only had one that I've felt worked well, and it was on the Sony MFM-HT75W, adjusting perfectly to 200cd/m2 in a reasonably bright room (higher if needed) 100cd/m2 in the dark (the ideal level) and everything in-between seemed spot-on too. The BRAVIAs don't seem to be using the same sensor though, and were hopeless. Personally I prefer to get an LCD with a manual control, and power saving options. I found that the BRAVIAs were good because I set the backlight for evening conditions on the "low" power saving setting with the backlight at 5, and then disabling power saving during the day (a one or two button sequence, iirc - very quick/easy) got the right brightness for that.

Note: Sony LCDs are the only ones where I've found you can set the backlight wherever you want and not have them buzz. Most will start buzzing below around 90%, and others, below about 30%. With all Sony LCDs I've used, they're silent no matter what it's set to. (Plasmas are constantly buzzing, just like CRTs)
 

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