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Plasma Televisions

Bigger, brighter, sharper and thinner -- these are just a few of the ways to describe the beauty of a flat plasma screen compared to a standard CRT picture. Expensive is another one -- but if you've got the pounds to spare, you can get yourself a gorgeous image slim enough to hang on the wall.  Plasma is especially good for watching movies, since it generally renders blacks and dark scenes much better than an LCD TV. No matter how you slice it, a high definition TV is the cutting edge of the home cinema experience. If plasma is the right kind of screen for you, keep reading to learn more about HDTV.

Pros and Cons

Positives

Negatives

  • Plasma TVs give you more size for the pound; LCD TVs of the same size are more expensive. Your average 42" plasma screen costs the same as a 32" LCD.
  • Plasma tends to have better contrast than LCD.
  • Plasma sets have a larger viewing angle than most LCD sets.
  • Some people prefer the warmer colours of plasma.
  • Plasma isn't exactly a bargain either; even the smallest screens start around £1000, and for a good quality box you'll probably pay over £2000.
  • Plasma TVs are susceptible to burn-in; if you frequently watch a news channel with a ticker, for example, you may find that a ghost of that image is permanently part of your viewing experience.
  • No smaller sets available; you'll be hard-pressed to find one smaller than 40".

How Big?

  • The thinner the plasma screen, the fatter the bill.
  • The smallest available flat-screen plasmas are 32" , but you can go as big as 63". Flat panel televisions smaller than 32" are LCD TVs.
  • You need at least 7 feet (a little more than two metres) of viewing distance for anything larger than 32".
  • If your living room is big enough to provide at least 12 feet (3.6 m) of viewing space, you can upgrade to a 42" .
  • For 63"  TVs you need a minimum of 15 feet (4.6 m) between you and your plasma screen.

HDTV

Here are a few things you should know about HDTVs in general.

  • HDTV is broadcast in 16:9 NTSC aspect ratio, better known as widescreen.
    • Analogue TV is broadcast in 4:3, the standard "square" TV shape.
  • Most large HDTVs come with built-in tuners. These are labeled as integrated HDTVs .
  • Not all HDTVs come with built-in tuners. Models without integrated tuners are called "HD-ready ". That means that they can receive digitally broadcast programming once you buy an additional tuner . Satellite over HD-ready TV requires a special receiver  or cable box .
  • Any HDTV set will also be able to display analogue broadcasts, but the reverse is not true.
  • Digital broadcasts won't be nationwide until at least 2010, but at that point the analogue broadcasts will be shut off.
  • Sky's HD service should begin within the next year; we'll also start to see more Blu-Ray and HD-DVD products soon. The difference between these HD formats and standard DVD formats should be astonishing.

Resolution

  • HDTV is all about better resolution, but not all HDTVs have the same resolution.
  • Resolution is usually expressed with a single number, which actually corresponds to the vertical resolution.
    • Vertical resolution is how many horizontal lines of information can appear on the screen.
  • This number is usually followed by a letter, p or i, which describes how lines are scanned, or "painted," on the screen.
    • "i" refers to "interlaced scanning" - this means that the odd-numbered lines are "painted" first, then the even-numbered lines are filled in.
    • "p" refers to "progressive scanning," also known as "sequential scanning" - all lines are "repainted" every 1/60th of a second.
    • Progressive scanning is generally considered far superior - between two broadcasts with a resolution of 480, the one in 480p will look clearer and more film-like than the 480i.
    • Progressive scanning is also better because there is less flickering with added stability.
  • There are four main resolutions broadcast today:
    • Analog
      • Standard TV broadcasts have resolutions of 480i or less.
      • Broadcast in 4:3 aspect ratio (standard "square" TV ratio).
    • Enhanced Definition (EDTV)
      • Mainly available in plasma right now.
      • ED is 480p -- the resolution equivalent to DVD movies.
    • 1080i High Definition
      • The most common HD resolution -- 1920 x 1080.
      • All HD-ready TVs can display 1080i -- they can scale the image if they are too small to display it at 1080.
      • Broadcast in 16:9 format (widescreen).
    • 720p High Definition
      • Contrary to myth, 720p is equal in quality to 1080i.
        • Both have excellent resolution.
        • 720p, being progressive, might have the upper hand in displaying high-movement shows, such as sporting events.
      • Many HD sets can display 720p to its full extent,
    • 1080p High Definition -- The latest HD Holy Grail
      • 1080p monitors are theoretically capable of displaying every pixel of the highest-resolution HD broadcasts.
      • Offer more than twice the resolution of today's 720p HDTVs.
      • You can expect to pay about $1,000 extra for the bump in resolution. Prices for entry level models starts at £3000 but they climb quickly.
      • What about content? Today's high-def broadcasts are done in either 1080i or 720p, and there's little or no chance they'll jump to 1080p any time soon because of bandwidth issues.
      • High-def movie players using either Blu-ray or HD-DVD technology, as well as the upcoming Sony PlayStation 3, will output in 1080p. Keep your fingers crossed!

Since most television broadcasts will be switching to HD in the next few years, you're probably better off shelling out a little more now so that you'll be able to fully appreciate the Beeb in HD later on.

Mounting


Wall Mounting

  • Tilting or Articulating mounts  allow more height, because it angles downward so you can see it at a decent distances.
  • Good over fireplaces, in bedrooms, studies and commercial locations.
  • Ceiling mounts allow you to lie on your back and stare at your screen without a neck cramp.
  • Make certain if you hang it over your fireplace that the temperature does not exceed 90 degrees when lit.
  • There are various style mounts out there: tilt, swivel, flat. Decide what will be best suited for you and your viewing needs before purchasing.

Table Stands

  • Place your newfangled TV on an old fashioned tabletop or in a TV stand .
  • A smaller plasma screen will fit into a TV cabinet .
  • There are many options out there, many with additional storage nooks. Check out these  and decide which best fits your needs.
  • A mantle can be a good location to place a plasma TV stand. It will need to be deep enough (typically at least 6 inches) to accommodate the holder.
  • The good thing about stands is that, like most media centres, allow you to stash your DVD player, DVR box and more near the television.

Other Considerations

  • Plasma TV manufacturers have tried successfully to reduce the screen burn-in problem. The problem still persists in certain models. Check reviews before you buy!
  • The Problem of Ghosting/Burn-in (and how to reduce it)
    • All phosphor-based display systems (CRT direct and rear view and plasma) are susceptible to image retention also known as "ghosting, image shadowing, image burn in." This is due to physical properties of phosphor and how it reacts to light and electric impulse.
    • Do not leave static images on your plasma TV screen for more than an hour. Turn off your unit when you are not watching it. Do not pause DVDs for more than 20 minutes at a time.
    • Know that plasma screens are more prone to burn-in during their first 200 hours of use.
    • Adjust the CONTRAST setting at or below 50% on your new plasma TV
    • When displaying video games and other content with static images, use your burn-in protection features like power management settings, full-time picture shift (both vertical and horizontal) and automatic screen-saver functions. Check your Owner's Manual for further information.
    • Plasma TV burn-in is not an issue that should cause undue concern in the average user. With a modicum of caution, most plasma TVs will probably never have a problem with image retention. A viewer may experience temporary ghosting, but this is not cause for alarm.
  • Not all plasma TVs come with built-in speakers or even a tuner. Some monitor-only plasmas require extra purchases that will up the costs. However, there are some that come with all the components.
  • Plasma TVs produce a glare off some models when there is sunlight or any other bright lights around. LCDs eliminate glare, but they are also more expensive and don't have as big of a viewing screen.
  • Plasmas create a lot of heat and need decent ventilation. They also use a lot of electricity.