About Plasma Displays

Plasma Display Advantages

Plasma display devices are still a little small for serious home theaters (42" to 60") but the images are getting bigger every year. Sizes issues aside, though, plasma displays do have many advantages over ordinary video displays. For example:

No scan lines - Conventional CRTs use an electron beam to scan the picture tube from top to bottom at regular intervals, lighting the phosphors to create the image. In the case of standard (NTSC) TV, visible scan lines can be seen. Most plasma displays include built-in line doubling to further improve image quality when viewing standard analog video sources such as TV broadcasts and VCR tapes.

Exceptional color accuracy - High-end plasma displays are capable of displaying 16.77 million colors -- providing superb color realism with exceptionally subtle gradations between colors.

Native widescreen aspect ratio - Plasma display devices have a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio, the relationship between the screen's width and height. This is the proper aspect ratio for HDTV, and also allows many DVD-Video movies to be viewed in widescreen format, as originally seen in the theater.

Perfectly flat screen - Plasma display monitors have screens that are perfectly flat, with no curvature whatsoever. This eliminates the edge distortion that can occur in CRT displays.

Uniform screen brightness - Unlike some rear and front projection televisions that suffer from uneven screen brightness -- seen as "hot spots" in the middle of the screen or a darkening near the edges and especially corners -- plasma displays illuminate all pixels evenly across the screen.

Slim, one piece design - Plasma display monitors are only a few inches thin-providing installation options never before possible. In addition to stand mounting, they can be hung on a wall or from a ceiling, allowing you to enjoy big-screen home theater impact from a component that doesn't dominate floor space. Because they eliminate the need for a front projection unit and a projection screen, plasma display monitors are also ideal for use in a wide
variety of business and commercial applications where the use of a front projector would not be feasible.

Wide viewing angle - Plasma displays offer a viewing angle of 160 degrees (top to bottom and left to right) -- much better than rear projection TVs and LCD displays. This allows a larger number of viewers to enjoy proper image reproduction from a wider variety of locations throughout the room.

Immunity from magnetic fields - Because plasma displays do not use e

lectron beams, as conventional CRT displays do, they are immune to the effects of magnetic fields. Components such as loudspeakers that contain strong magnets can distort the picture if placed too close a standard TV (which has a CRT). On the other hand, plasma displays can be placed in close proximity to any type of loudspeaker and not experience image distortion.

They are affordable
- Plasma TVs currently start around $4000+ for a 42" screen and the price rises to over $21,000 for a 61" screen. Expect to pay about $3000-$5000 more for a plasma monitor of 50" over a plasma screen of 42". While expensive, plasma displays are quickly becoming the American viewers choice because of their stunning colors, excellent brilliance, and placement flexibility.

Format flexibility - Most video devices accept composite and S-video as two types of signal transmission. Almost all plasma tvs will accept both inputs. However, there is a new standard known as component video. Some of the new DVD players offer a component video output signal in addition to composite and S-video. You will also be able to get component video signals from some satellite systems. Televisions and projectors that are equipped to handle the component video signal will produce a superior video image than those which cannot. If you are interested in optimizing video performance, and you have a video source that offers component video output, check to see which of the plasma tvs on your list are capable of accepting a component video signal. The spec sheet may say component video, or alternatively (Y, R-Y, B-Y) or YPbPr.

They can display digital television (SDTV & HDTV) - Digital television, or DTV, is the new industry standard for broadcasting picture and sound using digital signals, allowing for dramatic improvements in both picture and sound quality vs. conventional NTSC analog programming. DTV programming can be delivered in either of two basic formats: standard analog definition (SDTV) or high definition (HDTV).

DTV Format Comparison

Transmission Type
Analog Digital Digital Digital Digital
  Color NTSC Standard Definition Standard Definition High Definition High Definition
Maximum Resolution 480i 480i 480p 720p 1080i
Aspect Ratio 4:3 4:3 4:3 or 16:9 16:9 16:9
Channel Capacity 1 5-6 5-6 1-2 1
Description Standard TV as we know it today Good Picture and Sound —DVD or DBS Quality Better, depending on source; can be outstanding Best Possible Best Possible

HDTV is the highest form of digital television, delivering up to 1,080 interlaced scan lines. HDTV produces images that far surpass any you've ever seen in a home environment! SDTV, or Standard Definition, also represents a dramatic improvement over today's TV, with the added benefit of allowing stations to broadcast multiple programs within the same bandwidth as an HDTV signal.

DTV Format Detail

Scan Lines
Scan Rate Pixelization Frame Rate Aspect Ratio Formats
SDTV 525 total
480 active
15.75 kHz (60i) 480 x 640 24p, 30p, 60p or 60i fps 4:3 4
525 total
480 active
31.5 kHz (60p) 480 x 704 24p, 30p, 60p or 60i fps 4:3 or 16:9 8 (4x2)
HDTV 750 total
720 active
45 kHz
720 x 1080 24p, 30p, 60p 16:9 3
1125 total
1080 active
33.75 kHz
1080 x 1920 24p, 30p, 60i 16:9 3

Plasma Display FAQs

How do I input a television signal to a plasma screen display?

Plasma monitors do not come with built in tuners. An NTSC/ATSC television signal must be passed through a satellite box, cable box, HDTV receiver, VCR/VHS device, or an outboard tuning device. Most of these components offer an RF style cable input (what we think of as a cable connection). Signals are then passed to the plasma TV using the following connections:

  1. From a satellite box an s-video cable is normally utilized.
  2. From a cable box a composite RCA to RCA or RCA to BNC connection is used.
  3. From an HDTV decoder box a 15 pin VGA to 15 pin VGA cable is normally used; though 3 cable component RCA to component RCA or BNC is also often an option.
  4. From a VCR/VHS an RCA to RCA or BNC is normally used though S-video is better option if available on the VCR.
  5. Optional decoders will have a mix of the above options.

How do Plasma TVs work?

Plasma technology is different from that used in other display systems in that red, green and blue lights are created in every pixel, reducing the need for space. Charged electrodes between glass panels cause tiny pockets of inert gas to change a state of plasma. This process causes UV light to be produced, which in turn reacts with the red, green, and blue phosphors in each pixel to produce visible light.

Unlike traditional displays, where the image is scanned across the screen, in plasma displays all pixels are "lit" at once. Having no electron beam, back lighting or light polarization, the image is inherently sharper and brighter. Perfect from edge to edge.

How plasma tv work

What is the difference between True Resolution/Native Resolution?

The number rows of horizontal and vertical pixels that create the picture. The native resolution describes the actual resolution of the plasma display and not the resolution of the delivery signal. When the delivery format is higher or lower than the flat screen's native pixel resolution, the delivery signal will be converted to the plasma's native resolution through an internal converter. Generally, the closer the incoming picture signal is to the native pixel resolution on the plasma display monitor - the better the picture. For example, a VGA computer signal of 853X480 will match up perfectly with a plasma monitor with 853X480 native pixel resolution, while an XVGA signal of 1024X768 will match up better with a plasma monitor that has the higher resolution of 1024X1024. There are more considerations here that deal with the quality of the internal converter/scalar, and also whether or not the monitor is progressively scanning (853X480) or interlacing the signal (1024X1024). All 42" inch plasma display monitors are HDTV ready, while none will show the true HDTV signals of 1080i. However, they will benefit from the better signal and show something very close.

The options available for native resolution include: 1024x1024, 1024x768, 1280x768, 1365x768, 640x480, 825x480, 853x480.

Resolution options: Your basic choices for native, or true resolution are the following:

  1. VGA, or "640 x 480" – This is the lowest data resolution currently on the market, and usually the least expensive.
  2. SVGA, or "800 x 600" – This is a popular resolution today, because most notebook computers are SVGA. Matching the plasma resolution with the computer resolution will produce the best results.
  3. XGA, or "1,024 x 768" - XGA plasma tvs are generally more expensive, and are the second most popular resolution format. Many of the newest products are coming out in XGA. They are getting more popular as prices drop and the use of XGA notebook computers increases.
  4. SXGA, or "1,280 x 1,024" – SXGA products are high resolution, and notably more expensive than XGA. These products are targeted for high end personal computer users and low end workstation users. They are used primarily for command and control, engineering and CAD/CAM applications where acute resolution of small details is important.
  5. UXGA, or "1,600 x 1,200" – UXGA is for very high resolution workstation applications that are detail or information intensive. These are expensive plasma tvs that support a broad range of computer equipment. Relatively few products on the market have this native resolution.

Which plasma / flat tv resolution is best for me?

In summary, the selection of the right resolution depends upon the computer sources you are using, your budget, and your application. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Choose a resolution format for both your computer display and your palsma tv that is adequate for the type of materials you will be presenting. The smaller and more plentiful the details in your presentation material, the higher the resolution that is required to display them successfully.
  • Use a plasma tv that matches the native resolution of your computer display, so that you can avoid the image fuzziness that often comes from scaling one input format to a different output format.
  • If you are using a high resolution computer display, and find that a plasma with matching resolution is out of your budget range, select a plasma that is one step down in resolution. However, make sure that the scaled plasma tv image gives you results comparable to your computer display. By doing this, you can often save a lot of money and still end up with a very acceptable image on the screen.
  • And finally, give some consideration to the useful life or your plasma tv. VGA resolution was popular for 8 years, SVGA resolution became the most popular resolution for projectors (similar use to plasma tvs) in 1997, and XGA is expected to replace SVGA in popularity by the end 1999. If you keep pace with the changes in the personal computer industry, you know that performance doubles about every 18 months. Keep this in mind as you make your plasma tv choice.

Why choose a plasma/flat tv over other presentation systems (i.e. front view projectors and TV screens)

Plasmas perform extraordinarily well under most ambient light conditions. Very bright light does not wash out the image on the screen. The beauty of these flat screens is that, unlike front view projection screens, you don't have to turn off the lights to see the image clearly and easily. Therefore, plasmas are excellent for video conferencing and other presentation needs, which require the lights to remain on.

Another characteristic of a plasma panel is the extreme viewing angles both vertically and horizontally. With 160 degrees viewing angle, people sitting off to the side of the plasma screen will still be able to see the image without losing any of it.

Plasmas tend to be very lightweight in comparison to similar sized standard display monitors and television screens.

No existing display system can compete with the low depths available in plasma panels. The thinness of theses systems allows for the monitors to be placed virtually anywhere. Some plasma panels are known to be as thin as 3.5 inches deep.

They can be hung on walls, mounted to ceilings, flush wall mounted or placed on a tabletop. Many mount manufacturers are designing more creative ways to mount plasma panels because of the ease of engineering involved.

Plasma panels are also not affected by magnetic fields.

Plasmas are easy to use. Almost as easy as plug and play. They tend to accept inputs for both data and video (industrial models). The main issue is resolution. Be sure to find a panel that works with your resolution needs. All will show standard VGA (640x480) and some will accept signals all the way up to UXGA.

Thanks to the folks at Plasma TV Buying Guide for helping with this information!