Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Plasma Continues To Be Maligned In The Trade Press

From the desk of Lee Distad’s Professional Opinion:

It seems like only yesterday that LCD and plasma flat panel televisions were a mysterious future technology, just off on the horizon of the CE Industry’s future, when really it was more like 10 years ago. In that time, we’ve all see the sea change. Even as recently as four years ago, we were all still talking about the coming “Flat Panel Revolution.”

Well, the Flat Panel Revolution is over, and the flat panels won. In that time, I’ve witnessed plasma technology be the victim of concerted vicious rumors on retail sales floors about their durability and lifespan. Granted, the earliest iterations of Plasma tech had birthing pains, but these stories have grown legs all out of proportion to the original shortcomings of the technology.
Fact: The big boys of the plasma world, such as Pioneer, Panasonic, Hitachi, and LG have spent boatloads of money over the years to make plasma a viable display technology for home consumers. The end result is flat panel sets with a lifespan in the neighborhood of old-school tube televisions, and brilliant, dynamic picture quality.

That’s why this morning, I was shocked to see an article in a daily trade newsletter riddled with misinformation about plasma.

The Retail Bridge: It's Official: Plasma Isn't Dead Yet
Sure, the technology is expensive, delicate and prone to burn-in, but sales of plasma HD television sets are expected to grow by as much as 25 percent in 2007, according to a report published Tuesday by the (admittedly biased) Plasma Display Coalition.

I’m sorry, but “expensive, delicate and prone to burn-in”? This isn’t 2001 anymore. If you look at the median prices for major manufacturers, it’s pretty much a level playing field for both LCD and Plasma in terms of what the customer pays for a set.

While I can remember five years ago the boxes for Hitachi plasmas had a little level gauge on the outside to warn if the box had been tipped in transit, that’s pretty much a non-event now. I’ve seen plasmas that were stored face down for a week with no ill effect. Granted, that’s not what the manufacturer recommends, so I don’t recommend it either, but there you go.

The “burn in” thing is a boogey man that’s right up there with “dead pixels.” Every major brand uses a technique in their sets’ video processing that slowly creeps the picture vertically and horizontally, pixel by pixel to reduce the likelihood of any cells permanently etching themselves. The static logos that networks run in the bottom corners of the screen are no longer the television-ruining threat that they were back when CRT-rear projection was the standard.
From an image quality perspective, while I have been much more impressed by the last two generations of major brand LCD panels than I have been in the past, I still have to give the nod to plasma for clarity, sharpness, and colour saturation in the 50-inch and larger category, at least among all the panels I’ve critically examined (hint: it’s a LOT).

Despite having to swim through a sea of misinformation, the plasma category continues to sell well to consumers, which is really all the rebuttal that is needed. (For more of Lee Distad's Professional Opinions)

1 comment:

Lee_D said...

Readers may be interested to know that I had a very positive email exchange yesterday with Tim Sprinkle, editor of The Retail Bridge, and he asked me to submit a brief rebuttal as a letter to the editor, which he ran in this morning's newsletter. You can read it here: