April 17, 2009
| by Rebecca Day
Plasma TV. It used to be one of the luxury purchases that signaled you had made it. You were hip, rich, beau monde. How times have changed. Now LCD is king and high-quality plasmas are a steal at three figures from Costco.
When Pioneer announced earlier this year that it was exiting the TV market altogether—and taking its esteemed Kuro line of plasma TVs with it—many had to wonder if that was the death knell for the one-time technology king of flat-panel TV.
After all, there are far more LCD manufacturing plants than plasma factories, which has increased competition among the LCD suppliers. That won’t change since it has never been economically feasible to make a plasma for less than 37 inches (and even Panasonic no longer makes a 37-inch), while LCD TVs run the gamut from 5- to 65-inch screen sizes.
There are lots of people, consumers and TV reviewers alike, who hope the end of plasma is far down the road. Many still prefer the rich colors, deep black levels and dark-scene detail of plasma TVs compared with the relatively washed-out look of LCD TV. No question, LED backlights on newer LCD TVs are narrowing the delta when it comes to more accurate colors and black levels, but high-end plasma still rules when it comes to picture quality, viewing angle and motion response.
Consumers and reviewers aren’t the only ones still devoted to plasma. For now, at least, Panasonic, LG, and Samsung remain committed to plasma TV, although they all offer LCD TVs as well. For 2009, look for all of the companies to step up with higher end models to fill the void left by Pioneer’s Kuro line. Bargains exist at the entry-level as well after Vizio, too, announced it would end plasma TV production this year.
“As a leading provider of both plasma and LCD, including core panel technologies for both, LG sees LCD and plasma coexisting in the marketplace for years to come,” according to John Taylor, vp of public affairs and communications for LG Electronics.
Taylor notes that LCD sales have outpaced plasma to this point because industry sales figures include small screen sizes—where LCD owns the market—as well as larger sizes. When it comes to the high end, though, LG is all about plasma. “LG positions plasma as the ultimate home theater experience for large-screen viewing with a more film-like quality,” says Taylor.
Despite Pioneer’s and Vizio’s recent moves, LG maintains that the demand for plasma TVs is still growing. This year alone, LG expects to sell 3 million plasma sets, representing a projected 19 percent of the total plasma TV market. LG will focus primarily on 50-inch and larger screen sizes where demand is highest.
For 2009, LG is pushing advanced features including Internet connectivity, 1080p resolution and “frameless” designs with minimal bezels. The 50- and 60-inch plasmas in LG’s PS80 series include broadband connectivity for access to Netflix, YouTube and Yahoo Widgets; THX display certification, 4 HDMI inputs and a USB slot for enjoying digital pics and music from a thumbdrive.