How to Buy a Plasma TV

For the most part, when buying a plasma TV there is no "best" brand, only the one(s) that you like best. You can't go wrong with any of the major brands, such as Pioneer, Panasonic, Sony, Samsung, etc. They are all good quality; each has its strengths and drawbacks.


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    Be aware that plasma is probably ideal for you if your TV room is a dark one. Plasma TVs have a very shiny screen and reflect light creating a glare that is akin to trying to read a glossy magazine with a shiny light. If you have a Tube television and you have glare now, you are used to it.
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    Decide whether you want 720 or 1080 vertical lines of resolution. 720 units have fewer pixels on the same size screen and are generally only available in 50" or smaller screens. Although 1080 is the current broadcast HD and "Blu-ray" standard, many people find it hard to tell the difference between the cheaper 720 plasma TVs and the higher resolution 1080 displays. If you are sitting 8 feet (2.4 m) from the TV or farther, you will most likely not be able to tell the difference between 720 and 1080 on a 46" set or smaller. The best way for you to decide is to go look at the same program on the two TVs side by side at a local retailer.
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    Look at the contrast ratio specification. The higher the ratio the more "real" the picture appears. 800:1 is the lowest. New models offer 30000:1 ratio (or better). Higher contrast ratios generally mean better "true blacks" in the picture. Blacks which are too gray reduce or wash out subtle dark details and muddle shadows and other "gray" color information.
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    Check in some stores to determine for yourself whether you can see a difference from the distance from which you will be watching. If you can, decide how much you are willing to pay for that difference.
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    Plasma TVs are faster than LCDs and are best for a Home Theater experience. LCD televisions are rated at 60HZ or 120HZ (240HZ coming soon), all plasma TVs are 480HZ. This refers to refresh rates that minimize blur when watching scenes with rolling fog, ocean waves or smoke.
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    Decide whether you want a consumer or a commercial set.
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    Determine which features you need, which are "nice, but not critical," and which you are unlikely to use. Consumer sets have more features, flashier styling, and (sometimes) better warranties, as well as having to meet somewhat more stringent government standards. Commercial sets offer great value. They provide very good picture quality for the money, but tend to be minimalist in styling and features, and things like table stands, HDMI/DVI inputs, tuners and speakers are extra cost options that can drive the cost up beyond the consumer version if you add them.
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    Consider whether you want to buy on the internet or from a local retailer. The former is usually less expensive, but if something goes wrong, returning the big, expensive machine could be a hassle. Also take into account that you can avoid paying sales tax when buying from many online retailers, which can save you hundreds on an expensive TV. Commercial sets are scarce in local stores while many internet vendors do not offer the consumer versions.
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    Focus on a manageable number of models by weeding out those that don't meet your criteria.
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    Check out "expert" reviews, such as CNET and Consumer Reports. Read user comments on various sites all over the net. Reviews are invaluable, because choosing a TV set on a sales floor does not always reveal facts about a particular TV's reliability over time.
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    Look at the sets you are considering in more than one store. Too much depends on the picture settings, ambient lighting, and even the quality of the video feeds.
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    Don't get paralysis from analysis. There will always be something new arriving soon. Prices will always drop over time. The fact is, most current plasmas are very good and their prices are reasonable for the pleasure they provide.
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    Use comparison shopping sites like or Yahoo Shopping to discover how prices vary at different stores.


  • Dell plasma TVs uses Korean glass and American circuits. On sale, they offer a terrific value, but controversial quality control.
  • When comparing different sets in a store, employees tend to be very helpful since it is such a large ticket item and will let you do many things that you wouldn't be able to do if buying something like a CD. Many stores will allow you to change settings on display models and even bring in your own "Blu-ray", DVD, or video game system to test out the pictures.
  • Although there are many good reasons to buy a Plasma television, an LCD or LED television may be better for your viewing habits. Make sure you have considered this before buying.
  • It's generally best before you decide to buy online to take a quick trip and talk to the salesman at your electronics store. They can give you insight into multiple features to consider while comparing top brands. A huge tip I picked up was that at a certain viewing distance dpi no longer becomes a factor, knowing this can save you a TON of money on your next purchase. Also always remember to thoroughly check the return policy, this can save you much money should the TV not work when you get home and set it up.
  • Philips tends to be overlooked, although their commercials about Ambilight do a lot toward raising public awareness of flat panel displays.


  • Fujitsu plasma TVs have an avid following, but many knowledgeable experts believe they are overpriced.

Sources and Citations

  • AVSforum - an online community of TV and Audio experts
  • The HDTV Review Resource for reviews and articles about LCD and plasma TVs.
  • Plasma TV Guide - an overview of the plasma TV with tips on what to look for.

Article Info

Categories: Television