Posted by: Laura
If you've decided to join the world of High Definition, or are simply in the market for a televisual upgrade, chances are you've probably struggled to get your head around all the technological jargon that comes with making a major purchase in the modern world. Thankfully, televisions are not quite as complicated as computers (not yet anyway), so instead of worrying about how much RAM you'll need or how powerful your graphics card needs to be, all you really need to decide on is whether you go for an LCD, an LED or a Plasma TV.
Of course, you'll probably find yourself asking; But what is the difference? Besides the prices of course? Well in truth the differences are negligible (to most), but are still important if you want to get the best bang for your bucks.
What's the difference?
Technically, an LED TV is an LCD TV, in that it uses a liquid crystal display. Both TV's use these display panels to control where the light is displayed on the screen and both are generally made up of two sheets of polarising material, between which you'll find a liquid crystal solution. When electricity passes through this solution, the crystals align so that light can pass through them, with each crystal effectively acting as a shutter, either allowing light through or blocking it out. The primary difference between the two is in the backlighting, with LCD TV's using 'cold cathode fluorescent lamps' (CCFL's) and LED TV's using smaller, more energy efficient 'light emitting diodes' (hence the term 'LED'). This gives LED a few notable advantages, but also a few disadvantages, all of which we'll be exploring below. This is worth noting because many retailers will simply list all modern HDTV's as 'LED', which in some cases might not technically be true. Of course, Plasma screens are a different kettle of fish entirely, but we'll be getting to them later.
The Pros and Cons of LED TV
PRO – Because LED's are much smaller than CCFL's, LED TV's are able to be significantly thinner, thereby making them more attractive and more convenient. Any TV that measures less than an inch in thickness is definitely an LED TV.
CON – LED TV's are more expensive, specifically because the parts used to create the backlighting are much more valuable.
PRO – LED's are more energy efficient than CCFL's and the 'local dimming' allowed by LED's makes the black deeper and the picture clearer overall by using a special, selective lighting technique. You'll especially notice the difference if you watch a lot of science-fiction films that contain a lot of 'space shots'.
CON – Not all LED TV's are equipped with local dimming. If you want this feature, when making your choice you'll want to look for TVs that are listed as 'full-array', if it's listed as 'edge-lit', then local dimming isn't possible.
PRO – LED TV's offer better lighting and better contrast, as the output of each individual LED light is easier to control. This means that whilst CCFL lights need to be either at full brightness or very little brightness, LED's can be dimmed or switched off completely, giving them far more range and versatility.
CON – Because of their smaller size, LED TV's generally are equipped with poorer speakers than larger LCD or Plasma models. This means that if you're an audiophile, you might want to invest in a separate audio system to handle your music and sound.
The Pros and Cons of LCD TV
PRO – LCD TV's are far more affordable than their LED counterparts, due to the use of cheaper CCFL backlights over LEDs. Because LCD's are more affordable, you'll be able to buy a larger LCD TV for the same price that you'd pay for a smaller LED TV. This is perfect if you're a fan of big-screen entertainment.
CON – LCD TV's are not as popular as they once were, as LED and Plasma TV's are more affordable now than they were years ago. This means that if you have any problems and need to have them fixed, the components might not be as readily available. This also means you'll be unlikely to find brand new LCD TV's that come with a decent warranty.
PRO – Many LCD TV's can double as PC monitors, and can be plugged into any PC with a standard video cable.
CON – LCD TV's are bulkier beasts that take more power to run. A typical 42-inch LED TV will use around 64 watts of energy a year, whereas an LCD TV will use around 107 watts per year. In monetary terms, this means an LED TV will cost around £17 a year to run and an LCD TV would cost around £28.
PRO – LCD TV's can offer you crisp, 1080p resolutions for an incredible price with no burn-in, which can be a serious problem with Plasma TVs.
CON – LCD TV's traditionally have quite poor viewing angles, which means that if you're not sitting right in from of it, you won't get a decent picture.
What about Plasma?
Though Plasma was the most popular form of flat-screen TV years ago, they are gradually being phased out in favour of LED TV's, because LED TV's are more cost-effective. That being said, Plasma still offers the best black levels, contrast ratio and motion blur out of all three competitive standards. Viewing angles are also far more forgiving with Plasma, which means a Plasma might be the best option if you're planning on using the TV in a room that requires people to watch it at an awkward angle.
Which to Choose?
In essence, no one choice is better than the other, it all depends on your personal preferences. Generally speaking though, if you are looking to buy a HDTV on a budget, LCD is your best bet, if you're looking for one that'll last you well into the next decade, go for LED and if you're a purist cinephile, Plasma is will well and truly rock your world! As ever, the best solution is to see for yourself. Visit your local electronics store and ask for a demonstration, because, as they always say; “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”