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Buying the Best Plasma TV
What You Need to Know

by Jack Smith

To buy the best plasma TV for your needs you have to do more than just pick one of the top models. You have to know what you need and what features will provide the most value for you. Of course, you could just buy one of the best plasma TV models and you might get great quality but at the same time you might throw away money on things you don’t really need.

Is Plasma the Best Choice for You?

First of all, you have to be sure that a plasma TV is the best choice for you. LCD TVs are very similar but at the same time they are different. Both technologies have advantages and disadvantages; you have to understand what each technology has to offer and decide which type of HDTV is best for you. Depending on how you use the TV, one might be better than the other.

Though I will not get into much detail about plasma vs. LCD TV, I will explain briefly why understanding the differences is important:

  • If you intend to use your TV as a computer monitor or if you want to play games on it for long periods of time, LCD is better. Plasma TVs, though highly improved, can still get burn-in. That doesn’t mean they develop burn-in no matter what content you display on them. Under normal usage, modern plasma TVs are very unlikely  to develop burn-in. However if you play games a lot or you use them as computer monitors, because of the very static (unchanging) character of those images, burn-in will develop eventually.

  • In optimal lighting conditions (dim light or darkness) plasma TV offer a superior picture quality. If you have a very lit room (lots of sunlight) or light reflects of the screen, an LCD might look better.

  • Plasma TVs have better response time (refresh rate) and because of that fast moving scenes like action movies or sports look sharper on plasma. LCD TVs make those fast moving images (like a ball flying through the air) a bit blurred.

There are other types of HDTVs out there – projectors, DLP, etc.; they come in much larger sizes but have inferior picture quality and you must watch them in complete darkness to get the best out of them.

Optimal Size and Resolution

This is probably the most important thing you have to know before going to buy a plasma TV (or any HDTV for that matter). The amount of detail you see is determined by three factors: Viewing Distance, Screen Size, and Screen Resolution.

The viewing distance is a constant value. Unless you intend to move your armchair or couch back and forth the viewing distance will always be the same. Just to be absolutely clear, by viewing distance I am referring to the distance between you – the viewer – and the plasma TV. You need to know this distance so go and measure it.

Depending on the viewing distance, you should determine what is the best screen size and resolution for you. There are two resolutions available – 720p and 1080p. Though the exact resolution of a plasma TV screen can have more “flavors” it is somewhere close to 720 or 1080 pixels on the vertical axis. Screen sizes are from 42 inch up to 65 inch. You might also find 32 inch models though they are not very common.

Now, the interesting thing about these three factors is that they depend on your eye. If you watch a 1080p plasma TV from 200 feet away you won’t be able to see much detail. Though the actual distance you will be sitting away is much smaller, the principle still applies. The thing is you must get it right in order to be able to see the full detail and at the same time not see the actual pixels that make up the image. Happily for you this is pretty easy to achieve. Use the table below to figure out what size and resolution is best for you.

Plasma TV Size

Optimal Distance
for 720p (inch)

Optimal Distance
for 1080p (inch)


Keep in mind that those figures apply only for quality high definition content. If you watch SDTV, even on the best plasma TV it won’t look too good and those figures below don’t apply anymore. You might also ask why you would buy a 720p plasma TV instead of the 1080p which offers the highest quality. The answer is simple: price. The larger the screen is, the more you have to pull out of your wallet for it. Also you should know that the difference between 720p and 1080p is not that obvious.

Best Plasma TVs on the Market

Now that you know the important stuff, you can search for your dream plasma TV. There are a few plasma TV manufacturers, and some of them make great TVs. If you decide to buy one according to the guidelines explained above, you can rest assured you have the best possible plasma TV.

This guide presents only the most important things you have to know before buying a plasma TV. The more you know about plasma TVs and home theater the greater are your chances of buying the best products and not throwing your money away on marketing slogans. Know what you need and why! The salesperson in a store doesn’t always know or want to give you useful recommendations. Online stores have many plasma TV models for sale and unless you know what you need it can be daunting to pick one model. In conclusion, the most important advice from me is to be informed.

Article date: July 31, 2008

Jack Smith is the editor of, a website that maintains a top of best plasma TV models on the market, plasma TV guides and other useful resources for the plasma TV buyer.

Editor's Update December 2012: For a detailed explanation of what to look for when making a plasma TV purchase, please refer to our article: Choosing a Plasma TV; there we discuss the issues to look for to help you avoid costly mistakes.

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