Plasma TV vs. LED: A Comparison Between the Two Primary TV Technologies


After the era of CRT TVs ended, most people considered the new type as generally the flat-screen TV. However, this flat TV comes in different types, each with unique technology behind the picture creation process. The two primary types are plasma and LED, and each has a unique operating mechanism. We have done a plasma TV vs. LED comparison below to help you pick the best TV that fits your needs. Let’s get right into it!

How TVs Work

The three TV types operate in the following way.


Also known as emissive displays, plasma TVs have tiny color pixels sandwiched between two transparent glass panels. Each pixel contains three gas cells for the primary colors red, green, and blue.

A tiny grid of electrodes applies current to the individual plasma cells, causing the gas inside (a neon-xenon mix) to ionize. The ionized gas or plasma emits UV at a high frequency, which activates the cell’s phosphors to glow and produce the respective color.

A plasma display

A plasma display

This design does not require a backlight because each cell emits light. Also, the light output is consistent across the screen, giving a wider viewing angle (vertical and horizontal). However, the phosphor coating can cause screen burn-in, like in CRTs.


The display section comprises a liquid crystal solution sandwiched between two polarizing transparent panels. Unlike plasmas, LCDs do not emit light. They rely on a backlight to shine through the liquid crystals, making them transmissive displays.

Glass etching on the inner surface of the screen’s front layer in a grid pattern forms a template for the liquid crystal layer. These liquid crystals are rod-shaped, and an electric current causes them to twist.

An LCD display


A diffusion layer behind the liquid crystal display panel scatters and redirects the light to create evenly-lit images. Therefore, each crystal acts as a shutter or filter, allowing or blocking light. Allowing and blocking light creates transparent and dark crystals that form the image.

There are two LCD variations. 

Active Matrix LCD

These LCDs use thin-film transistors arranged as a matrix on a glass substrate. The tiny transistors and capacitors control voltage switching on each pixel and enable rapid on/off switching.

Passive Matrix LCD

Passive matrix LCDs create images using horizontal and vertical Indium Tin Oxide conductors. The intersection between two conductors controls each pixel.


LED TVs are essentially LED-backlit LCDs. Traditional LCD TVs have a CCFL (Cold-Cathode Fluorescent Lamp) backlight but LED displays have LED backlights.

An LCD structure (LED displays have an LED backlight)

An LCD structure (LED displays have an LED backlight)

LED-backlit LCD TVs have several advantages over the fluorescent backlit type. LEDs are easier to control, resulting in more accurate colors and better contrast. Also, they are more energy efficient.

The texture of an LED screen

The texture of an LED screen

Plasma TV vs. LED: The Main Differences

LED and LCD panels have many similarities but differ from plasma TVs in several ways. Here is a comparison between LED and plasma panels.

LED-LCD vs. Plasma: Pros and Cons



  • High contrast and deep black levels
  • Smooth motion
  • Uniform illumination
  • Cheaper
  • Good picture depth 


  • Limited screen size, usually 42-65 inches
  • Not energy efficient (a 42-inch plasma TV consumes about 195W)
  • Generates more heat
  • Plasma display panels are thicker and heavier
The difference between limited and wide viewing angles

The difference between limited and wide viewing angles



  • Energy efficient (an average 42-inch size LED TV consumes about 64W)
  • Advanced LED-LCD TVs have local dimming backlights to give deeper black levels
  • Thin and lightweight, especially models with edge-lit backlights


  • Low refresh rate (images might appear flat and less film-like)
  • Color and brightness change depending on the viewing angle

OLED vs. Plasma

Although OLED uses different technology from plasma, the two have similar characteristics. However, OLED goes a step further to avoid some of the plasma downfalls.

OLED is an acronym for Organic Light Emitting Diode. But unlike LED-LCD TVs, OLEDs have self-emissive pixels. They don’t have a backlight.

A close-up view of a plasma TV

A close-up view of a plasma TV

The difference between plasma color pixels and OLED pixels is that the latter can shut off completely. Therefore, they create deeper black pixels that form perfect black uniformity and an infinite contrast ratio.

A passive OLED matrix (PMOLED)

A passive OLED matrix (PMOLED)

Like plasma panels, OLEDs give wide viewing angles and quick response times (high refresh rates). They can also experience screen burn-in, especially with frozen images or static elements on display for a long time. Although not as bright as LED-LCD TVs, OLEDs glow more than plasma panels and handle reflections better.

OLED technology is very costly. OLED TVs are also lighter and thinner. However, the price advantage of plasma still holds when compared to OLED.

An active OLED matrix (AMOLED)

An active OLED matrix (AMOLED)

Plasma vs. LCD

LCD screens share many similarities with their LED counterparts. Therefore, comparing plasma vs. LCD is almost the same as comparing the differences between plasma and LED. Here’s how they stack up against each other.

Subpixels in LCD screens

Subpixels in LCD screens

Plasma TV vs. LED, Which Flat-Panel TV Type is Right For You?

Go for the flat-panel plasma display if you:

  • Like high contrast ratios with deep blacks and rich, warm colors
  • Watch TV in dark or modestly-lit rooms
  • Sit off axis when watching
  • Play video games or watch sports most of the time (plasma delivers smooth, natural video motion)

On the other hand, LED-LCD TVs are best if you:

  • Want a thin TV
  • Watch TV in a brightly-lit room
  • Place a higher priority on energy consumption/efficiency 


We have covered enough about plasma and LED TVs, and now we’ll look at some pivotal questions that need clarification.

What Type of TV Do I Need for 3D?

Either type can do. However, the TV must be capable of displaying 3D video. You will also need the following.

  • 3D glasses (active or passive, depending on the TV type)
  • A 3D video source (cable or satellite 3D channels, 3D Blu-ray player, etc.)
3D glasses

3D glasses

How Long Do Flat-Panel TVs Last?

LED and plasma display panels can last up to 100,000 hours. If you watch TV for six hours daily, it will last for about 45 years. However, this lifespan does not mean the TV will go kaput after 100,000 hours. Instead, the picture displayed will be half as bright. Therefore, the TV will still work but produce dimmer images.

Should You Replace Your Plasma?

If your plasma TV still works, there is no point in replacing it. However, you can improve your viewing experience by upgrading to a better type, such as an OLED TV.


We hope this article has been insightful. As you can see, plasma and LED TVs have multiple differences that define their benefits and drawbacks. If you have any questions or comments, contact us for more details.

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