What Is the Difference Between Plasma, LCD and LED HDTVs?

By Nicholas Briano

High-definition television is the industry standard. But with so many different types of televisions to choose from, it can be confusing for the person who is inept in electronics purchasing. As of 2011, the 3D television is just starting to take shape, but is still in the growing stages with the public. Therefore, the decision comes down to plasma, LCD or LED televisions.

Available Sizes and Physical Characteristics

LCD and LED high-definition televisions are manufactured in a wealth of sizes that range from 15 inches to as big as 70 inches. Plasma televisions, on the other hand, are only available in sizes above 42 inches and weigh nearly twice the amount of the same-sized LCD and LED television. This is mainly because plasma televisions contain a liquid crystal substance and a glass screen, opposed to the LCD and LED, which use bulbs to light the screens. The LED televisions, however, use a smaller, more compact lighting system than LCD. Therefore they are usually about only 1.5 inches thick compared to an LCD television, which is twice the thickness.


LED televisions are the same as LCD televisions in the sense that the same type of materials are used to construct the television. However, the drawback to LCD televisions is their high electrical output. The LCD televisions are lit by fluorescent lighting, which pulls a lot of electricity. In order to correct this problem, manufactures introduced LED television, which replaces the fluorescent lighting with LED lights that are brighter and consume less energy. The result is brighter colors and increased viewing angles. The choice will be between these two if you are looking for a television under 42 inches. Basically an LED TV is the same as an LCD television except for the difference in lighting. The LED televisions, however, are much brighter and show a better high-definition picture. As of 2011, though, LED televisions cost more than an LCD, which can be a deciding factor for some.

Picture Quality

High-definition televisions come in the choice of 780 progressive resolution or 1080 progressive. Although many television are beginning to be produced in full 1080p, the choice still exists. According to PC World, plasma televisions process motion better than LCD televisions, which is beneficial when watching sports or a live concert film with lots of strobe lights, for example. LCD and LED televisions can occasionally "pixilate," referred to as motion blur, when a lot of motion is present on the screen. This causes the picture to appear blurry when objects are moving fast. Plasma televisions display these images more clearly. However, great strides have recently been made that help LCD televisions compete in the motion blur category with plasmas. When shopping for an LCD television, pay special attention to the refresh rate. The higher the number, the better. Shop for a refresh rate of either 120 Hertz (Hz) or 240 Hz. Most LED televisions come with 240 Hz.

Viewing Angles

Plasma television appears best when used in dark rooms, and LCD and LED pictures appear better in bright rooms, according to PC World. Plasma televisions have better viewing angles than LCD televisions, but LED televisions have better viewing angles than plasma. A viewing angle may not be as important because most people sit directly in front of their televisions anyway. Plasma televisions display darker colors better, while LCD and LED television display brighter colors with more clarity.