For the true home theater aficionado, plasma TVs are the way to go. A plasma TV outdoes other TVs by producing darker blacks and brighter whites for a rich picture. The best plasma TVs have amazingly deep colors combined with a high refresh rate that produces fluid motion, and plasmas are ideal larger rooms because they have a wide viewing angle. The three best plasma TV series we reviewed are Panasonic ZT60, Samsung F8500 and Panasonic VT60.
Plasma TVs used to have a stigma of having a shorter life span and being more at risk of a burned in image. However, with the advancement of technology, these ideas are outdated. The best plasma TVs can now live as long as LCD or LED TVs, and images burning into the TV screen does not happen nearly as much as when plasma TVs were first released.
Besides the rich picture, these units generally have a larger screen size compared to their LCD or LED counterparts. Plasma displays are best viewed in a home theater setting with proper distance between you and the screen in an area that does not produce much glare off the plasma screen. For more information check out our articles about plasma TVs.
There are many things to take into consideration when you're shopping for a new plasma TV. First, you will want to create a home theater setting in your home. Plasma TVs work well in darker rooms where you control the light. Because the plasma display is glass, it tends to be susceptible to glare. You will need to have enough room between you and the TV to get the proper viewing angle because plasma TVs are generally larger than 50 inches (the smallest plasma screen TV we found was 42 inches). Beyond these factors, you should base your purchasing decision on the plasma TV's display, features, connections and support options.
TVs are not just about the bigger the better. In fact, you should include many considerations when choosing a new plasma TV. Most plasmas have at least 42-inch screens, with most topping off at 65 inches. The top-ranked plasma TVs are Wi-Fi ready. Smart TVs not only have a full web browser, but they have an app hub as well. Some plasma TVs offer Bluetooth connectivity, the ability to share content through the cloud, a smartphone app or voice-guided features.
Plasma TVs also offer another experience in home theater watching – 3D. Some of the best plasmas offer active 3D viewing. Active 3D requires you to use special battery-operated 3D glasses that shutter while you watch TV, creating a 3D effect. These glasses are generally more expensive than polarized, passive 3D glasses; however, most manufacturers will provide at least two pairs of 3D glasses with a plasma TV with 3D capabilities.
Plasma displays provide a rich picture because of the deep blacks and whites they produce. Their subfield drive provides a more fluid picture without as much motion blur; this makes watching fast moving images, like live sports, better because of the smoother transition. Generally, the contrast ratio on plasma TVs are excellent as well.
The numbers can be deceiving, though, since there isn't a standardized way that manufacturers test or talk about all these display ratings. One manufacturer may tout a 6,000,000:1 contrast ratio and another 3,000,000:1, but in reality, the ratios could be very similar since we don't know how each manufacturer tested the plasma display. Specs like a 600Hz subfield drive are similar to a 2,500 focused field drive, and if there is any difference, it is by mere milliseconds. We did a side-by-side eye test of the TVs and added a subjective grade to our comparison to give you an idea of the relative display quality of each TV.
Having a nice TV is only half the battle. If you can't connect your satellite box, Blu-ray player, game system and host of other multimedia tools to your TV, you won't be able to do much with it. Look for multiple HDMI ports. HDMI cables are needed to connect an HD receiver to your plasma screen. Having multiple HDMI ports is helpful for connecting your cable or satellite box, Blu-ray player and game systems into your plasma TV all at once. Many other devices, like flash drives, cameras and wireless keyboards, use USB connections, so having two or three USB ports allows you more versatility in both your peripheral devices and in the content you can display.
Help & Support
Purchasing a plasma TV is a long-term electronic commitment, and it is nice to have a manufacturer that backs up its product. The best plasma TV brands offer a one-year parts and labor warranty, but some TVs have a warranty that covers parts for two years and labor for one year.
A plasma TV is not for everyone. You do need to have a room with proper viewing angles and correct lighting to fully enjoy the picture of a plasma TV. The true richness of the deep black give plasma TVs an edge over LCD or LED TVs, and the fluid motion is great for gamers and for watching TV or other media in full high definition.