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Are Plasma HDTVs On Their Way Out the Door? Print E-mail
Thursday, 22 May 2008
ImageIn the late 90s when flat-panel HDTVs first hit the market it was plasma that was the technology of choice.  In their infancy, plasmas boasted massive sticker prices.  It was not uncommon to see 42-inch sets for over $25,000.  Now you can pick up a quality 50-inch plasma for under $2,000, but with the recent drop in LCD prices and increase in the available sizes of LCD panels has plasma reached the end of its lifespan? Recent corporate announcements and industry trends suggests that plasma HDTVs will follow rear-projection HDTVs into the grave in the next 5 to ten years.

Philips is the most recent in a long line of manufacturers to announce that they will be exiting the plasma market next year.  Funai, the vendor for the Philips brand has said there will be no new plasma display development after the end of the 2008.  Just a few months ago, Pioneer announced that it would be ceasing all in-house plasma display production, instead outsourcing all panel production to Matsushita, the parent company of Panasonic.  With the release of Pioneer's latest KURO plasmas, all future Pioneer plasmas will be purchased from Panasonic.  Fujitsu also announced late in 2007 that they would cease production of all displays sometime in the first half of 2008.

Many of these announcements come as studies show the rise in popularity of LCD HDTVs.  The demand for LCDs is at about 100 million units this year, while the demand for plasmas are only at 13 million units.

Many consumers argue that the overall LCD experience is far superior to that of plasma technology, though surely plasma die-hards will disagree. The fact is that plasmas can hold onto any kind of market share only so long as home theater installers push them and LCD prices remain higher and screen sizes remain smaller than plasmas.  However, consumers know about the burn-in issue and soft pictures yielded by many plasmas.  Plasmas also initially had an issue with poor black levels.  However, solace can now be found in the Pioneer KURO plasmas.

Initially highly priced, LCDs have reached a more reasonable price point.  Manufacturers have also opened new production plants to cut larger glass panels, effectively increasing the screen size of LCDs now available.  The technology is also much improved upon itself and other technologies.  120Hz motionflow technology, provided by LCDs, has become all the rage recently.  Motionflow provides a smoother, more fluid picture than all previous technologies.  And not too long ago Samsung introduced a prototype of 240Hz motionflow.

Vizio has also played a major role in the success of LCDs, being the first to market large LCD panels for a cost never seen before in the industry.

The appeal of LCD technology and offerings is increasing rapidly, leaving plasmas in the dust.  Plasmas are hanging on by a thread with their slight advantage in terms of cost for the equipment.  The real question becomes, will plasmas and LCDs both be phased out by OLED technology in the coming years?  Stay tuned for more about OLED…

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