Wednesday, July 29, 2015

10 Reasons Plasma Died

Many videophiles lament the discontinuation of plasma-TV production by the major manufacturers. What factors contributed to its demise?

While this is far from the first list of factors that led to the extinction of plasma, I wanted to visit the topic one last time. The catalyst for this list are my recent experiences with FALD (full-array, local dimming) LCD UHDTVs and various OLED UHDTVs. I still own a 64" Samsung F8500 plasma; it serves as a reminder of how technology doesn't always progress in a straight line. Sometimes, there are setbacks when it comes to peak performance.

Just when it seemed plasma TVs had caught up to the performance benchmark set by the Pioneer Kuro—the Panasonic ZT60 and Samsung F8500 were notably great TVs—the major manufacturers pulled the plug on plasma production. Here are 10 reasons you can't buy one anymore.

1. Bright showroom conditions put plasmas at a distinct disadvantage versus LED-lit LCDs that can output much more light, allowing them to stand out in bright environments.

2. Aesthetics may have played a role in hastening plasma's demise. There are limits to how thin you can make a plasma, and edgelit LCDs (and OLEDs) are thinner than that. Unfortunately, high-end LCDs didn't just outshine plasmas in the showroom—they also looked sexier.

3. UHD/4K caught on quickly, and it's difficult—if not impossible—to build UHD/4K plasma TVs in popular screen sizes. Panasonic developed a few giant UHD plasmas, but they were not consumer products. 

4. Screen-size limitations also played a part in plasmas plight. The vast majority of 1080p plasmas came in sizes ranging from 42 to 64 Inches, while 1080p LCDs were—and continue to be—available in a much wider variety of screen sizes.

5. You can't bend a plasma. I hate to think that being flat contributed to the death of the technology, but the last two companies to produce plasma TVs were LG and Samsung. Both companies are committed to selling UHD/4K curved-screen TVs. 

6. Plasmas were harder to deal with than LCDs. They are heavier and yet more fragile than many LCDs. Shipping a plasma requires a large box that must remain upright. Plus, plasmas developed a reputation for being susceptible to image retention and screen burn-in, which was much more of a real problem in the early days of plasma, but the reputation stuck. 

7. While OLED is still in the early stages of development, there's no question it offers greater potential than plasma. OLED is the future of emissive display technology. It should not come as a surprise that LG and Samsung stopped building plasmas—which are also emissive—shortly after OLED debuted.

8. Energy efficiency may have played a part in putting plasma out to pasture. Both LED-lit LCD and OLED are more energy-efficient display technologies than plasma. 

9. Plasma was the original flat-panel technology, and that worked against it. It did not matter that it was a mature technology capable of offering superior performance. People just thought of it as old technology.

10. Projectors improved in quality and prices dropped. With LED-lit LCDs being well suited to bright rooms, the existence of decent 1080p projectors for under $2000 may have affected sales of flagship plasmas.