Plasma TV Buying Guide

Tags: Brands, Resolution, Screen Size, Technology

If you want to buy a plasma TV and you are not comfortable doing so without learning all the important facts first, you have come to the right place. This guide will get you up to speed by explaining all must-know stuff. The plasma TV buying guide is invaluable if you are new to the world of HDTV. It will help you not only have the peace of mind that you bought the right thing but also avoid a lot of the marketing crap out there and probably even save some money along the way or spend them wiser.

Decisions YOU Must Make

Buying a great plasma TV is all about making the right decision. Even if you have a limited budget you can still get a very good plasma TV if you know what you need and you understand your habits. In order to decide wisely you need knowledge. If your decision is not based on knowledge it will be based on impulse. That is something you want to avoid because you can end up buying a plasma TV that somebody else thinks is best for you. When you buy something make sure the decision is yours. So what decisions are you supposed to make?

  • What budget are you going to spend?
  • Are you going to buy a plasma or an LCD TV is better? What about a projector or a DLP?
  • What screen size are you going to buy?
  • What resolution the screen will have?
  • What are you going to watch on the TV (what kind of content)?
  • What connectivity and features you need?
  • What brand and model will it be?
  • Are you going to buy online or from a brick and mortar store?
  • Is it a smart move to buy a TV online without even seeing it first? What if you’re not satisfied with it?
  • Where will you find the best price?
  • Do I need anything else or just a TV?

I am sure you can come up with others but this is a good list to start with. The first five points are probably the most important. Finding an answer to them helps you narrow down the potential choices. There are many plasma TV models out there and while at first you might be a bit intimidated by their number you should know that only a few of them will pass the initial filtering. For now you should forget you have a budget to work with and focus on what you need.

What Do You Need?

First of all, make sure that a plasma TV is the right choice for you or figure out what type of HDTV suits you best. Plasma, LCD, DLP or maybe a projector? They all have similarities and differences, advantages and disadvantages. There is no such thing as best technology. You can read the Plasma vs LCD TV guide on our site for a good understanding of the two types of displays. If you are considering other type of display use Google.

The screen size, resolution and content questions are like the holy grail of plasma TV buying guides. Get this wrong and you either end up spending more or getting less quality than you expected. You can find out what screen size is best for you from Plasma TV Size & Optimal Viewing Distance guide. Note that the figures in the table on that page are for HD content. So if you plan to watch SD content a lot you might want to buy a smaller TV.

When it comes to resolution most people think in terms of 720p vs 1080p. Which of those two resolutions is best depends largely on what type of content you watch. I also recommend you to read the Plasma TV & HDTV Resolution guide because it will help you understand in detail everything you need to know about HDTV resolution. That’s one guide that will make the difference from having an idea to understanding.

Who Invited Mr. Budget?

Yeah, nobody likes Mr. Budget. When it comes to buying a plasma TV, Mr. Budget is responsable for making us to rethink the whole problem. If you came to the conclusion that the best plasma TV for you should be a 60 inch one, Mr. Budget might have a problem with that. So you might have to eventually go for a smaller one. Again, if you want top notch quality and you’re thinking to buy a Pioneer Elite for example, Mr. Budget must be very generous with you 🙂

Would you like fries with that?

Next thing you have to decide upon is whether or not you want your TV to be part of a home theater system. This is importent because it forces you to pay attention to what connectivity options the plasma TV has. Some plasma TVs don’t even have a built-in tuner so you will need one HDMI connector for that. If you want to buy a Blu Ray player too that’s another HDMI connector you need on your plasma TV. You want to hook it up to your computer to play games? That means you need a DVI or VGA connector. Of course you can use adapters like DVI to HDMI or HDMI to Composite for example. You have to know however that when you use an adapter from a higher quality connector to a lower quality one (like HDMI to Composite) you loose a bit of quality.

Plasma TV Brands

There are many plasma TV brands out there each having models with various prices and quality. The best plasma TV models are made by Pioneer, Panasonic and Samsung. Historically Pioneer has made for quite a while models that ware considered as the best on the market. The quality of the picture and the overall quality vary across the models of each brand. Hitachi, LG, Philips and Toshiba also have good models. Vizio models (actually V inc. is the brand), HP, Dell are considered budget brands.

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  • thanks for the guide~ really the whole website made me decide to finally buy a plasma, cheers~ 🙂

  • Still a confusion between Plasma or LCD??

  • Hey all,

    I have little issue with making my mind up on the brand.

    Long story short, I had a Hitachi 55HDT52 on 4 year extended warranty. The panel died and I have been offered a replacement ( Panasonic TCP58S1 ).

    Looked at the S series and decided to add to the $1800 offered by the replacement value.
    So I added $1000.00 Canadian ( taxes in ) and was offered TCP58V10.

    As far as the unit is hard to get I was also offered 8 series plasma by Samsung PN58B850 ( or was asked to wait till mid Jan 2010 )

    Now I have dilemma which to take.

    Any thoughts?

  • @Pod: TC-P58V10 is the best, followed by PN58B850, followed by TC-P58S1. Both panasonic models have better black levels, while the Samsung has somewhat more accurate colors. Check out the features as well and see which one comes with features you prefer more.

  • I’m trying to make up my mind between the Panasonic TC-P58S1 & Samsung PN58B550. Both appear to be mid-level offerings, without many bells & whistles. I am mainly concerned with picture quality, when watching television, DVD movies, and the occasional sporting event. If price is the same, would you go with the Panasonic or the Samsung?

    Great website, thanks.

  • I really enjoy your site. I learned a lot. I am not totally new in the HD game, but I have an older HD monitor CRT that I’d like to upgrade into either a flat panel LCD or Plasma. I’m mostly leaning towards plasma. My main issue with my HD Monitor is that I got it before HDMI really took over, so I only have a component connection.

    I’m thinking of something in the 50″ or slightly smaller range. I currently get free SDef cable in my apt, so I’d be watching a lot of SD programming, but I’d get an HD antenna to get free HD over the air programming. I’d also likely get a PS3 to take advantage of Blu Ray DVD and HD video games. I would also hook up my computer from time to time, but mostly for some gaming (but not often). And once I get sick of SD cable, I may upgrade to HD Digital cable.

    With all that said.. I’m leaning towards the Samsung PN50B550 and maybe the PN50B650. The 550 is more in my budget, with out sacrificing too many features/quality.

    So, my questions are:

    1. Just how bad is it to hook up my computer to the plasma? Like, if it’s just for random gaming, is that ok? I’m trying to get a ball park idea.

    2. It sounds like, so long as I do a few things in the beginning, I’d need to really not pay attention to get any burn in on my plasma. Right?

    3. With my viewing habbits (and for the record, I rarely watch TV, but I’d probably watch more if I got a new TV) does it make more sense for me to get an LCD? or is Plasma still a good option? the HD antenna would mostly be for sports, and action/crime shows.

    4. Is the 650 really worth the extra $200 compared to the 550? What are the major differences?

    Many thanks. I really do enjoy this site.

  • Acutally, never mind. I ended up going with the 54″ Panasonic G10. I got a really good deal on it.

  • My CRT TV is dying and I will need to buy a new TV within a year. I do not play video games. I have AT&T U-Verse, and will get thier HD, but I also have a lot of DVDs and quite a few VHS, so I would like a TV that can show standard definition content at least as well as a CRT. The TV is usually on 6 to 9 hours a day. Not planning to get any kind of home theatre audio set up, but I do have an aux input on my stereo, maybe I could connect the TV’s audio outputs into that? Don’t need internet widgets and all those kind of bells and whistles…just want a great, clear picture for both HD and SD. Did a lot of research, and I narrowed my search to three possible TVs:
    Mitsubishi DLP 60737 (pros: no burn in, plush 1080p feature supposedly upgrades SD content to HD, low price, uses little energy. cons: bulb and color wheel need to be replaced/can break down/cause rainbow effect, DLP format is dying out, poor angle viewing)
    Samsung plasma B560 (pros: decent price, great color, swivel base, reported to play SD content well. cons: burn in greater than Panasonic, anti-glare screen is inferior to Panasonic, Samsung has reputation for poor quality control, speakers are allegedly weak/buzzing)
    Panasonic plasma S1 (pros: great picture, decent price, Panasonic reputation of great quality in plasma. cons: weak color, weak SD picture, new reports of black levels failing quickly)
    So, what is your opinion? Which would you suggest I go with?

  • @girvin02: It’s not a big difference between the two. Samsung has more accurate colors and better SDTV processing. Panasonic has better black levels. Since they are very similar, I would base my decision on the type of content I watch (if you watch a lot of SDTV/DVD, Samsung is slightly better), features and design.

  • @Ward:
    1. If it’s for occasional gaming, it’s OK. Unless you play games more than you watch TV, there isn’t any issue here.
    2. Right.
    3. Plasma.
    4. 650 has slightly better video processing, supports DLNA/networking and slightly better picture (colors seem a bit more vivid). Also it is 120Hz (not a real advantage). Strangely enough, users seem to have noticed that it has more input lag than 550, and because of that they say gaming is a bit better on 550.

  • In regards to the new 2010 models, what is your opinion on the Panasonic TC-P50S2 vs Samsung PN50C550 (or C6500) in regards to picture quality, color quality, black levels, and both Hi Def and Standard Def processing?

  • I am looking to buy my first HDTV. I really do not want to buy a home theatre sound system. My stereo system has an aux input. If I were to conncect the HDTV’s audio output into the stereo’s aux input, would that work? Would I get stereo sound? Or should I just seriously consider the Mitsubishi Unisen TVs?

  • If I would like to connect my DVR/Fios cable box, a Blu-Ray player, and external speakers/home entertainment package to a plasma set would I need more than 2 HMDI?

  • If I wanted to hook up a DVR/Cable box, Blu-Ray player and external speakers/entertainment package would I need a set with more than 2 HDMI?

  • i need a 46 inch flat screen for my downstairs gameroom. Light is not an issue, so i was going to go with plasma. i do alot of online gaming. Also watch dvd’s and sports. Rarely use blu-ray. My past tv was not connected to the internet so i really dont know if that is something i need or not, but i dont want to regret not getting something that in a few years will make my tv obsolete. Would like to stay under $1500. Any recommendations?

  • Thanks for the guide. but still i am not clear about the burn-in problem surface in the plasma. So, what do you say about LCD TV WITH IPS PANEL.

  • I ended up choosing plasma and now i deeply regarded for this decision as i often have problem of burn in image. Now i am looking roe LCD TV IPS panel.

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