DLP vs Plasma


DLP vs Plasma

Each offering its advantages and disadvantages navigating the DLP vs Plasma TV differences can be time consuming. We aim to help. This page is structured to provide some background in each technology, advantages and disadvantages to each then conclude with a decision tree diagram to provide a little more decision making guidance.

Note, this page focuses exclusively on DLP vs Plasma TV differences; if you are interested in some of the other technologies or comparisons with them, check out the links on the right.

OK, on with the DLP vs Plasma TV comparison.

DLP Background

Digital Light Processing (DLP) technology was developed by Texas Instruments (now licensed to others for production) several years ago. A simple explanation of how this works is that there is a small computer chip with thousands of mirrors on it. A light bulb is aimed at the mirrors and the mirrors reflect the light through a color wheel (to add the correct color) onto the screen. Because the light is projected onto the screen from the mirrors, this is considered rear projection. However this rear projection should not be confused with rear projection of the past. These televisions are much brighter, provide a better quality picture with a better viewing angle then the rear projections of 6 plus years ago.

DLP advantages

When comparing DLP vs Plasma TVs we see three advantages that DLP TVs have over Plasma.

As described above in the DLP Background section, DLP televisions have a bulb that creates the light on the screen. This bulb is replaceable (around $250) which means that your DLP television set should provide a quality picture for a long period of time. Where both the Plasma and LCD televisions will degrade over time.

DLP provides the best size to dollar ratio. For the money, DLP provides the highest quality and largest television you can buy. If you are able to find a cheaper Plasma of the same size, it is very unlikely that the picture quality will not be comparable to the DLP of a similar price.

DLP produces a very good consistent picture. That is expected, why is that an advantage you ask? Reasoning is that although a Plasma may produce better color saturation (how color looks, full, deep, etc.) and accuracy (See Plasma advantages below), the Plasma will fade over time (See Plasma disadvantages below). LCD has similar issues see DLP vs LCD for details. Therefore a TV that will provide a very good (Depending on brand and price of the same or better quality) picture for a long period of time at a reasonable price point is a good fit for the majority of consumers. Therefore, we expect this technology to gain in popularity. This increase in demand will drive the price down and provide even more of an advantage over other options.

DLP Disadvantages

When comparing DLP vs Plasma TVs we see three disadvantages that DLP TVs have when compared to Plasma.

Biggest disadvantage is called the Rainbow effect. Everyone does not see the Rainbow effect; therefore this may not impact you. For the people that do see it, it is usually seen when people look away from the screen then look back quickly. It appears as a colored streak across the screen. We suggest you view a few DLP televisions in a store to determine if this will be a problem for you or not. The manufactures are also working diligently to eliminate this issue and it has improved, hopefully this will not be an issue much longer.

Although slimmer than older projection televisions. The depth (6-18 inches) of most DLP televisions is more than a Plasma or LCD. Therefore if you are planning on hanging it on the wall this will most likely prove prohibitive.

Because the DLP television is a rear projection TV, the viewing angle is not as great as Plasma or LCD technologies. With rear projection you will find that if you are too far off to one side or the other the color will not appear consistent. This may not matter to you unless you have a wide room and need to be able to see the television from areas off to the side. We suggest a viewing angle of 40% or less for a DLP.

Plasma Background

Plasma televisions were the first to really change the landscape of modern televisions. Providing large screens at depths fewer than 5 inches, they are easily hung on walls. The technology is achieved by placing gases between two sheets of glass and then exciting the gases with electric pulses. These gases glow producing different color light that is seen by the viewer.

Plasma Advantages

When comparing DLP vs Plasma TVs we see four advantages that Plasma TVs have over DLP.

Plasmas are thinner than DLP options, usually around 3-4 inches making them ideal candidates to hang on walls.

A good Plasma, when new, will provide better color saturation (how color looks, full, deep, etc.) then the DLP equivalent. However a Plasma will degrade over time (see disadvantages below) therefore over time the Plasma will degrade to a lesser color saturation than the DLP.

Plasmas offer an excellent viewing angle. The picture is consistent so if you can see the screen, chances are it will look decent.

Plasma Disadvantages

When comparing Plasma vs DLP TVs we see three disadvantages that Plasma TVs have when compared to DLP.

One disadvantage of a Plasma television is called the Screen Door effect. This effect makes the television appear as if it were on the other side of a window or sliding glass door screen. The closer to the screen you are the more visible this effect will be. Manufactures are working on this and it is getting better. But definitely something you will want to consider if you plan on sitting close to the television or planning on getting a large size (over 50 inches). This becomes less noticeable with the higher resolution televisions because they provide more pixels. See the 1080P vs 720P article mentioned above.

Another disadvantage of a Plasma television is that it has a limited lifespan and will fade over time. Most Plasmas will start to fade (will not be as bright and colors lose saturation) around 30,000 hours of use become unwatchable around 60,000 hours. There is no bulb the can be replaced therefore once this happens the television is no longer useful. Because of this, we strongly discourage buying a used Plasma television.

Plasmas are susceptible to the Burn in effect. The Burn in effect is what happens when an outline of an image remains on the screen even after the image is gone. This can happen when you have the same shape on a screen for long periods of time. Screens that display the same thing often like stock tickers can cause this. In most cases this will not impact users. And some of the new Plasma televisions have what is called white wash to clear the Burn in, but using this will decrease the life of the Plasma.

DLP vs Plasma TV Conclusions

Some of you with a little more television experience may be wondering why we did not mentioned the standard television features such as contrast (Difference between the darkest dark and lightest white), clarity (clean lines, not jagged, around images), etc. Reason for this omission is that, when comparing DLP vs Plasma TV technology, the difference in these areas depends on the price and manufacturer of the television, not either of these technologies. Both technologies perform well in these areas.

Bottom line is that both technologies make for excellent televisions. There are some differences, which may lead you to one or the other, and the DLP vs Plasma TV decision diagram below should help with those differences. If you get to the bottom of the diagram and still have not chosen one or the other then consider which looks best in your room, as either should work just fine.

DLP vs Plasma TV Decision Diagram

DLP vs Plasma TV Decision Tree