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Plasma TV Shopping Guide

In the market to buy a brand new plasma screen TV, but can't decide on a particular brand or style? Fear not — our shopping experts here at Dealio are here to help you decide on the best plasma screen TV to fit your needs and your budget.

Our easy to use, step-by-step guide will help you understand how plasma TVs stack up against other types of TVs, as well as the features you should be aware of when comparing prices.

Why a Plasma TV?

Other than being the "stylish" choice for most consumers, plasmas offer an extremely high quality picture in a considerably compact size. In contrast to rear projection models, plasma TVs offer great picture quality in all types of light (even bright light conditions), and offer a smoother picture absent of glaring. Excellent color quality is also possible due to the number of colors that can be represented on the screen.

Another differentiating feature is the ability for plasmas to improve the resolution of poor video signals and make the picture more vibrant. Given plasma's aspect ratio of 16:9, they are ideally suited to view HDTV and DVDs. The only downfall you should be aware of, however, is their high price. All these benefits come at a high premium, as plasmas are more expensive than traditional rear projection models. They are, however, more affordable than LCD flat screens at roughly the same screen size.

Plasma TV Features

(1) View Angle

View angle is the area in front of the screen that you can view a picture without distortion. Plasmas usually have a view angle up to 160 degrees. Preferably, you'll want to choose a television closer to 160 degrees, which will make it possible to see a perfect image at virtually any angle around your TV.

(2) Black Level

Black level is the ability for your plasma to produce the color black. This may sound trivial, but the reality is that some plasmas display the contrast better than others. The only way to test a plasma for the black level is to watch a demo unit, preferably with your own DVD that contains a dark scene, and see which model provides the best contrast.

(3) Burn-in

Plasma TVs are prone to burn-in, which occurs when the picture is kept consistent for a long period of time. The consequence of this is an unsightly 'ghost' effect, which can compromise the quality of the picture for the life of your television. Although all plasmas are prone to this type of effect, some models are better at combating it than others.

(4) Speakers

Many plasma TVs do not come with wing speakers. Make sure you look for plasma TVs with speakers, or take into account the added expense of purchasing new ones, as it will almost certainly add to the cost.

(5) Durability

Despite the premium you'll pay for a plasma television, you'll be surprised to find out that they have the shortest longevity out of all the TVs on the market. Most plasma TVs have a lifespan of 30,000 to 60,000 hours, which is 10-20 years. Be sure to verify the manufacturer's claim to see how many hours the television can be operated before you make your purchase.

(6) Glare

Glare occurs when light in a room reflects off the television screen back to you. The resulting effect is a faded picture. Although glaring is common in many rear projection TVs due to their curved screen, flat screen models like plasmas virtually eliminate this problem. Still, it's a good idea to make a note of the plasma's glare (if any), while you browse different showroom models and weigh that in your decision.

(7) Price

In general, picture quality is directly related to the plasma TV's cost. You can pay anywhere between $3,000 and $5,000 for the same size 32-inch plasma, but the picture quality of the $3,000 model won't be near the quality of the more expensive one. Our advice is to look at the lower end models first and see if any provide the picture quality you demand. If they do, you've just saved yourself a lot of money!