If you’re like many computer users, then you’ve been forced to make a big decision about monitors at some point in your life. That decision involves whether you should choose a Plasma, LCD, or LED screen.
You make this choice when shopping for an HDTV too, and learning the differences from a Best Buy salesperson isn’t always the best way to proceed.
Today, we’re going to explain the simple differences between Plasma, LCD, and LED computer monitors and explain which one is best for your needs.
Each of these three screens is markedly different in how they display images:
Plasma: Plasma monitors display images using phosphors. Phosphors don’t require backlighting – they light the image and display color at the same time.
LED: LED stands for Light Emitting Diode. That means, like Plasma screens, LED screens emit their own light while displaying an image.
LCD: LCDs require a separate light source because they do not illuminate themselves. There are also LCD-LED hybrid TVs (called LED-backlit LCD screens officially) which have some of the technology of LEDs but are backlit like traditional LCDs.
Who cares about technology? How do the screens actually look when you’re using your computer?
Black and white contrast
When comparing the quality of any displays, you’ll want to look at the black-and-white contrast power. In terms of colors, the three display technologies tend to be relatively equal. But black and white contrast will ensure that all of the details on-screen are revealed to the best possible extent, and it will also make the colors look more vibrant. Plasma screens dominated for a long time in terms of white and black levels, although LED screens have since caught up.
For that reason, an expensive LED screen is virtually identical to comparably priced plasma screens. LEDs tend to have a slight advantage in terms of white backlighting, which basically means the screens are brighter. But white backlighting isn’t as important as black levels, which is where plasma screens usually have a slight edge.
And then we have LCD screens, which simply don’t have the technological ability to keep up with today’s LED and Plasma offerings.
Winner: Plasma (although expensive LED monitors come very close to a point of being virtually indistinguishable in terms of quality)
Image quality isn’t everything for some computer users. You might also be concerned about the size and thickness of a particular monitor. Your desk might have a limited amount of room, or maybe you just appreciate the slim size of a beautifully designed screen.
If you’re looking for a slim, lightweight computer monitor, then LED screens are your best option. Without going into too much technological detail, the technology of LED screens allows manufacturers to design smaller, thinner cases for their displays. Plasma screens aren’t far behind, although LEDs are the clear winner here.
And once again, LCDs are in distant third place. They’re too bulky to compete with the slim offering of today’s plasmas and LEDs.
LED monitors are incredibly energy efficient, while plasmas are power hogs. If it comes down to two screens that are relatively equal in every other category, you might as well choose the screen that will reduce your next power bill – especially if you’re running a multi-monitor setup.
How much of a difference will you notice? According to tests by PCMag.com, LEDs use about 89 watts (during the testing cycle) compared to 305 watts used by the Plasma screen. Keep in mind that PCMag was testing 55-inch HDTVs in that article, so your monitors won’t use nearly that much electricity.
But still, the difference between average energy consumption is fairly significant.
In terms of computer monitor needs, it doesn’t really matter what you use your computer for. Whether you watch movies, play PC games, or just mess around on Facebook, you’re always going to want sharp image quality, vibrant colors, and crisp black/white contrast.
Plasma computer monitors can be hard to find. LED computer monitors, on the other hand, are available from a wide variety of manufacturers and are relatively inexpensive. With good LED monitors dropping in price every day, LEDs tend to be the best option for today’s computer users.