DLP, LCD, or Plasma: Choosing the right HDTV based on panel technology, size, and placement

“Which one should I buy?” Trying to sort through the onslaught of technical jargon and conflicting advice usually ends with the customer making a rash decision driven by a desire to end the headaches and waiting instead of accurate and helpful information. We’ve already discussed the differences between resolutions (eg: 720p vs. 1080p ) and the importance of investing in HD technology (eg: digital transition in February 2009 ), but little has been said about screen size, viewing distance, or which panel technology is right for particular conditions and uses. Below you will find information to help you determine if you should buy a DLP , plasma , or LCD ; how big of a screen you should get; what the different technologies are best at doing; and how and where to position yourself/TV to maximize your HD experience.The first task is to determine what you will be doing with your HDTV . Will you be watching standard definition cable or Blu-ray movies? Will the TV be in a brightly-lit kitchen or a dark basement? Is the ceiling low or high, and is the room small or large? I have created a table to make deciding which HDTV technology is right for you.

Table 1: DLP, LCD, or Plasma

Now that you’ve determined what you’ll be using the TV for, the viewing conditions, and addressed any personal concerns, it’s time to figure out the size of the TV and the viewing distance. Keep in mind that the ranges are approximate and are intended as a guide; they work both ways: if you know your viewing distance you can pick the right size screen, or you can pick a TV and then arrange your furniture as needed, but personal preference always trumps formulas and suggestions. Remember that higher-quality content such as HD movies, satellite, and computer content allows for closer viewing, but low-quality content such as basic cable and up-scaled DVDs is best viewed from greater distances. This is because HD content has more detail and fewer artifacts, enabling closer viewing without distractions or noticing pixel structures. Here are the suggested ranges (in feet) and TV screen size (measured diagonally).

Table 2: TV Size and Viewing Distance

Through the entire process it is crucial to keep things in perspective: many Americans spend over 4 hours a day in front of their TVs, or some 1,600+ hours per year (households watch for 8+ hrs/day), and many are integrating their computers, gaming systems, and photo viewing into the TV system. Thus, investing in a large, quality HDTV will mean an enriched media experience. And let’s not forget smaller TVs for the kitchen and office and medium sized TVs for bedrooms and multi-use areas. So as content continues to rush toward full-HD and viewing time increases, it’s absolutely critical to have TVs that natively display 1920 x 1080p, have multiple HDMI inputs, and have high contrast, high-color panels. Of course having an HDTV is useless without HD content, which means you must have satellite with HD channels, digital cable with HD channels, a Blu-ray or HD-DVD player, HD antenna, gaming systems such as the PS3 or Xbox 360 , a compatible computer or media device, and all the necessary cables and configurations. And let’s not forget sound – we are audio beings as much as visual, so a surround sound system is necessary to complete the HD experience and immerse yourself in the content. Fortunately we have blog articles that cover all this, and we sell the HDTVs , Blu-ray players, speakers and home theater systems , and all the accessories you need to get up and running.

Check out these blogs for more information:

How to get the most out of your HDTV, Part I: The Basics
How to get the most out of your HDTV, Part II: Connecting your HD System
Warning: The Wrong HDMI Cables Will Ruin Your Home Theater Experience
What’s the Difference Between 1080p, 1080i, 720p and Other Resolutions?
Bose® Introduces its Lifestyle® V20 and V30 Home Theater Systems

4 comments on “DLP, LCD, or Plasma: Choosing the right HDTV based on panel technology, size, and placement

  1. Kristin Risberg on said:

    I have found this site helpful but became confused by the conflicting statements found in:

    1.What’s the Difference Between 1080P…720p …Resolutions where it says, “There is nothing wrong with 720p and 1080i High Definition they both produce a terrific picture” and

    2. this page, DLP, LCD, or Plasma: Choosing the right HDTV based on panel technology, size, and placement which says, “So as content continues to rush toward full-HD and viewing time increases, it’s absolutely critical to have TVs that natively display 1920 x 1080p, …”

    Obviously I don’t want to spend the extra hundreds of dollars to get 1080p vs 720p is it is going to become obsolete in the next couple of years, but I am not a gamer, watch about 2 hrs of TV a day, an occasional DVD or VCR and don’t expect to be hooking up to my computer.
    Any advice?


  2. Electronics Guru on said:


    Thanks for your comments. The statements you found are not conflicting in that the first is retrospective, the second prospective. That is, 720p and 1080i displays *will* produce great pictures, and can provide a less expensive entry into the HD world. 1080p displays, however, represent the best available technology. This means that they can accommodate a variety of sources and will likely have higher quality components and newer technologies. The second also presupposes a tighter integration among digital devices.

    Obviously every situation is unique, but purchasing a display is an investment. It’s a decision that will determine whether your 700+ hours/yr of TV watching will be enjoyable, will be able to be compatible with and display the best picture from multiple sources, and possibly interact with other devices. With electronics it’s important to think about future as much as the present.

    Hope this helps! I encourage you to read the other blogs and contact our customer service at 1-866-224-6171.

  3. Purnell on said:

    Can a 720p TV show 1080i ?

  4. Electronics Guru on said:


    Yes and no.

    1. No, a 720p HDTV displays 1280×720 pixels, which is high-definition resolution but not as much as 1080i/p. It’s physically impossible for a 720p set to display a higher resolution since there aren’t enough pixels.

    2. Yes, a 720p HDTV can receive 1080 content, so it will “show” 1080 video but it will only have 1280×720 resolution — still HD but not “full HD”. In short, the higher-res content is “squished” to 720.

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