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Next Big Thing: The end of plasma TVs?

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Next Big Thing: The end of plasma TVs?

2:39 /

Plasma TVs look to be in peril after Panasonic announced it'll stop making them in March 2014. CNET's Brian Cooley tells you why there's a major shift under way in the kind of TV we crown king.

-If you're in the market for a TV right now, I'm gonna bet that plasma is either not on your list or a low on your list. Makes for an interesting story about how The Next Big Thing is bumping the last best thing. -This is my favorite TV for 2013. The reason is because it provides excellent picture quality for the money. Given that a number of plasmas is shrinking this TV almost gets a recommendation by default. I like the understated design of the ST60, although it's not quite as sleek as some of the LCD TVs out there. The F8500 exhibits extremely deep black levels and very accurate color, but the thing that sets it apart from those other plasma TVs is its light output. This thing can get extremely bright, almost as bright as some LED TVs, and of course, that really helps the picture quality in rooms where you can't control the ambient lighting. -I'll let you in on a little secret. If you were to go to the homes of CNET's television editors, you'd find plasmas on the wall. In fact, take a look at our list of the best televisions at any given moment and the top handful are usually plasmas. In fact, they're usually Panasonic plasmas, but that company has pulled the plug on its plasma operation, leaving Samsung and LG left to read that writing on the wall and possibly interpret it the same way. It's dire times for a TV we think is the best. LED/LCD is king. Plasma is this thinning, little sliver and OLED, which many talk about is The Next Big Thing, has years to go before it's gonna hit really big market numbers just based on cost alone according to DisplaySearch data. Now, it's important to remember here that 4K or Ultra HD is not a display type. It's a level of resolution. So, it's kind of a different discussion, but it relates to plasma's apparent demise because it turns out it's very difficult and very expensive to reengineer current plasma technology to get those little gas tubes that make up the screen small enough and functional to show that many pixels on a given display size. A key lesson coming out here is one that we've seen repeatedly in consumer electronics. Consumers move away from being in pursuit of excellence so much to being in pursuit of adequacy, convenience, and low price. Prices come down brutally while quality and features go up dramatically. We all benefit, but in this case, plasma is getting squeezed out. Specifically, we, as consumers, are right now caught up in lightness, thinness, a degree of greenness with things like LCD television. Plasma doesn't fit those new roles, nor does it have shiny new object qualities about it. It leverages something of an old school characteristic and that is just great picture quality. It's a turn over of the crown of The Next Big Thing, not the last time we're going to see it.

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