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Plasma or LCD? Size matters

Flat-panel TVs are in demand--but consumers are divided on whether plasma or LCD is best.

SAN DIEGO--Your next television will probably be big and flat. But the industry is divided on what technology you'll choose to improve your view of the world.

Flat-panel televisions are taking over the world, according to executives speaking here at the DisplaySearch U.S. FPD Conference on Wednesday. Old CRT (cathode-ray tube) televisions are quickly becoming obsolete as high-definition LCD (liquid crystal display) and plasma televisions turn heads with high-definition images.

Plasma TVs dominate the market for flat-panel televisions larger than 40 inches, while LCD televisions reign among smaller sets. The line is starting to blur, however, as LCD TVs grow larger and reduce the cost advantage of plasma displays.

Big-screen TVs

LCD televisions are making inroads because the cost of manufacturing LCD screens larger than 30 inches has fallen, said Tim Alessi, director of product development and advertising for LG Electronics. LG, as the world's leading LCD company through its joint venture with Philips, and the second-largest plasma TV company behind Panasonic, is in a unique position to evaluate the competing technologies, he said.

Potential customers who are thinking about purchasing a large television will note the quality of moving images on a plasma screen as well as the wider viewing angle, said Yoshi Yamada, chief executive officer of Panasonic North America. High-definition plasma displays also tend to cost half as much as comparably sized HD LCD displays.

However, LCD panels are lighter, and the cost advantages could disappear in the coming years as technology improves, as it did in the market for LCD monitors and notebook screens.

Plasma should continue to be the choice for sets that are larger than 45 inches or so, while LCD TVs are quickly replacing CRT sets smaller than around 35 inches, Alessi said. The battle lines have been drawn in that middle ground, which coincidentally is expected to be the average TV size toward the end of the decade.