Power Consumption: LCD vs. Plasma

Power consumption is becoming extremely important. At the same size and pixel format (also known as resolution) I would choose the TV that consumes less power even if that meant a little bit more money up front. You undoubtedly have heard from somewhere that plasma TVs consume more power. Is it true?

Background Info This topic materialized after reading David Pogue’s “apology post” about his passing comment concerning plasma being on the way out. Pogue wrote the apology post after getting slammed on by Gary Merson, editor of HDGURU:

Despite plasma’s superior picture quality and lower large screen pricing, many tech writers like New York Times columnist David Pogue who recently wrote that plasma is “on the way out,” consider it a dying technology. Are they correct? Or are they in need of a fact transfusion?

Merson then asked executives from LG, Samsung and Panasonic (three companies that continue to manufacture plasma TVs and are heavily invested in manufacturing plasma display panels) to answer some questions about plasma. What he asked isn’t as important as this point I will make: I don’t think asking executives from these three companies will yield any objective information that will help in assessing the future of plasma. It was probably somewhat naive of Merson to think that these executives from LG, Samsung and Panasonic would give him objective answers. But there were some interesting answers from these executives. One in particular got me interested in finding out more about power consumption.

This is what Tim Alessi, Director of Product Development, LG Electronics USA, said concerning misinformation:

LG is a founding member of the Plasma Display Coalition, which is the voice of the plasma industry to promote its attributes as well as combat misinformation that arises, including some of the outrageous power consumption claims raised by some NGOs and agencies.

Outrageous Power Consumption Claims I’m guessing that some NGOs and some agencies are claiming that plasma TVs consume more power than LCD TVs. So I had to investigate and find out the truth.

Three Companies There are only three companies that are plasma majors and they are LG, Panasonic and Samsung in no particular order. I looked at their websites and wrote down all of their plasma TVs and all of their LCD TVs 40″ and larger that are being sold today. Since plasma TVs that are sold in the US are all 42″ and larger and Samsung’s LCD TVs do not have a 42″ size but a 40″ size, I decided to start at 40″. I compiled all the power consumption specs I could find on their websites.

Inconsistent What I noticed was that LG is very inconsistent in stating power consumption numbers. Some of the its products had the information but some didn’t: it was about 50:50. Samsung was very consistent: none of its products had any power consumption numbers but just vague text stating that it was 25% less than comparable LCD TVs or 40% less than last year’s models, etc. Panasonic was inconsistent too but I did find that a large portion of the models had power consumption specifications.

So this is what I found…

LG I would recommend that Tim Alessi look at his own products before making claims about plasma TVs in general. The only point of comparison is at 42″. LG’s 42″ LCD TVs with 1920 x 1080 had an average power consumption of 176W. The 1366 x 768 models consumed less with an average 131W. There was a single 42″ plasma TV with a 1024 x 768 pixel format and that consumed 181W. Although the 42″ plasma TV had considerably less pixels than than the 1080p 42″ LCD TV the LCD TV consumed a less: 176W vs 181W. I would guess if there was a 42″ 1080p plasma TV that it would have consumed considerably more. Verdict: Plasma TV consumes more.

Samsung It is interesting that Samsung did not post any power consumption numbers on its product specification pages. But how must the consumer find out how much power Samsung plasma TVs and LCD TVs consume? You’ll just have to trust John Revie, Senior Vice President of Visual Display Marketing at Samsung Electronics America when he states: “We are committed to delivering on superior quality, energy efficiency and innovative features in our Plasmas line to keep us positioned as a leading brand in the market.” Verdict: None.

Panasonic I think Panasonic has put the most effort into making sure that consumers have all the information necessary to make the right LCD TV or plasma TV purchase decision. Unfortunately, 42″ is the only size where Panasonic offers both LCD and plasma technologies. At 1366 x 768, Panasonic’s 42″ LCD TVs averages 385W while the plasma TVs average 381W. So plasma wins here. At 1920 x 1080, the average power consumption for LCD TVs is 485W while for plasma TVs is 506W. It seems plasma technology consumes relatively more power when moving toward 1080p. Verdict: Tie.

Sony But I wasn’t quite satisfied with these conclusions. The number of comparisons was too small. So I decided to add Sony to the mix. Sony only manufacture LCD TVs and doesn’t have any 42″ LCD TV models, just 40″ and 46″. So I decided to go with 46″ LCD TVs and see how they compare to 42″ plasma TVs. All of Sony’s 46″ LCD TVs have a 1920 x 1080 pixel format and their average power consumption is 269W. The closest apples-to-apples comparison seem to be against Panasonic’s 42″ 1080p plasma TVs. The results were not even close. Even with a 4″ disadvantage, Sony’s 46″ 1080p LCD TVs come out sipping much less power: 269W vs. 506W. This conclusion leads to another rather interesting one: Panasonic makes power-hungry 42″ 1080p LCD TVs. Verdict: Plasma TV consumes more.

Conclusion So the conclusion is that plasma TVs, especially at 1080p, do indeed consume  more power than LCD TVs. But also note that there are plasma TVs that consume less than LCD TVs at 720p.

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