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Shoppers Revive Plasma TVs

An OLED TV from LG. (Image credit: LG)

Despite industry predictions for its death, plasma TV sales jumped 70 percent in July, while LCD TV purchases were flat according to The NPD Group's retail tracking service. It seems consumers know a good deal when they see one.

Plasma seemed all but dead when California passed legislation effectively banning the sale of most large screen plasmas. Pioneer and Vizio pulled out of the plasma market, leaving only Panasonic, Samsung and LG.

But declaring plasma dead was premature. Sales of plasma TVs revived as budget-conscious shoppers looked for deals. LCD TV prices have not fallen because a shortage of LED panels for LCD models have kept prices high. Also, new features like built-in internet apps and 240 hertz refresh rates―twice that of a standard LCD TVs―have added to the cost of new LCD TVs. To date, people have been largely unwilling to pay a 30 percent premium for the extras.

Lower prices

For most consumers, it's not easy to distinguish between LCD and plasma. analyst for Display Search, Ken Parks wrote in a recent company blog. Shoppers who come into a store are faced with walls of TVs that are usually arranged by size, not technology. Consumers looking for value, often choose plasma.

For instance, with a $1,000 budget, a shopper at Best Buy could buy a 46-inch LCD TV or and go home with Samsung's 50-inch HD plasma TV.

"Of course the LED supply shortage may prevent a sharp drop in LED-backlit LCD TV street prices by the end of this year, but panel prices will likely begin falling this month," Parks said.

"When such cuts are reflected in retail set prices, we will have a real test of the durability of the PDP [plasma display panel] TV sales surge."

Plasma vs. LCD 3-D TVs

Parks also noted that some industry experts say plasma has technical advantage over LCD when it comes to 3-D technology. Viewed head on, both technologies provide the 3-D effect, but when viewed at an angle, plasma TVs maintain a fairly clear 3-D image, while LCD TVs can become blurry.

3-D TVs are in their infancy, but sales of 3-D displays are expected to reach 3.4 million in 2010, and a whopping 42.9 million in 2014. Technology aside, 3-D buyers may opt for saving about 25 percent with the purchase of a plasma model.

TV Value by the Inch

Samsung Type Size Price at Best Buy Price per sq. inch

HD Plasma 50-inch $999.99 $20.00

HD LCD 55-inch $1,709.99 $31.00

HD LED LCD 55-inch $2,299.99 $42.00

3D Plasma 50-inch $1,969.98 $39.00

3D LED LCD 55-inch $2,699.99 $49.00