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If you're hooking up your own plasma TV -- which is fine, if you're reasonably good at reading a manual and don't mind spending some time crawling around the living room floor -- here are some tips to keep in mind:
When a flat screen television displays the same image for a long period of time, the pixels in the displayed image -- a logo, a paused image from a DVD, the grid from the channel guide -- may age prematurely and fail to function accurately.
This was a problem with early plasma TVs, though manufacturers have now implemented technologies that make it much less likely to occur. Look for mention of these technologies when you're reading plasma television reviews.
In most cases, you will never need to worry about burn-in. It still may be wise to avoid pausing DVDs or otherwise leaving static images on your screen, especially in the first 200 hours or so of using a new plasma TV.
They probably won't fit your house or your budget, but some plasma TV makers are super-sizing their screens to diagonal measurements of more than 100 inches -- perhaps three times the size of the average household TV.
An LG plasma TV and a Samsung model both clock in at 102 inches. These behemoths are demo models at this point, used only to promote their makers' smaller-but-still-huge TVs.
A Panasonic plasma TV one ups them with 103 inches and is actually in production and shipping. They're best suited to professional settings such as conference facilities, but no doubt a few home-theater enthusiasts with extra cash will manage to find room for them.
Like older CRT televisions, plasma TVs create pictures by lighting up thousands of tiny dots called pixels. (Your computer screen uses pixels, too).
Also like older TVs, plasma models use a combination of red, blue and green at varying intensities to create all the colors of a picture. On a plasma TV, each pixel contains very small fluorescent lights in red, blue and green.
The "plasma" in a plasma TV is the gas (xenon or neon) inside the little fluorescent light cells. When the TV passes an electrical current to the cells, the gas atoms become "excited" and emit "photons" (units of light energy).
The gas-filled cells, along with the electrodes that manage the power, are sealed between two panes of glass. (If you're comparing LCD vs. plasma TVs, one thing to note is that plasma TVs, requiring those two panes of glass, tend to be heavier.)
Picture it: You've bought your great new LG plasma TV, loaded it up into the back of the car and you're on your way home. Then something goes wrong. Maybe you get tangled in that big mass of cords in the living room. Maybe you simply can't get sound to come out of those rear speakers. Or, worst of all, maybe your brother-in-law drops the TV.
If you'd rather enjoy your TV than spend time installing it -- or if you don't trust your brother-in-law's electronics skills -- consider hiring a professional installation company.
A good installer will go over available plasma TV stands and wall mounts to be sure your TV is positioned correctly on equipment designed to look good and support it reliably. The company will also integrate related systems (sound, DVD, gaming, PC, maybe even lighting and blinds), tuck cables neatly away and even program your remote control.
Ask for an installer who is insured and bonded and ask for references from previous clients. Especially for high-end systems, you may want to look for an installer certified by the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA).
The chief advantage of plasma TVs is picture quality. Unlike their LCD rivals, plasma televisions are capable of stunning contrast including deep, rich blacks. The best plasma TVs can produce a truly breathtaking HDTV picture. This means that plasma TVs are the sets of choice for many commercial applications, including television studios, design firms and advertising agencies.
Another great thing about plasma TVs is their wide viewing range. These TVs are usually viewed easily from almost any angle in a room which means if you have seating that extends beyond the front of the television, your audience can still clearly see the picture.
Before you buy a plasma TV, ask if you can try it in a low-light setting and a setting approximating normal home lighting. The 42" plasma television that looked stunning on the well-lit store shelf may not function quite as well under real-life conditions.
Be aware, though, that plasma televisions arrive from the factory with their settings optimized for the fluorescent-lit in-store display -- not at all the sort of lighting you're likely to have in your living room. If you do buy straight off the store shelf, spend some time with the settings -- brightness, contrast, tone -- until you get a picture that looks best to you.
Plasma TVs operate through the action of gases under pressure. Usually, they are calibrated to operate best at sea level and manage fine at most altitudes. If you live at a high altitude (7500 feet or above), you may notice some issues including increased noise and power consumption as the gas in side your plasma TV comes under more pressure.
For most people, this shouldn't be an issue. If you're concerned about it, consider buying a NEC television, which is rated to operate normally at up to 9,180 feet.
|Sheri Ann Richerson|