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The DTV programming that is received by plasma screen televisions comes in two separate formats: standard analog definition (SDTV) and high definition (HDTV). Both formats offer superior quality to NTSC format. HDTV has a significantly higher picture quality than SDTV, delivering sharper and brighter images. An HDTV compatible television can produce a picture of up to 1,080 interlaced scan lines. Most plasma screen televisions are either HDTV compatible or HDTV ready – make sure you which kind you are buying before you purchase a plasma screen television.
Plasma screen televisions operate using digital television (DTV) standards for image reception and display. Familiarize yourself with these terms before purchasing a plasma screen television. DTV is a format that allows the broadcasting of high quality signals. The conventional system of broadcast, which was used by older televisions, is called NTSC. Currently the industry is switching over from NTSC to DTV, and soon you will need a television that supports DTV in order to do viewing of any kind.
The brightness of a plasma screen television is often touted as one of its greatest selling points. Technically, brightness in televisions is often discussed using the term “contrast ratio”. The contrast ratio is a measure of a television's ability to display very bright objects and very dark objects simultaneously. Plasma screen televisions are able to display very high contrast ratios at uniform amounts of brightest, creating a very detailed picture that is not overly garish. Normal CRT televisions often loose brightness with age, or produce images with varying levels of brightness, with darkening at the edges, and overly bright “hot spots” near the center.
One term used when talking about the durability of plasma screen televisions is “burn in”. “Burn in” is a term that refers to an etching of the phosphors on the television screen that occurs when a single image is displayed for too long. If a single unchanging image is on the screen for a long time, the same phosphors are heated again and again, causing some of them to permanently retain the image. This burn in leaves a ghost image on the screen – the old image will still be faintly visible even if you change the channel. Almost all televisions, except for LCD screens are susceptible to burn in, but the condition can easily be avoided with proper use.
The size of a plasma screen television is usually expressed with two kinds of measurement: screen size and depth. The screen size of a television is the diagonal width of its screen. Plasma screen televisions range in size from around 30 inches to over 60 inches in width. The depth of the television refers to the thickness of the actual unit. Plasma screen televisions can be up to 4 inches deep.
Plasma screen televisions are lauded for their wide viewing angles. The viewing angle of the television screen is angular range in which the picture of the screen can be comfortably viewed without distortion or loss of brightness. In order to understand what viewing angle actually is, think of the center of the television screen as the center of a circle. The viewing angle radiates outward from the center of the television, left and right, up and down, forming a cone. Within this cone, the televisions picture can be comfortably viewed. Plasma screen televisions usually have a viewing angle of 160 degrees, which means that viewers can almost stand directly beside the screen and still be able to see a perfectly clear image.
Resolution is generally defined as the degree of detail that is visible within a video or photographic image. When video display is being discussed, resolution is often quoted as the number of pixels, or dots of color, that can be displayed on the screen. This number is usually expressed as the number of pixels within the screen's width multiplied by the number of pixels in the screen's height. The greater the two numbers are, the sharper the picture will be. Plasma screen televisions are capable of displaying images of resolutions up to 1920 x 1080 pixels.
Plasma screen televisions operate by illuminating individual cells of color. The cells are actually small containers of neon xenon gas trapped between thin panes of glass, and are grouped in triads of red, blue, and green cells. Each triad of cells makes up one pixel, or dot of color, on the television screen. When electricity is applied to one of the cells, the gas inside turns to plasma, emitting a burst of ultraviolet light. This light then strikes a colored phosphor on the glass, producing a single colored dot. These dots coordinate together to form a single color image.
Aspect ratio is a term used to describe the proportional relationship between the width and height of a screen. There are two primary aspect ratios used in display. Movie theatres, DVDs, and HDTV signals use the 16:9 aspect ratio, also known as “wide screen” or “cinematic” display. Standard CRT television, satellite and cable television signals, and VHS use a 4:3 or “full screen” aspect ratio. These differences cause some viewing difficulties. 16:9 images shown on a 4:3 screen often use black bars on the top and bottom of the image to compensate for the difference in image proportion. Plasma screen televisions are by default capable of displaying 16:9 images, and can display 4:3 images with minimal distortion.
When buying a plasma screen television, you may see that some sets are labeled as “HDTV Ready” while others are labeled as “HDTV Compatible”. The two phrases sound the same, but they mean very different things. HDTV ready sets are essentially just plasma screen televisions that are capable of displaying HDTV media. In order to display the media, you have to buy a HDTV receiver or a DVD player. HDTV compatible sets, sometimes called integrated HDTV sets have their own built in tuner for DTV signals. While this may seem like a cost saving feature, it actually reduces the flexibility of your television, because if standards change then you must replace your entire television rather than buy a new tuner.
The traditional television set is known as a cathode ray tube, or CRT. Unlike plasma screen televisions, CRT tube televisions use a beam of electrons to illuminate phosphors to form a picture. The electron beam excites the atoms of phosphor on the screen, causing a picture to form. The beam of electrons must constantly scan the screen to refresh it, producing scan lines. A CRT can produce excellent images, but it suffers from size constraints – the larger a CRT screen, the larger and deeper the tube itself has to be. This means that very large CRT screens can end up taking up undue amounts of space.