My Plasma TV died, what should I replace it with?
Try searching for the best plasma TVs in 2021, and you may have found out the hard way that plasma TVs no longer exist. LG and Samsung sold their last PDP sets in 2015 (largely as re-hashed versions of their respective 2014 models), while Panasonic packed up their plasma TV operations in 2014 and left the US entirely only a couple years later. Despite their inherently superior picture quality and surprisingly affordable prices, dwindling consumer interest and falling prices of rival HDTV technologies led to the plasma display panel joining CRTs and DLP/rear projection in the "obsolete" section of the consumer TV market.
If you were lucky enough to purchase one of the last Panasonic Viera plasma TVs sold in this country, you may remember a different TV landscape that existed in 2013. The only LED LCD TV that provided a legitimate challenge in terms of performance compared to a typical plasma TV was the absurdly expensive - and difficult to find - Sharp Elite PRO-60X5FD/PRO-70X5FD series that channeled the legendary Pioneer Kuro Elite plasma TVs of the late 2000s. More down-to-earth LED LCD TVs provided "good enough" picture quality, but came with flaws such as backlight unevenness, poor motion handling, unimpressive black levels, and "blooming" when rendering darker scenes with high-contrast images. For videophiles and cinema enthusiasts, the plasma TV represented the only viable option.
Nostalgia aside, it's important to look back at this particular era of TV technology development to frame our present-day problem with the correct perspective. 3D TVs (remember those?) never garnered much enthusiasm, and 4K was an expensive novelty at best. OLED TVs were displayed occasionally at annual technology shows; while they looked great, not a single manufacturer had found a solution to the comically short lifespan that plagued prototype panels. As well, the cost of scaling 2011-era OLED technology to typical consumer TV display sizes would have made that Sharp Elite TV look like a great deal in comparison. Check out the TV market today: 3D TVs are long gone, nearly all TVs sold today are the 4K/UHD variety, and 55-65 inch OLED TVs can be found at reasonable prices and will last more than just a few years. One more thing - OLED TVs offer better picture quality than even the best plasma TVs ever sold, all while consuming a fraction of the power.
The easy answer to the question that we kicked off with? Get the LG OLED C1 in whichever screen size you prefer. The C1 comes with perfect black levels and screen uniformity with off-angle viewing similar to what plasma TVs can offer. The Sony OLED A90J series offers slightly better picture quality, but it's also significantly more expensive.
That is, of course, if you simply wanted to replace your plasma TV with the closest available thing in 2021. While OLED TVs certainly pick up where plasma TVs left off, they're not without drawbacks. Just like plasma TVs, OLED is technically susceptible to burn-in and pales in comparison to LED LCD TVs when it comes to light output. Our TV buyer's guide goes into further detail, but if you're coming from a plasma TV, these may not be real concerns to you.
Let's say you're looking to move away from plasma TVs and the drawbacks that come with them. The latest LED LCD TVs have managed to correct many of the picture quality compromises of their decade-old predecessors, and come with very few performance drawbacks. Full-array local dimming sets have become commonplace, and "quantum dot" technology is utilized to give images that "pop" that plasma TVs were prized for. These TVs are just about immune to burn-in, and can easily be used in any environment, including bright light.
Our favorite non-OLED TV is the Vizio P-Series Quantum X. It comes in 65-inch and 75-inch screen sizes, and there's even a gargantuan 85-inch version available. All of them offer incredible picture quality - all while costing hundreds (if not thousands) less than an OLED TV of the same size.
If money is no object, the Samsung Q90 is the most direct competitor to LG's top sets. Compared to the Vizio, the Samsung Q90 offers slightly darker black levels, better viewing angles, and is a touch more accurate with color reproduction. For most buyers, we think the Q90 does not perform twice as well as the Vizio P-Series Quantum X, especially considering it costs nearly twice as much. It does, however, offer a more streamlined smart TV experience and the ability to be integrated into a smart home through Samsung's Smart Things ecosystem.
While plasma TVs will certainly be missed, all TVs continue to push the performance envelope; they get better and better every year while prices continue to plummet. OLED TVs are poised to carry on with the picture quality torch passed on by the plasma TV, and the best LED LCD TVs are now capable of impressing videophiles in a way their predecessors never could. Simply put, you couldn't ask for a better time to be shopping for a new TV.