Sony PFM-50C1 plasma display The Move Toward Flat
How long it will take for the CRT to become extinct is anyone's guess—a substantial majority of TV sets being sold for the home still have tubes inside them, and will for years to come, until the cost of these newer technologies comes down enough to be attractive to the mass market. But particularly in recent years, with such prominent manufacturers as Mitsubishi and Hitachi getting out of the picture-tube business, the handwriting is on the wall.
Every one of the major manufacturers of direct-view and rear-projection TVs has at least one plasma monitor or integrated TV in their fall 2002 product line. Plasma monitors and integrated TVs are available in sizes as small as 32 inches all the way up to 63 inches, but there are a couple of "sweet spots" for screen sizes. The 32-inch widescreen products sold by Hitachi and Sony provide about the same image height as a 27-inch 4:3 set, which means they can fit into many tight places. The pixel pitch of such sets, typically 0.9x0.7mm, is pretty fine for plasma. And the native resolution, although an oddball 1024x 852 pixels, is higher than that of an SDTV panel (usually 852x480).
The other "sweet spot," in my opinion—and one supported by home-theater sales—is the 50-inch-diagonal 16:9 screen. This panel yields a picture height of 24.5 inches, similar to that of a 42-inch-diagonal 4:3 TV (of which none exist). The typical pixel size on a 50-inch panel is about 0.8-0.9mm—not much larger than that of 32-inch models and generally not noticeable at HDTV's specified viewing distance of 3.1 screen heights. And did I mention that the typical 50-inch PDP weighs just under 100 lbs?
Sounds good so far. However, PDPs have their own unique problems, including high power consumption and the potential for screen burn-in with static images. Because PDPs use pulse-width modulation to create images, they're also prone to displaying such artifacts as false contours and switching noise. What's more, PDPs can be a hassle to calibrate accurately, as most models do not track gray scales as well as CRTs do. Despite all this, there's no shortage of companies that want to play in the plasma monitor market.—PP