Plasma vs LCD
Plasma and LCD (or LED/LCD TVs) are the two main types of TVs available. Appearances are deceiving when comparing LCD and Plasma televisions. Both types of televisions are flat and thin, and can be hung on a wall or placed on a stand, but employ different technology to deliver similar results. LCD flat panels have both advantages and disadvantages in comparison to Plasma televisions.
Plasma TV Advantages
For Plasma TVs, advantages over LCD, are: Better contrast ratio, better ability to render deep blacks, more color depth, and better motion response that reduces trailing or ghosting on fast moving image.
Plasma TV Disadvantages
However, disadvantages of Plasma vs LCD include: Not as bright as a typical LCD or LED/LCD TV so does not look as good in a brightly lit room, more susceptible to burn-in (although this is not as much of a factor now, due to technology improvements in recent years, such as "pixel orbiting"), more heat generation, does not perform as well at higher altitudes, and shorter display life span (although this too is changing due to technology improvements - many plasmas have a 60,000 hour or longer life), heavier weight, and more delicate to ship.
LCD TV Advantages
LCD TV advantages include no burn-in susceptibility, cooler running, less screen glare, more functional at high altitudes, longer display life (although improvements are being made in Plasma screen life), looks better in brightly lit rooms due to the ability to produce a naturally brighter image, and less power consumption than Plasma.
One additonal factor to consider is that LCD TVs are typically lighter (when comparing same screen sizes) than their Plasma counterparts, making wall installation easier.
LCD TV Disadvantages
LCD televisions do have drawbacks in several areas vs Plasma televisions: Lower contrast ratio, not as good rendering deep blacks or displaying an even black level across the entire screen surface, not as good at tracking motion (although this is improving - but there are side effects such as "The Soap Opera Effect").
Also, although LCD TVs do not suffer from burn-in susceptibility, it is possible that individual pixels on an LCD televisions can burn out, causing small, visible, black or white dots to appear on the screen. Individual pixels cannot be repaired, the whole screen would need to be replaced at that point, if the individual pixel burnout becomes annoying to you. LCD TVs are also typically more expensive than an equivalent-sized Plasma TV (especially in sizes above 46-inches), although the price gap is closing and there are affordable LCD and Plasma TVs in most screen sizes. Also, if you are looking for a smaller screen television, Plasma TVs have not been available in screen sizes below 42-inches for some time now.
The LCD Mercury Issue
Also, one argument that Plasma TV manufacturers have made about LCD TV is that those sets that use traditional florescent backlight technology illuminate the screen surface employ mercury as part of the chemical makeup of the flourescent backlight system.
However, this is a "red herring" with regards to choosing a Plasma Television over an LCD Television. In LCD sets, the amount of Mercury used is not only small, it never comes in contact with the user. Also, keep in mind that most common high-efficiency florescent lamps, such as many used in video projectors, and those new light bulbs used in our homes, also use Mercury.
You are probably in more danger eating fish, that may contain traces of Mercury, a couple of times a week, than watching, touching, or using an LCD TV. Also, with the development and increased use of LED lighting sources in LCD televisions, which is a Mercury-free light source, this is quickly becoming a non-issue.
For more details on the use of LED technology in LCD TVs, refer to my article: The Truth About "LED" Televisions.
LCD and Plasma TVs - HDTV Reception
On the HDTV part of the equation, both LCD and Plasma sets are now equipped with both analog (NTSC) and digital (ATSC) tuners for reception of both standard and high definition televisions signals. However, both LCD and Plasma offer monitor-only configurations (mostly for professional use) with require the addition of an external tuner, such as HD-Cable or HD-Satellite box for reception of HDTV programming. When shopping for either an LCD or Plasma television, make sure the set is equipped with an on-board tuner.
For answers to basic questions about LCD Televisions, check out my LCD TV FAQs
My advice; compare all types of televisions in order to see what will work best for you. First of all, make sure the image on the screen looks good to you. Also take into consideration how and where the television will be used, and how it will fit into your decor. Also consider additional costs to get up and running, such as the addition of a tuner, sound system, mounting fixtures, and other components. Also, make sure it is easy to use. Lastly, make sure the television and everything you need with it fits into your budget...and don't forget the service plan offered by the dealer, just in case...