If you need to move a plasma TV, one of the first things you will notice is how heavy it is. A Samsung 48” plasma TV weighs 73 pounds (33.11 kg) while a 48” Samsung LCD weighs 21 pounds (9.53 kg). So why do plasma TVs weigh so much?
Plasma TVs are heavy because the technology required thicker glass panels than other television sets and a metal frame. Large LCD, LED, OLED, and QLED screens can be built with thinner glass or polymer screens and plastic frames.
To understand why a plasma tv weighs so much, you first need to know a little about them. Read on to learn how a plasma TV is built and what makes them so heavy.
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The Reason Plasma TVs Are Heavy
To answer that question, let’s start by debunking a common misconception. A plasma TV is not just an earlier version of an LCD, LED, OLED TV, or the newer QLED. The technology used to create the picture is not the same.
Here is an overview of how each type of television screen creates images:
- LCD or Liquid Crystal Displays are lit by fluorescent lamps (known as CCFLs) that sit behind the screen and shine through the LCD cells.
- LED or Light Emitting Diode has overtaken LCDs in popularity because the image quality is better, they are thinner, and screen sizes can be larger. Thousands of small LEDs create the images either along the edge, known as edge-lit, or from the back, or back-lit.
- OLED or Organic Light Emitting Diode TVs don’t require a backlight because the pixels create the light organically, which is a fancy way of saying by themselves. The result is a screen that can be as thin as a smartphone.
- QLED or Quantum Light Emitting Diode TVs are updated LED screens made by Samsung to compete with OLED TVs with an added layer of quantum dots, which sounds more marketable than semiconductor nanocrystals.
What Do Plasma TVs Consist Of?
Plasma TVs consist of small gas cells trapped between sheets of glass. Each gas cell emits a subpixel of light, either blue, green, or red, and these three subpixels create a pixel. The combination of pixels creates an image.
One difference between plasma TVs and the others is how the images are created. Since gas cells are not heavy, the weight must come from something else. That something is the panes of glass. The TV types mentioned above either use thin glass or a polymer (plastic), while the Plasma TVs used thick panes of glass.
How Do Plasma TVs Work?
The first plasma screen was invented in the 1960s by three researchers at the University of Illinois. It consisted of three screens. An inside screen contained the cells filled with gas. That screen was sandwiched between sheets of electrodes. Finally, those screens were sandwiched between the glass panes.
The first screens were monochrome, as they could only display one color. The first use of the technology was not for televisions but computers. These screens had a black background and monochromatic orange words and images. The same technology was later used in adding machines and calculators, aircraft equipment, and pinball machines.
The history of how Plasma technology evolved to color TVs is fascinating. Think of the first plasma screens as prototypes that showed the technology would work. The route to a 60-inch screen involved a three-color prototype in 1984, a 59-inch monochromatic model in 1987, and a 31-inch television prototype in 1990. Each of these advances had to overcome various technical hurdles, so there were many steps in between.
Finally, in 1995 Fujitsu began selling the first plasma TV, a 42-inch, full-color display with 852 x 480 pixels capable of displaying 16 million colors. The larger television screens, such as the 65 and 80 inch, have a pixel resolution of 1920 x 1080.
Why Do People Like Plasma TVs?
People like plasma TVs because they can display over 16 million colors on a large screen. But what do they specifically like about the pictures?
- High Resolution. A TV with a higher resolution will offer a more detailed, sharper image. Many HD television sets now have that resolution as well, so there must be more to it.
- Brightness. Due to the direct lighting of the plasma (instead of being back or side-lit), Plasma TVs have a crisp picture with the brightness evenly distributed across the entire screen.
- Viewing Angle. Unlike other televisions, plasma TVs provide an excellent picture, whether you are sitting in front of the tv or on the side.
- Motion Tracking. Also known as motion blur, this refers to the blurring effect of an object in motion. Early LED and LCD televisions suffered from this problem.
What Happened to Plasma TVs?
Although plasma TVs had high resolution, crisp pictures, they also had numerous disadvantages. You already know about one, which is the weight. However, these televisions had some others:
- Heat: Plasma TVs give off more heat than other televisions. One hundred degrees Fahrenheit is not unheard of with a plasma TV. When installed properly, they require a four-inch clearance from any surrounding furniture. Modern televisions don’t generate nearly as much heat.
- Electricity Usage: Plasma TVs can use anywhere from 140 watts and upward, which is a lot more than other sets. What does that mean to the average tv owner? In a 2013 study, a 50-inch plasma had yearly energy costs of $44.65 while a same-sized Toshiba’s costs were $15.72.
- Reflection: The surface of a plasma TV reflects more light. To get the highest quality picture, people tend to dim the room.
- Burn-in: Although this became less of a problem as the technology advanced, static pictures would create a permanent ghost of the image, also known as image persistence.
People who wanted a better picture than plasma TVs offered came up with a workaround for most of these minor issues. However, you won’t be able to buy a new plasma TV. Why is that?
The Death of Plasma TVs
The last plasma TVs were produced in 2014, so no 4K playback if you enjoyed this type of TV. What caused a great product to go by the wayside? This is reminiscent of the Beta versus VHS battle of the 1980s, where the inferior product won. Some of that was due to LCD and LED televisions’ advanced technology, but money also played a role.
With mass production and further advances in technology, prices for larger-screened LCD and LEDs came down enough to be competitive. We saw this recently with 4K TVs. Additionally, since they could be manufactured for less, companies saw an opportunity for greater profit margins.
So manufacturers began to use marketing campaigns. They emphasized the disadvantages of plasma TVs, and they relied on the advantage of the LED’s brightness. When shoppers went into stores, they were drawn to the brighter LEDs, which look great in a showroom but not as well in a more dimly lit house.
Finally, manufacturers could make larger televisions that cost less, had comparable picture quality, cost less, and did not need the same kind of mounting brackets that plasma TVs needed.
Safely Moving a Plasma TV
Since you won’t be able to buy a plasma TV at a big box retailer, you will be looking on eBay, Craig’s List, or internet chatrooms and forums. If you buy a plasma television, how should you move it safely?
First, keep it upright. Although it might be possible to move it laying down, it creates additional stress on the glass. Along with keeping it upright, you want to protect it from tipping over. Consider using blankets and pillows and tying it down. Bubble wrap would be another layer of protection.
If you are lucky, you can buy a generic TV moving box. You can buy them online in advance from a moving company if you hire movers. They can get pretty pricey for what you get. Also be sure to drive slowly over potholes, railroad tracks, and bumpy roads if you move the TV yourself.
Understandably, plasma TVs are heavy due to their composition. Those who have a plasma TV who don’t want to get rid of it are just like many audiophiles who prefer listening to vinyl. Unfortunately, limitations of the technology keep them from being lighter, and OLED and QLED televisions come close to providing a similar picture quality.