Plasma TVs rose to prominence in the 2000s as the new go-to technology for high-definition displays. Its main advantages are its slim profile, low power consumption, and visual perks such as higher contrast ratio (deeper blacks) and minimal motion blur. To accurately test its quality against other HD displays, such as LCD, LED and OLED, companies use a series of tests that can last as long as six weeks.
The first thing they look at is picture quality. Often, the TVs display identical standard-definition clips in controlled lighting conditions, commonly a dim room that simulates a home cinema. Each model has a different brightness and contrast meter, and it’s important for reviewers to calibrate them as equally as possible. Some companies also run them through lower-quality broadcasts to see if the technology can improve the picture.
Sound quality is another important aspect of the plasma TV test. A tester can run a series of sounds through the set, from male and female spoken dialogues to various music genres and sound effects. These are used to check for background noise (some buzzing may be audible from the interior electronics, even in newer models) clarity, and volume capacity.
Next, plasma TVs must be easy to use and set up. This applies to any other technology and is often a major deciding factor for consumers, although it has less of a bearing on overall ratings. The display must be easy to set up, with cable connections clearly marked and instruction manuals easy to understand. The remote control layout is also taken into account. Generally, the less you have to refer to the manual, the better.
An important but often overlooked factor is energy efficiency. Plasma TVs use up very little power compared to older models, but models still lie all over the scale. TVs should be tested using the same pictures and screen settings, as well as on standby. Since many models automatically adjust to lighting conditions, the tests must also be performed in various setups such as broad daylight and tungsten lighting.
Finally, you’ll need to look at add-ons and support for other technologies. It tends to get subjective here as not all features matter equally to every user. If you want gaming, satellite TV, or HD video, you’ll need to test for features specific to these uses. Although the main features are usually printed on the box, sometimes you’ll find a nice little functionality that seals the deal.