Plasma burn in?

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There has been much discussion recently about the life expectancy of plasma monitor/TVs. It is an interesting topic with many misconceptions and story variations. The following is what I can advise on the topic:

Misconception #1: Many retailers seem to be telling consumers that plasma monitors will only last a couple of years which is false as you will see below.

Misconception #2: The gas plasma inside the plasma TV can be refilled or replaced when it burns out. This is false.

So how long will a plasma last? The long and short of it is that it depends upon your daily hourly usage as well as how you use the monitor. 12 to 17 years is my short answer.

One practical example I will cite here is the Panasonic Tau units being used by In Motion Pictures at major airports around the country. These plasma monitors have been in use now for 3 -1/2 years. In Motion Pictures displays images on them from 6AM until 10PM daily (16 hours). These plasma TVs still look great. They never fail to catch my eye as I pass by in one airport or another. If they have lost some of their brightness level I can hardly tell. The naked eye test is always best. These plasma displays have been used already for almost 20,000 hours and have plenty of life left. Already this use equates to 18 years for an owner that watches 3 hours of video or computer content per day.

Manufacturers figures for longevity are closely guarded but I have added some here for your review:

Panasonic: States (not publicly) that the monitor is good for 20,000 to 30,000 hours. They also state that these plasma displays measure 50% brightness (phosphor ignition may be a better term) at 50,000 hours.

Fujitsu: States that the panel lasts 20,000 to 25,000 hours

Pioneer: States that the 50" PDP 502MX (or 505HD) measures half brightness (phosphor ignition) at 30,000 hours of use. They also state the newer model 503CMX (or Pro 1000HD) with a deeper pixel structure will last even longer though they do not have numbers.

Sharp: States that plasma panels only last 10,000 to 20,000 hours and that LCD monitors last longer. Figures they would say that.

For consumer use these numbers should be comforting. Plasma Displays are now about equivalent in longevity to CRTs, which typically state 25,000 hours or so life. Let's put these hours in perspective. The average U.S. household watches 4 to 6 hours of television per day. Staggering. Taking a mean time manufacturer stated longevity of 22,500 hours of usage, times our average 5 hours per day we come up with over 12 years of usage. And that is on the low side of estimates. At 4 hours per day and 25,000 hours we are looking at 17 years.

Now, there are varying degrees of phosphor ignition along the way (the same way a CRT fades). Dissipation begins the moment you turn the set on. After 1000 hours of usage a plasma monitor should measure around 94% brightness, which is barely noticeable to the naked eye. At 15,000 to 20,000 hours the monitor should measure around 68% brightness or to say it differently, 68% of the phosphors are being ignited.

There are steps you can take to ensure longer and better life from your plasma display panel.

1) Never leave static images on the unit. Do not pause a picture on the plasma for more than a minute. This will cause phosphor burn in. Watch the unit in full widescreen format as much as possible to avoid differentiation between the side bands of the unit. While this does not actually decrease the longevity of the phosphors it does cause an annoyance to have to play a gray static image to "erase" the burn in.

2) Use Brightness and Contrast levels that are necessary for viewing - not excessive. In a brightly lit room you may need to use more contrast and brightness, which will decrease the life of the unit. However, there are memory setting adjustments available on most recent plasma monitors that allow the user to choose a memory setting to suit viewing needs. At night, or in a lower light room use lower contrast and brightness levels and extend the life.

3) Keep the monitor/TV in a well-ventilated area. The unit will not have to work as hard to cool itself.

4) Turn the unit off when not in use.

5) Keep the unit out of reach of small children.

6) Do not mount the unit face down from the ceiling. (Philips are you listening?)

How do the manufacturers know how to calculate the figures since plasma monitors have not been out long? The manufacturer facilities in Japan test plasma panels at 100% white image light and measure down from that point with meter readings. It takes hours to find that 50% mark - between 30,000 and 50,000 hours. What a job that would be… - to watch the white light.

-DSI Staff

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