? Plasma burn in: What Is It And How To Avoid It
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About Plasma burn in And How To Avoid It

Plasma burn in is the single most threatening thing that can happen to a new plasma television. Learn what it is and how you can prevent it.

So you've got your eye on that new plasma television. But you occasionally hear talk of this thing called "burn in". You've got a friend who's telling you how he'd never buy a plasma because it can get burnt in in just a few hours. But how can that be? Everybody's talking about them, and they're selling like crazy. So what's going on?

Before I explain what plasma burn in really is, lets take a look at what makes plasma televisions tick.

How Do Plasma Televisions Work?

Plasma screens are made up of hundreds of thousands of tiny cells called pixels. Each pixel is composed of a red, blue, and green subpixel that's coated with a special phosphor material.

Plasma diagram

Each pixel is also filled with a mixture of neon and xenon gas. When an electrical current is applied to each pixel, the gas glows and emits ultraviolet light. You and I can't see the UV light but it reacts with the phosphor, and the phosphor emits a particular color; red, blue, or green. The image displayed on the screen is a combination of all those pixels glowing in a particular pattern.

How Does Burn In Happen?

The problem with plasma screens is that the phosphors used in each pixel don't last forever. When they're excited to emit light, they actually get dimmer. The more a plasma screen operates, the dimmer it gets because the phosphors are slowly burning away. Sounds like quite the grim end for such an expensive television but don't worry; it generally takes somewhere around 50,000 hours of operation or more for the screen to drop to half its original brightness.

Plasma burn in happens when the phosphors burn at a particular intensity for too long. The random nature of TV and movie content causes the phosphors across the entire screen to burn at the same rate. But if the screen is displaying a static image for an extended period of time, those particular phosphors will wear out faster than the phosphors in neighboring pixels and a faint image will remain behind.

This is a serious problem for plasma owners who are avid video gamers. The head up display (score indicators, etc.) of many games simply doesn't move and the danger of burn in here is quite real. Others have reported that those annoying network logos you're forced to endure while watching your favorite TV show can get burned into the screen as well.

There have been a few lawsuits against television networks and even Sony to try and eliminate the network logos. So far, these lawsuits seem to be working as more and more networks are using semi-transparent network logos. They're also starting to move them around to different corners of the screen.

How Can I Prevent It?

Now there are two camps in the plasma burn in debate. Those who believe that plasma screen's can develop burn in after just a few short hours of TV viewing. The other camp believe burn in just no longer happens in high-quality plasma's that have been maintained properly.

Maintained properly? Say that again? Most plasma manufacturers recommend you "break in" a new plasma television by keeping its brightness and contrast below a certain level for the first 100 hours or so of TV viewing. They also recommend you set the aspect ratio so it completely fills the screen for those first 100 hours.

The first 100 hours or so are indeed the most critical for any plasma screen. During this period, you should set your television to stretch the video image to fill the entire screen. Avoid playing video games for more than an hour or so.

The brightness and contrast of any plasma also has a big impact on the risk of burn-in. Most sets come from the factory with these settings set way too high, an attempt to get them to look better than the competition in the showroom no doubt.

When you setup your new plasma, always turn down these settings. Better yet, use a video calibration disk like Video Essentials or Avia to configure your screen's colors. You'll have to lower your brightness and contrast to get your screen colors just right anyway.

Many plasmas sold today use anti-burn technologies like pixel-shifting, orbiting, screen/white wash, and screensavers.

These are good suggestions to follow and it appears that many people who've reported plasma burn in problems didn't follow these common sense precautions.

It has been reported by several manufacturers and analysts that sales of plasma's have been surging throughout 2006. With sizes increasing and prices dropping, how bad can the burn in problem really be when so many people are enjoying them?


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