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The first plasma displays came out in the eighties. They were monochrome and did not have a very long life as compared to their CRT counterparts (the dominant technology of those days). However, over the next two and a half decades, plasma display technology has continued to evolve, and now we can safely say that plasma TVs last much longer than they used to. But how do they compare with LCDs when it comes to lifespan?
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The lifespan of older generation plasma TVs
In the late 90’s, plasma display technology matured enough to make it a viable commercial TV option. Although prices were initially very high, they dropped steadily over the next few years and by the middle of the first decade of the new millennium they were also an affordable option. However, this older generation of plasma TVs had an expected lifespan of 20000 to 30000 hours, or even less. The most significant problems were those of screen-burn-in and reduction in the intensity of the image over time as the gas “wore-out."
Screen burn-in was the phenomena that a prolonged single image would result in a ghost of that image being “burned-in" to the screen permanently. Actually this happened, though not to the same extent, even in other display technologies. The reason “screen-savers." came into use. Decreasing intensity used to be a problem too. Over time the gases in the cells of the plasma TV are to an lesser extent resulting in lower intensity of the produced image.
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The lifespan of plasma TVs today
However, the problems that plagued the early plasma TVs have been largely solved in the current generation of plasma TVs. The problem of screen burn-in is easily fixed by constantly shifting the image (by 1 or 2 pixels – this is not discernible to the naked eye) and thus saving the screen from any permanent damage. The inherent plasma technology was improved such that current TV sets offer a lifespan of 60000 hours. There are some variations from manufacturer to manufacturer, but that figure can be used as a average benchmark.
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What Does it all Add Up to?
It is true that many of the earliest plasma TVs are now to be found in junk yards. The lifespan estimates need to be put into perspective. Even at a lifespan of 20000 hours you get to use the set for 7 years if average viewing time is taken to be 8 hours daily. A current plasma TV with a life of 60000 hours would last that long if used 24x7, and 21 years if used for 8 hours a day!
8 hours a day seems to be a reasonable estimate of use leading to 21 years of operation and that is more than adequate! The technology is likely to undergo major changes much before that time. LCD TVs also come with an expected lifespan of around 60000 hours. As of now, the two technologies are head to head as far as life expectancy goes!