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What is a Flat Panel TV?

J. Beam
J. Beam

Flat panel TVs are display screens for watching TV and movies that are significantly thinner than the cathode ray tube (CRT) televisions that are being replaced in living rooms across America. A flat panel TV is more compact than the standard CRT television, measuring only a few inches in thickness and lacking the convex screen. Besides eliminating bulk, the flat panel TV offers excellent picture quality and compatibility with home theatre systems, HDTV, and digital television.

There are two basic types of flat panel TVs -- liquid crystal display (LCD) and plasma. LCD flat panel TVs employ millions of individual crystals that respond to electric charges and create light and color, which passes through the glass and displays the picture in millions of little dots, or pixels. LCD flat panel TVs consume less energy for operation than plasma screen flat panel TVs, but the display can become skewed, especially at sharp angles on larger screens.

Most flat panel TVs come with remotes.
Most flat panel TVs come with remotes.

The plasma screen flat panel TV operates with plasma technology. The plasma gas discharges between two panels of glass and mixes with phosphorus to create light. Each pixel on a plasma screen flat panel TV is illuminated individually in superb color and brightness. Plasma screens are often touted as the best quality image at all angles and sizes; however, the larger screens are power hogs and require a fan to keep the unit cool.

Flat panel TVs are significantly thinner than older models with cathode ray tubes.
Flat panel TVs are significantly thinner than older models with cathode ray tubes.

The price of a flat panel TV varies depending on brand, size, and quality, but the overall prices of flat panel TVs have dropped significantly since their debut. When considering purchasing a flat panel TV, it is important to explore both types. LCD flat panel TVs are often less expensive than plasma screen TVs of the same size, and LCD flat panels typically consume less energy, but both the quality and longevity of the picture are often debated as being less than their plasma screen counterparts.

Many argue that for a genuine home theatre experience, especially when viewing the picture in the dark, a plasma screen flat panel TV is superior hands down. Whichever type of flat panel TV you decide to buy, you can bet that you will be won over by the sleek design and reduced space consumption. Before you buy, remember to check compatibility with any home theatre components you already have.

Discussion Comments


@allenJo - Plasma is no longer the “in” thing. Now they have LED (light emitting diode) television sets, where the pixels of the screen are basically made up of little lights. This is supposed to be the optimal technology for high definition television, and as a result, prices for plasma television sets have come down in comparison.

The LED sets have a deeper contrast ratio in the picture (the blacks are richer, and the whites are whiter). Another advantage of the LED sets is that they are supposed to be energy-efficient, so you should be able to get your money back over time. It’s just a matter of personal preference I guess.


I recently bought an LCD flat panel TV. It’s a high definition set. The picture quality is fine, except that I don’t have a high definition receiver (we get satellite). So I will have to plunk down some money for a high definition receiver if I really want the best picture quality.

In the meantime, I can use the controls to adjust for using standard definition resolution. Sometimes it looks OK and sometimes it doesn’t. As for why we chose LCD over plasma, I was told by the salesperson that plasma is gas and I didn’t want the potential dangers of a gas flat panel in my house. Of course, LCD is cheaper too.

Maybe I didn’t make the best decision, but I won’t know for sure until I get that high definition receiver to see how it improves my picture.

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    • Most flat panel TVs come with remotes.
      By: StudioAraminta
      Most flat panel TVs come with remotes.
    • Flat panel TVs are significantly thinner than older models with cathode ray tubes.
      By: Monkey Business
      Flat panel TVs are significantly thinner than older models with cathode ray tubes.