Plasma TV Burn-In Questions
January 19, 2006 4:58 PM   Subscribe

Plasma Burn-in Filter: I have a new Plasma 42" TV. The manual has a page in the front dedicated to burn-in and how it's not covered by warranty. How worried do I need to be?

And, more to the point, how careful? I watch a lot of widescreen movies that show black bars at the top and bottom of the display, and I like to play video games on the big display from time to time.

Will a day-long Half-Life tournament be visible in a year?

And will keeping the brightness turned down help to ease the problem?

I'd really like to hear from other Plasma TV owners...both those who have had this problem, and those who have avoided it.

By the way, it's a Samsung SP-P4231 that I picked up at Sam's, and it has a DVI connection to my HTPC, and a connection to my Onkyo DVD player.
posted by SlyBevel to Technology (23 answers total)
 
I left mine on for best week once just displaying a Windows desktop. Did no harm at all.
posted by ed\26h at 5:24 PM on January 19, 2006


That's "best part of a week", sorry.
posted by ed\26h at 5:25 PM on January 19, 2006


And, more to the point, how careful? I watch a lot of widescreen movies that show black bars at the top and bottom of the display...

I'm pretty sure the black-bars at the top and bottom of widescreen DVD movies won't do anything, as the television isn't producing the black bars to the screen, it's just simply not displaying anything. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.

and I like to play video games on the big display from time to time.

This is different. If you play video games that have constant HUDs or graphics that stay on the screen and don't move throughout the game, you might have some problems.

Will a day-long Half-Life tournament be visible in a year?

Probably not, but I wouldn't leave it paused for a long time.

And will keeping the brightness turned down help to ease the problem?

No, I'm pretty sure the brightness has nothing to do with it.

The big problem with burn-in happens on channels like CNN or Fox, which have chyrons on constantly, in the same positions (the crawl at the bottom of the screen.) To a lesser extent, the little translucent logos stations put in the lower right corner.

I'll tell you, we've got a bunch of 60 inch plasma screens where I work for teleconferencing, and if you squint hard enough, you can see burn-in from the default Marquee screen-saver that Windows uses.
posted by SweetJesus at 5:27 PM on January 19, 2006


Supposedly they've improved the burn-in problem on plasmas a very great deal. I don't own one myself, but knowledgeable people seem to think it's not too much of an issue for most people.

I don't think a day-long HL tournament is going to cause you any trouble. If you play the game constantly, though, without doing anything else.... you could eventially have problems. But that would take, most likely, weeks or months.

You might want to check in over at AVS forum. They're not always the nicest crowd, but they do know a lot.
posted by Malor at 5:39 PM on January 19, 2006


From what has been said on the AVS Forum, brightness does matter quite. When you first get the tv, the brightness is usually set way to high and should be turned down to a more reasonable level.

I have had a magnavox 42in plasma since November, but have been too nervous to leave anything on the screen for very long.

I really want to know if leaving a blank, black screen from a channel with no input can cause burn in. Anyone?
posted by meta87 at 6:01 PM on January 19, 2006


Wow that first sentence doesn't make much sense. Sorry!
posted by meta87 at 6:30 PM on January 19, 2006


My aunt's husband sits on the couch all day in front of the plasma tv and watches Faux News (Fox). As a result, the Fox news logo is burned into the left bottom corner of the screen. However, he really does literally sit there all day, every day and that's the only channel he watches, so maybe you don't have to worry about this? Also, I don't really know how long they had the TV before this happened.
posted by katyggls at 6:32 PM on January 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure the black-bars at the top and bottom of widescreen DVD movies won't do anything, as the television isn't producing the black bars to the screen, it's just simply not displaying anything. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.

You're wrong. The middle part of the screen is being worn out quicker than where the rest. When you show a full screen image, the top and bottom will be brighter than the rest.

I left mine on for best week once just displaying a Windows desktop. Did no harm at all.

It takes a lot longer than that. The problem isn't "if you leave on one image too long it'll get stuck", the problem is that the phosphors fade with use, and if some parts of the screen get a lot more use than others, you'll get a ghosted image.

Solution: Don't buy a plasma. They're a deeply flawed technology. Take it back and get an LCD or DLP.
posted by cillit bang at 7:11 PM on January 19, 2006


As has been said, burn-in is just uneven wear. If you have a solid black image running, all the cells are wearing evenly, so no problem. The biggest aspect of the image that affects burn-in in my experience is the contrast of the image. A sharp, high-contrast image is more likely to burn in an impression.

As for the how long, it depends on the manufacturer. We have a Samsung that runs a flash application 12 hours a day and the interface elements are burned in quite distinctly (we've since bought LCDs instead), but the first weekend we had it, the computer running it crashed and the screen was on for 20+ hours, and we got the error message burned in clear as day. We ran a photo screensaver for a few hours and it pretty much cleared it away, but it can happen fast. I think the bottom line from my experience is that you're right to be scared about it, and you should take it seriously.
posted by ulotrichous at 8:06 PM on January 19, 2006


Amazon.com's reviewers offer some insight:
Plasma TVs will burn-in IF...you do not enable "pixel shift" a feature of this model or if you leave a static image onscreen for hours...how often will I fall asleep with my TV on pause or on PC mode, never if I enable the sleep timer...another feature of this model.
So, your TV has a built-in pixel-shift feature that apparently needs to be enabled. Make sure you do so.

Otherwise, what everyone else has said. But don't be so, so concerned.
posted by disillusioned at 8:23 PM on January 19, 2006


Sly, just to let you know (if you already don't) your new $1,800 plasma television is an EDTV, and not an HDTV. It has a maximum resolution of 480p (DVD quality) and scales all HDTV content into 480p. I mention this only because I know more than a few people who have bought an EDTV thinking it's an HDTV because of the way they're deceptively marketed in the big-box chains.

Reading the Amazon.com thread, more than a few people think the SP-P4231 is an HDTV - it's not. If you want an HDTV, return it.
posted by SweetJesus at 8:44 PM on January 19, 2006


"Take it back and get an LCD or DLP."

If you get a DLP, make sure you are comfortable with the expense and replacement interval for the bulbs.
posted by Good Brain at 9:03 PM on January 19, 2006


Blah blah blah. Does anyone here know what they're talking about? Plasma burn-in 101:

1) The first 100 or so hours have the most potential for burn-in. Think of it as a break-in period. During this period, set your TV to stretch the picture to fit the screen, or zoom in on letterboxed content. Do not play your day-long tournament in the first 100 hours of your set.

2) Brightness (of the screen) does matter, but the operative term here is "Contrast." You can and should adjust this downwards. The default setting is almost always way too high. Not only will reducing the contract decrease the risk of burn-in, but it will prolong the life of your set. (Plasmas gradually fade in brightness as the phosphors wear.)

3) Video games are bad when they have a static portion, such as a heads-up display. Even a pixel-shift cannot always mitigate this danger. Sometimes you can zoom the picture so that the static portion doesn't show.

Plasmas are not "flawed"; neither are they perfect. LCDs have inferior brightness, contrast, and viewing angles. To each his or her own.

By the way, don't let the EDTV thing scare you. Sets vary so widely for so many reasons that the only real test is your eyes. There was a Panasonic EDTV (480p) that beat the pants off of most HDTV sets. Not to mention if you're sitting 12+ feet away, 480p and 768p and 1080i or 1080p are all going to look mighty similar.
posted by deadfather at 9:29 PM on January 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


I really want to know if leaving a blank, black screen from a channel with no input can cause burn in. Anyone?

No, because burn-in is uneven wear of phosphors. But be careful: with the digital compression most providers use nowadays, what seems like a completely black screen is actually a static image with grey artifacts present. In an extreme case (long uptime), you could be burning in your set a little. But if you're not doing this every day I wouldn't worry about it.
posted by deadfather at 9:44 PM on January 19, 2006


By the way, don't let the EDTV thing scare you. Sets vary so widely for so many reasons that the only real test is your eyes. There was a Panasonic EDTV (480p) that beat the pants off of most HDTV sets. Not to mention if you're sitting 12+ feet away, 480p and 768p and 1080i or 1080p are all going to look mighty similar.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. The TV is displaying an HD-formatted pictured, but throwing away 1/3 of the information, and doing all sorts of nasty things to the pure digital DVI stream to down-covert it. Why not just use RCA cables instead?

It's like buying a Lotus that's been retrofitted with an old Ford engine. Sure, it looks nice, but it won't go 150 miles an hour.
posted by SweetJesus at 10:03 PM on January 19, 2006


Katyggls: Wouldn't that make him your uncle?

SweetJ: I'm fully aware of what I bought, and I'm quite happy with it. I returned a 26" LCD, and then a 32" LCD, to upgrade to this set, and I didn't pay anywhere near $1800 for it.

DeadFather's dead right: The Samsung looks damn nice when my face is at least four feet from it. And I'm far-sighted, so it's not just that everything is blurring together at a certain distance. I'm highly likely to have moved on (or back) to a true HD set within the next year or two when I feel it matters. I don't deal with much true HD content these days anyway.

"Why not just use RCA cables instead?"

Because DVI is what my HTPC feeds it, and it's beautiful. No joke, the picture on this thing just beats the hell out of the Akai I had. Not that Akai is a Cadillac-tier brand, but it was a true high-def set, complete with the HDMI port that none of my devices knows how to talk to.

I do sincerely appreciate all the feedback, and there's really no need to get snarky. I'll watch this thread for a good long while, so if you're thinking of posting, please do!
posted by SlyBevel at 11:15 PM on January 19, 2006


deadfather's comment is right about "By the way, don't let the EDTV thing scare you." I own the Panasonic EDTV he mentions, and well, it spanks the ass off of every HD set I've seen at the big retailers. I even saw it side-by-side next to its cousin the same-size same-feature-set Panasonic HDTV, and saw such a miniscule difference that I knew it wouldn't be worth the extra $1000 or so to "upgrade".

And no, no burn in yet. I tried to be nice to it early on. Sometimes my Mac mini desktop is up there for a few hours, but I've seen nothing burned in from it.
posted by symphonik at 11:49 PM on January 19, 2006


Static images will burn any plasma. Image retention varies from set to set. I've seen it happen in less than a few hours. Every plasma on display in my store has image retention from the start-up menus on DVDs . Currently that's about 19 screens, ranging form 42-60 inches. It's NOT a good idea to play video games on any phosphor based display, had I advised you I would have warned you about this.

Reduce the lighting in the display environment and attenuate any light from hitting the screen.Use a calibration disc like Digital Video Essentials to optimize the image. Invariably you will find that proper setup of the lighting and video controls will require you to reduce the contrast and brightness. Run the pixel-shift feature as a screensaver. Use the built-in timer to automatically turn off the set should you accidentally leave it on. Engage the auto-off features so that the set turns off after a certain period of time when no video signal is input. Take advantage of the scaling algorithms to adjust the picture size to eliminate top or side bars when viewing 2.35/1 widescreen and 4/3 source material. Use the screen-wipe mode occasionally.

An EDTV is a fine solution for viewing DVD, you made a good choice Slybevel, but have received lousy service from the salesperson who sold it to you.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 2:28 AM on January 20, 2006


The TV is displaying an HD-formatted pictured, but throwing away 1/3 of the information, and doing all sorts of nasty things to the pure digital DVI stream to down-covert it.

It is true that an EDTV will never match an HDTV's resolution. But we don't watch individual pixels, we watch the whole screen from some distance away. Some EDTVs do really nice things to the digital signal, and some HDTVs do really nasty things to theirs. These new TVs provide a lot of opportunity to get caught up in specifications, but at the end of the day, you really can trust your eyes.

SlyBevel, I meant to mention, in summation, that susceptibility to burn-in varies greatly from model to model, and you shouldn't take someone's anecdotal evidence unless it is the exact same set as yours. Personally, I would assume that your set is susceptible to burn in until proven otherwise. If you really want to find out for sure, then you will need to do some testing yourself. Watch about 15-30 minutes of a letterboxed movie and then switch to something bright that fills the screen (completely white is best). Get close and see if you can detect a subtle difference in brightness along the border of where the letterbox was. If you can, you will need to be careful until your phosphors are older. Keep increasing the time you test with until you are comfortable that no burn-in is taking place.
posted by deadfather at 7:13 AM on January 20, 2006


Lemme just give my standard bromide that plasmas are contraindicated for anyone who watches captioning; they assuredly will burn in.
posted by joeclark at 9:25 AM on January 20, 2006


I've had a Panasonic plasma for two years now and I absolutely love it. I play video games constantly, and for the first year all non-HD channels had black bars (my cable company baked-in the bars, so stretching the image didn't work), and I haven't had any real trouble. After a couple long game sessions there's been some minor ghosting (the GTA loading screen was the worst - heh), but it went away after watching something else for a couple minutes.

Put me in the "be careful, but not paranoid" camp.
posted by Sibrax at 11:20 AM on January 20, 2006


Why would you want to zoom or scale widescreen content? With one, you lose information on the sides; if with the other, it's not anywhere near the right aspect ratio. Neither seems a good thing to do. If plasma TVs really have problems with letterboxed content like this, even just for the first 100 hours, wow...

(This is why HBO's HDTV channel drives me crazy. They zoom into wider-than-1.85:1 movies and I can't stand knowing that even though I'm watching a widescreen version, it's not as wide as it should be. On the other hand, their original series -- which is mostly why I've got HBO -- look fantastic.)
posted by atholbrose at 11:44 AM on January 20, 2006


"Watch about 15-30 minutes of a letterboxed movie and then switch to something bright that fills the screen (completely white is best). Get close and see if you can detect a subtle difference in brightness along the border of where the letterbox was."

This is what I was waiting to hear. I've done quite a bit of testing this way already, and I've seen absolutely no sign of burning in as yet.

All told, we've used it for probably 60 hours now, and it's just a great set. We've played several movies with widescreen bars, and then gone straight to full-screen TV with no difference at all.

So I'm not going to worry that much now. I'll be careful, but not paranoid. And besides, what's the point of having a big, beautiful TV like this and not enjoying it?
posted by SlyBevel at 5:31 PM on January 20, 2006


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