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Ask The Expert: Plasma TV vs 4K TV, which one should I buy right now?

Andy Vandervell


Plasma TV vs 4K TV: Which should you buy?

Now is an interesting time to buy a TV. Panasonic has decided to stop making plasma TVs, making the 2013 models the last in what is arguably the best quality TV technology for movie fans we've had. Panasonic has made some bold claims about its upcoming Studio Master 4K LCDs surpassing plasma, but until we see a finished product only OLED can surpass plasma for black level and Samsung reckons we're three to four years away from OLED being affordable.

And then you have 4K TVs. Should you buy a top-end plasma TV now while you still can, or are you better off investing in 4K? That's exactly the question one reader had, and our TV expert John Archer was on hand to give him an answer.

Peter S writes:

"I need your help to decide between a Panasonic VT65 plasma and the Sony 65X9005 4K TV. The price difference would only be £1,500, because the Sony is a demo unit.

What would you choose?

Is the 4K future proofing worth the not so good blacks, which for me are on the plasma superior to the Sony? Or will there be so much 4K in say 3-5 years that the plasma will look old fashioned, because it could not handle the much better 4K signals?

Second question, is the Sony VPL-VW500ES 4K projector worth the money, or should I wait one or two more years to see prices for 4K projectors at £4k to £5k for the same quality?"

John Archer: It's worth waiting for new 4K TVs if you can afford to

John ArcherThat's a nice dilemma to be faced with!

I have to say that, if it were me, of the two TVs you mention I personally would go for the Sony 65X9005. I might not have said this up until a month or so ago, but the momentum behind 4K is now so huge that I'm convinced 4K sources are going to arrive sooner and in greater numbers than many people expect.

Given what a difference 4K (when done right, anyway) makes to picture quality I think that if I bought a high-end HD TV now, even one as outstanding as the ZT65, I would find myself feeling frustrated about its lack of 4K compatibility within 12 months.

I should add here that I recently swapped a Pioneer KURO plasma TV for the Sony 65X9005 as my personal TV, and actually to my surprise I have absolutely no regrets about this. The Sony's 65-inch X9005 is an outstanding TV (more so than the 55in version, strangely).

The only other course of action I might suggest you consider is waiting. I know this might sound painful, but the key point is that if you wait for Sony's new 4K TVs to arrive they will carry HDMI 2.0 ports, which in my opinion are well worth holding on for if you can as they will ensure you can enjoy 4K at 60fps without any of the compromises in colour sampling HDMI 1.4 sets use.

The new Sony 4K sets will likely be quite a bit cheaper than the X9005As as well, I suspect, and there's even a new flagship direct LED model in the new Sony range which from what I saw at the CES 2014 (see: Sony TVs in 2014) should deliver a big contrast boost. Though obviously we can't be certain of the performance qualities of Sony's new 4K TVs until we've actually had them to test.

As for the final part of your question, the Sony VW500ES projector is worth every penny of its money. Its price is actually pretty incredible in my opinion for what it offers -- so much so that I would be surprised if 4K projection prices dropped significantly lower for a couple of years (though I'll be happy to be proved wrong on this).

Obviously, if you're trying to decide whether to buy a Sony VW500ES instead of a TV you need to think hard about the circumstances in which you're looking to install it. For instance, projectors are generally not well suited to a normal living room environment due to the way they need total darkness to work at their best.

If you're looking for something to put into a dedicated home cinema room, though, I'd think very seriously about the VW500ES, though as with the 65X9005A it doesn't have an HDMI 2.0 port, so again you might be better off waiting until a revised model comes out, likely towards the end of 2014.

Ask the Expert is a new feature where our experts answer the burning questions you have about what products to buy and when. If you have a question you really need help with, email andy_vandervell@trustedreviews.com. We cannot guarantee an answer to every question, but the very best of your questions will get featured on the site.



January 21, 2014, 6:20 pm

Panasonic 2013 models, not 2012 are the last range. Doesn't anybody proof read articles anymore. It's not just this site, the amount of mistakes, spelling errors and grammatical cock ups is galling. It's across everything from papers, media, financial documents. I can only put it down to years of incompetent education, the rewards of which we are now seeing. I'll get off my box now.

Prem Desai

January 21, 2014, 7:32 pm

Very impressive response.

One of the few times when a journalist / reporter is actually answering the question as if they were spending their own money (in this case John has!!) rather than trying to make everyone upgrade to new stuff for the sake of it.

I'm with John on the HDMI 2 front - I'll wait. Crazy not to.


January 21, 2014, 9:20 pm

Recently facing the same dilemma I prefered to go for the panasonic plasma 55st60 ( over waiting for oled or 4k ) since its value for money is hard to beat(its even bright enough for god sake ).
Taking for granted that not even 1080p broadcasting signals are yet available in 2014 for the vast majority of us european av fans I would like to welcome all of you tech journalists to real world if you would like to face reality.
This is Europe you know and not Japan with its NHK 8K channel already testing its UHF broadcasts..


January 22, 2014, 1:39 am

Great article! My next TV will have to be 4k capable... my awesome

Sony Bravia KDL-46X2000 reviewed by this site had a 10/10 orginally has been great but is starting to look a little small :)

Drunken Max

January 22, 2014, 10:22 am

Sky are still on 1080i and Apple TV is on 1080p still. As this is the source of most of my viewing I do not see the point in changing. I early adopt and watch 1080p at best


January 22, 2014, 10:48 am

Very useful article, but taking the dilemma a step further, I was looking to upgrade my old Pioneer Plasma but have the added problem that my living room cannot accommodate a screen size larger than 47-50".
Since from what I've read 4K needs a larger screen to be worth the shift, will there be a time when 4K screens will function in smaller spaces or is waiting a waste of time? And if so, what would be my best upgrade at the moment? I've been looking at Panasonic Plasma and LED?


January 22, 2014, 11:53 am

I'll have to ask John RE: the size issue, but if you're no going 4K then a plasma seems the best option. Panasonic LEDs have been hit and miss so far as I can tell.


January 22, 2014, 12:11 pm

Thanks Max, I agree - that's part of my thinking too.


January 22, 2014, 12:11 pm

Thanks for the rapid response - I look forward to John's answer.


January 22, 2014, 12:18 pm

Shouldn't the "Doesn't anybody proof read articles anymore" have a question mark at the end?


January 22, 2014, 12:36 pm

I think anyone is mad to buy a 4K TV at the minute, standards haven't been finalized so there's no guarantee your shiny new 4K is actually gonna be able to show anything without you having to go and spend more money on some external tuner. The fact the 'expert' recommends the Sony with it's HDMI 1.4 connections is laughable, though he does mention the need for HDMI 2.0 for the full experience so it's not a complete loss. It's early days for 4K the sensible thing to do is wait a few years for things to mature, not to mention the fact it'll most likely be a couple of years before there's readily available 4k content to watch, (netflix hardly counts)


January 22, 2014, 2:16 pm

"cock ups" should be "cock-ups".

Read this sentence again, "It's across everything from papers, media, financial documents". Doesn't make sense does it?

Everyone makes mistakes, live with it. In terms of spelling and grammar, articles on this site are better than most popular tabloids.


January 22, 2014, 3:02 pm

Panasonic have claimed plasma levels of picture quality with their new LED Master panel, by all accounts they seem to have done just that http://www.trustedreviews.com/...

Problem is of course they haven't actually announced any TVs using the panel.
I love my recently purchased P50G60 plasma, picture quality is awesome. It'll do me nicely until 4K OLED sets are reasonably priced, which Samsung themselves reckon will be another 3-4 years.


January 22, 2014, 4:00 pm

Interesting article. I have also just gone through the same debate myself - Panny 55" VT65 Plasma or 55" 4K TV. In the end, after much research online and also discussions at a local specialist retailer I went for the Plasma.

For me. LED (in any form) still cannot compare to the best Plasma TVs and 4K is just too far away for mainstream content. Look at all the 3D Hype a few years ago - yes all top end TV's have it now, but there is so little content (in UK) - Sky has just one 3D channel. I also don't think the leap from 1080p to 4K is as great as the leap was from SD to HD. Also the current price gap for a 4K TV was too much. Of course they will get cheaper over time.

Everyone has to make their own choice and this is just my own opinion. There is no right answer at the moment, just which is the best solution for you.


January 22, 2014, 4:05 pm

I would say the smaller the screen the less benefit you will see for 4K. It will also depend how long you want to wait - I haven't seen any 50" 4K tv's announced to date?!? If you want Plasma, get one while you can before Panasonic stop making them!


January 22, 2014, 4:07 pm

lol, 46" is almost hand held size now! Funny how I remember my old 30" CRT TV seemed HUGE 15 years ago!


January 22, 2014, 4:11 pm

Agreed think that 65 inch sounds awesome :-)

Paul Dickinson

January 22, 2014, 6:58 pm

I agree with SEL. LCD/LED has always had issues for me (skin looking like smooth plasticine etc). Genuine 4K content does look stunning, but I asked for a demonstration of Blu Ray, and was very disappointed with the result. In the end I bought the Panny PV65VT65B, and I'm delighted with it. I've had Plasma for 4 years, and this little baby will keep me going until OLED becomes readily available and affordable..


January 23, 2014, 12:09 pm

when is 8k tv technology likely to be out? Only i'm told that theres no point in going higher than 8k as the human eye can only differenciate up to 8k?


January 23, 2014, 1:01 pm

Thank god us AV fans still have some realism over our tech best buys.
It seems like tech gurus are always advertizing non-mature technologies in every way they can..
Now is the perfect time to buy a 55 inch plasma people.
Do not take the bait of 4K (at least yet..)
Unless a 4K plasma comes up this year or the next..
Your opinion Andy?


January 23, 2014, 2:27 pm

As John suggests, I'd probably wait for the next-generation of 4K sets with HDMI 2.0 etc. That's assuming you'll be able to afford them, of course. If not then it's kind of moot point. I don't think there's a right or wrong option here, it depends on your personal circumstance.


January 23, 2014, 3:07 pm

I think that is spot on Andy - there isn't a right or wrong answer.

My choice was very much based on the here and now. A top 55" plasma is a lot cheaper than a 55" 4K TV and my view is that for 99% of content in the next couple of years the Plasma is the better overall choice. It is possible I might review things in a few years time (funds permitting of course). I would strongly recommend going to a local specialist retailer who stocks the top Plasmas and 4K's and view them both yourself with proper source material.


January 23, 2014, 4:05 pm

I think it really comes down to what you've got at the moment and how often you're willing to upgrade. I've got a 40-inch Samsung LED I bought last year that I'm perfectly happy with, so my next TV purchase won't be for a couple of years and it will be 4K. If I was still using some garbage LCD from 5 years ago, however, I'd be all over those plasmas...


January 23, 2014, 4:27 pm

Absolutely. My previous TV was a 7 year old Plasma which was just starting to show it's age and also developing a few issues, so my hand was forced somewhat.


January 23, 2014, 6:35 pm

The human eye can tell the difference up to 300 pixels-per-inch (PPI)

So if you take 8k standard 16:9 resolution of 7680 × 4320 and view it on a 40" screen you'll get a PPI of 220. If you take the same resolution and go for an 80" screen you'll end up getting 110 PPI and so on (which is the same PPI you'll get with the 4k on a 40" screen)

There is still a lot of room to go yet :)
This however does not apply for most mobile devices who have already reached a PPI of 314 on a 7" screen with FullHD.

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