Plasma Break In

You've convinced me not to worry about future 3D technology and to just get a 3D TV now. I'm finally about to go to the store, but instead of getting the Samsung UA46D7000 LED LCD, I'm going to get the Samsung PS51D8000 plasma, a cheaper yet larger and higher-end model. My one concern is that, since the PS51D8000 is a plasma, do I need to break it in? I know you do it all the time for reviews, but I've read that Samsung has said that it's unnecessary anymore. So should I break it in, just be careful for the first 100 hours, or not worry at all?

Nik in Gladstone, Queensland, Australia

Good choice! We reviewed the 59-inch version of the US model, the PN59D8000, here, and found it to be a superb TV, awarding it our Top Picks designation.

As for breaking it in, I would simply be careful to display mostly full-screen images for the first 100 hours or so. Don't worry about watching 1.85:1 or 2.35:1 movies or 4:3 standard-def TV once in a while, but try to stick with 16:9 high-def most of the time at first. And keep images with lots of static elements, like games or business and news channels with a running ticker at the bottom, from remaining on the screen for long periods of time.

Plasma TVs have gotten a lot better about image retention and burn-in over the last few years, but they tend to be more prone to temporary image retention during the first 100 hours. I don't think there's any need to break them in with a 60-percent full white field, which we use for reviews because we leave the sets unattended for a few days. But I would exercise some caution in the first 100 hours as described above.

Update: As pointed out in the comments below, another important step is to reduce the set's contrast and brightness settings so the screen's phosphors don't get blasted. The best way to start is to select the Movie or Cinema picture mode, which generally defaults to lower contrast and brightness levels. In many cases, the picture mode defaults to Vivid or a similar setting—what is often referred to as "torch mode"—which pumps out as much light as possible to overcome the bright lighting on a showroom floor. However, this ages the phosphors more rapidly, and few people live in a showroom, so don't use this picture mode at home.

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mailiang's picture

You should also keep your contrast and brightness at reasonable levels. And try not using the vivid or torch mode which is for display and designed to combat the intense fluorescent lighting found in most big box stores.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
And one I should have made in my response to this question. Thanks for pointing it out!
geoperkins's picture

A few years ago I purchased a KURO plasma display, believing it to be the best monitor, even at premium price, available at the time. I took all the precautions during the first 100 hours, took care to adjust the default settings (to both optimize viewing and also to reduce burn in risk). I have used the Pioneer screen saver (a rotating white bar that runs unattended for an hour and then powers off the set). None of this has prevented burn in. It is really sad. (What I see is a reddish ghostly blur in the 4:3 portion of the screen - there is a lot of 4:3 content out there, even though I prefer wide screen when available). Maybe I should have taken the extended warranty. :(

mailiang's picture

Do you have a light side bar setting? If you do make sure it's engaged. The Kuro sets are pretty resistant to burn in, so unless you are watching a lot of 4:3 content it really shouldn't be an issue. What you may be experiencing is stubborn image retention which can mimic burn in, but is usually temporary. Try running a white snowy screen at high contrast for several hours. You can achieve this by selecting the antenna input, assuming you can use it disconnected. There are also some very good calibration discs like the Disney WOW Blu-Ray which offers screen washers and test patterns to help keep the performance of your set at it's best. I have found that most built in screen cleaners like the one you are referring to, aren't very helpful.

maj0crk's picture

Can someone advise me as to wheather to take my local dealers 1100+ hour demo with no furthur discount in price (he already took $700 off to meet Best Buys price) or wait for the new one which he'll order today? At 1100 hours, theres no question regarding burn-in.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
Since plasmas are typically rated at 60,000 hours or so, 1100 isn't much, but it is well past the break-in point as you suggest. However, I'd be a bit cautious, since it was probably running in "torch" mode on the dealer's showroom floor. And unless it was displaying full-screen, moving 16:9 images most of that time, it could have a 4:3 or 2.35:1 window or the shape of some static element (like a news ticker along the bottom) burned into the screen. To check this out, display a full white field at 40, 60, and/or 80% of peak white and look for any unevenness. If it were me, I'd probably wait for a new one and break it in myself under known conditions.
maj0crk's picture

Thanks for the reply, Scott.
My dealer is local, not affiliated with any national chain. All his displays run in a darkened room; all display either an over-the-air HD signal or a Blu Ray demo. He knows his stuff, so none of his displays run in torch mode.
That said, I'll go with a new one. Had he discounted the demo, I'd probably go for it. Paying the same price new or used has, since I first wrote this, lost it's appeal.