Rich Warren: It's time to donate your plasma (screens)

Rich Warren: It's time to donate your plasma (screens)

Farewell, plasma.

Recently Samsung and LG, two of the world's largest TV manufacturers, announced they would no longer manufacturer plasma TVs.

In the days of fuzzy liquid crystal displays (LCDs) videophiles insisted on plasma TV displays. Plasma offered better resolution, far higher contrast and blacker blacks back when LCDs reproduced black as pale gray. We've come a long way over the past 15 years. Plasma improved incrementally while LCD improved monumentally. LCD appeals because it enables ultra-thin, lightweight, low-power consumption TVs. Illuminating the picture using light-emitting diodes (LEDs) provided the final leap to bring LCD sets to near parity with plasma.

Pioneer designed and marketed the ultimate plasma displays, but faced financial difficulties, especially with low sales of plasma sets, and left the market. It transferred much of its technology to Panasonic. That lasted only a few years until Panasonic, also faced with dismal plasma sales, ceased production. With the Koreans exiting, perhaps a few small Chinese factories will continue with what has become a high-quality but obsolete technology.

Meanwhile, LG recently unrolled a roll-up organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display. This is far from ready for prime time and initially will be very expensive. It probably won't be popular for home TVs. There is no crying need for a "Murphy bed" TV that you can roll up when you finish viewing. However, it may be the future of this newspaper and other publications, a pocketable screen that automatically downloads and displays the daily newspaper and magazines, or for those desiring video on the go.

Amazon introduced a quasi-3-D mobile phone, about the same time that most experts agreed that 3-D TV utterly failed. The Fire Phone, according to Amazon, allows you to: "Tilt, auto-scroll, swivel, and peek to navigate menus and access shortcuts with one hand. Dive into a new class of immersive apps and games — peek to see detailed views of clothing, shoes, and more in the new Amazon Shopping app for Fire phone, or take on a character's viewpoint to see around corners and obstacles in games."

ABCs of e-readers. On a related topic, Internet pundit David Goldman on CNN.com considers e-readers, such as the Kindle and Nook, dead. He opined people would read on tablets such as the iPad, Kindle Fire and others. While tablets provide a serviceable reading experience, e-readers deliver the best reading experience. Their sharp, easily configured text, perfectly lit without the bright background of a tablet, is easy on the eyes. They also run for a month at a time on a single charge, meaning an average of 30-40 or more hours of reading. Try that with your tablet. Most e-readers are smaller and lighter than the majority of tablets, permitting a more comfortable reading position. I found one drawback to e-readers compared to paperback books. Recently, facing assault by mosquitoes while reading, my Kindle proved wholly inadequate for the task of swatting mosquitoes.

Sony and Barnes & Noble must agree with the naysaying pundit. Sony shuttered its e-book division and turned it over to Kobo, which services independent book stores with e-readers. Barnes & Noble announced it would spin off its Nook e-reader into a separate division from its physical book stores. One of the great advantages of the Nook was its tie-in with a real bookstore.

Click it. A pundit at PC Magazine insists that the dedicated, standalone camera as we know it is history. Samsung attempts to prove his point. In Korea, it offers a special edition of its top-of-the-line cellphone capable of mating directly with a 35mm interchangeable lens.

I'm not a professional, or even a good amateur photographer, but I have shot many a decent photo with a 35mm SLR, both film and digital. A good camera embodies a certain shape and weight distribution that fosters good photography. While a cellphone is just fine for the casual point-and-shoot photographer, or an accomplished amateur on a lark, anything beyond that demands a dedicated camera.

Rich Warren, who lives in the Champaign area, is a longtime reviewer of consumer electronics. He can be emailed at hifiguy@mchsi.com.

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