Cheaper Plasma TVs Getting More Energy Efficient, Too

New models promise to cut energy use to compete with typical LCDs

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While there are fewer companies making plasma TVs, the flat panels won't roll over and die for LCDs.

I usually prefer the look of a plasma's picture with its richer colors and blacks.They also still bring the best bang for the buck, which helps explain why plasmas were the one segment that actually shipped more TVs in the fourth quarter than a year earlier.

Now plasmas promise a jump in energy efficiency that could rob LCDs of a key advantage. Samsung and Panasonic have said they'll deliver plasma models that cut energy use by nearly half. That would put them in the range of the energy that typical LCDs have used. Where a 42-inch Samsung plasma might gulp $90 worth of electricity in a year, a 46-inch LCD from Samsung might use half that, according to CNet data.

LCDs are getting more efficient, too. But the biggest gains come from new, expensive light sources. Samsung has said new LCD's with LED lights should cut a panel's energy use by 40 percent over conventional fluorescent lamps. But their premium price tags will widen the affordability gap over plasmas.