Plasma TVs & gaming don't mix -- or do they?


For years, plasma TVs were considered off-limits to anyone who wanted to play video games. The threat of burn-in loomed -- play the same game for too long, and your health bar, ammo count, and any other stationary display could be permanently etched into your plasma's screen, an unwelcome discoloration on all your TV shows and movies.


So anyone who saw me hooking up a couple of plasma TVs to a gaming console last week, as part of a week-long gaming review, may have thought I was crazy to test plasmas along with the burn-in-free TV types. But the fact is, times have changed. Today's plasmas are supposed to be able to erase the effects of burn in -- or better yet, to prevent it from happening in the first place.


And during last week's review, I found out that manufacturers really have made a big improvement in plasma's ability to withstand burn-in. During slow times, and depending on which game consoles were being played, these plasmas might display the same menus or inactive scenes from a game for 2-3 hour stretches. That used to be death for plasmas, but these sets kept on looking great.


Does this mean that a plasma TV is a good option for every gamer? Not necessarily. While a casual gamer like me, who plays a couple of hours at a time a couple of days a week, would probably have no problem with today's plasmas, a hardcore gamer who plays for eight hours at time might not be plasma material. But if you're not that intense a gamer, and you'd love to have a plasma, think about how you'll use your TV, and shop accordingly.


And if you've recently bought a plasma and you've been worrying about burn-in with video games, news tickers, or other stationary displays, don't forget -- you just need to vary what's on the screen every couple of hours. Change the channel, pop in another game, or, as the Nintendo Wii periodically asks its players, "Why don't you take a break?" and get some fresh air.

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