Are Plasma still the best modern choice for retro gaming?


I have access to a 1080p Panasonic Plasma TV, 4K LED Samsung TV and then a 1080p 32" LED TV in my arcade cabinet, with regards to displaying content, in particular retro games via emulation, I do find the plasma handles blacks better i.e. blacks are black, better colour re-production and generally produces a more natural looking image. The only problem with plasma screens is the dreaded “burn in”. When you spend more time in the RetroArch menu like me, tinkering with shaders than actually playing the damn games you start noticing the white text and icons from the RetroArch menu when the kids are watching Spongbob Squarepants :sweat_smile:

Having said that I do find that most of the CRT shaders appear more realistic on the plasma, maybe this is because the plasma handles blacks better. The dynamics from the fake scanlines blend more naturally with other colours. I always struggle getting a natural looking image from LED TV’s, blacks appear like dark greys (lowering contrast crushes black levels where you lose details), colours over saturated etc…

I have my beloved 14" CRT TV from over 25 years, this has an RGB SCART input, along with my original N64 which I bought on release date! The N64 has been modified to output RGB, when these two are hooked up it’s pure eye candy - real scanlines, real colours, clean, natural, untouched, and unadulterated visual retro joy.

I would love to have all the consoles hooked up to a few different CRT TV’s but the amount of space required and cabling logistics would be difficult to manage, this is why for convenience, I stick with emulation.


Underscan is definitely preferable to scaling, but that still leaves you with the black bars to deal with. Potentially, one could fix this by using the vertical size adjustment in the service menu. I just wonder if there’s a less cumbersome solution.


Plasmas are definitely better than LCDs, and their demise is another example of how late capitalism has failed us.

The last plasmas that Panasonic manufactured in 2013 use some kind of strobing to reduce motion blur, it’s something like 85% less motion blur than an LCD. It’s also an emissive display, so it’s a lot closer to how a CRT actually works. The last Panasonic plasmas manufactured in 2013 are amazing displays, definitely worth buying one used if you see one. I personally have the entry-level S60, which is pretty nice for gaming since it only has ~2 frames of lag.

I find that on a plasma, a lot of shader effects are redundant/unnecessary. Just adding scanlines results in a pretty great image on a plasma.


I’m still kind of disappointed that the SED and FED displays never went anywhere in the consumer space. They both seemed like they were kind of a happy medium between the best features between CRTs and LCDs.


Plasma’s don’t have “true blacks” they are not like OLEDS. A lot of plasmas have worse contrast ratios than a lot of modern VA panels. And that’s a fact. A lot of Plasmas could also not get very bright at all. (Many just barely over 100 cd/m2)

If you care about CRT emulation you can easily run RA at 4k downsampled to 1080p. And this will improve the look significantly if you really enjoy your Plasma though. Ride that baby into the ground. Really there just is not enough “real” 4k content in the wild that makes a 4k TV worth bothering with outside of an OLED.


Just for kicks, stats from my Panasonic P60S60:

Black: 0.013 cd/m2

White : 56.22 cd/m2

Contrast : 4094 : 1

This is actually still plenty bright in a room with a bit of ambient light. I’ve come to realize that peak brightness isn’t really as much of an issue as I once thought. It’s the resulting contrast ratio that really matters for overall image quality. Peak brightness is only really a concern in a bright room or when the black level is relatively high, resulting in a low contrast ratio. The biggest complaint I have with the S60 is how reflective the screen is; you can practically use it as a mirror in a bright room.

yep; and even if/when 4k content becomes widely available, it won’t make much of a difference vs 1080p at current average display sizes and viewing distances.


Not to sound dumb but you’re referring to nvidia DSR when stating to downsample from 4K to 1080p correct?


I have the best plasma ever made from panasonic. For retro gaming, I’d trade it in for a CRT or computer monitor with near 0 latency any day.


The best plasma from Panasonic for pure image quality (the ZT60 series I believe) has some pretty unfortunate input lag, around 4-5 frames if memory serves. :neutral_face: Movies and shows look great on it though! The S60 series is much better for gaming, with only around 2 frames of lag.


Yeah i have a panasonic plasma. Incredible image quality but the input lag is garbage.


I have about a frame of lag. Not bad at all.