Plasma displays historically offered higher contrast ratios, deeper blacks and larger screens than competing technologies, but were plagued by image retention problems. Image retention, or burn in, occurs when the phosphors in the screen are lit unevenly for extended periods. For instance, watching a 4:3 program on a 16:9 television (black bars on the side) might leave permanent, visible lines where the bars were. Newer plasmas are less prone to burn in, though it can still happen with improper use. There are some fixes, but the best cure is a little prevention.
Avoid leaving the TV set to a static input, such as a DVD menu screen or a gaming system intro screen. Most ugly burn ins come from gaming systems; game play often leaves static images continuously on screen, such as scoring or inventory stats in the corner. These static images will leave behind temporary burns, but sustained image motion from a movie or a few hours of television should wipe them away. Still, gaming is the enemy of even modern plasmas, so adjust your brightness and contrast settings for game play. Your television probably has a “game” or “gaming” preset that will adjust the settings to optimal level. If not, bring those levels down manually for marathon sessions.
Use the built-in image cleaner on your TV judiciously. Most plasmas have a function for eliminating minor or temporary burns, and they can even eliminate more serious problems, but it reduces screen life by evening out the wear. The function is often called “wipe” or “clean” in most plasma menus. Don’t use it if you just happen to notice a little residual image from a station logo in the corner, for example, as this will go away on its own or be eliminated by switching to a different channel for a short time.
Try one of the many looped DVDs designed to even out the screen. Any movie played continuously on a loop will do, actually, but there are specially designed DVDs that make use of motion, lights and darks to clean up minor burns, such as PlasmaSaver. Testers at the Plasma Display Coalition suggest that minor image retention is not a function of the phosphors, but electrically charged pixels. They noted that dislpaying an all white screen solved most problems effectively as well.
Don’t panic over minor burns. Many cable stations, primarily news and sports, leave a graphic along one edge of the screen for news or scores. These will leave a temporary residual image, but that’s normal and will go away on its own.
Use common sense. Even old CRT televisions suffered burn in if they were misused. You’ll have to work pretty hard to severely damage your screen, so a just a little caution and common sense should keep your screen burn free for years.
Calibrate your television when you get it home. The default image preset for most new televisions is called “Vivid” or “Vibrant” or some similar term. This is meant for brightly-lit showrooms and it should never be left on that setting at home. Not only will it look bizarre in a normal room, but the brightness and contrast levels are so high, you are more likely to suffer at least minor burns in pretty short order.