Screen Burn-in, also known as “screen burn”, “image burn-in” or “ghost image”, is either a temporary or permanent discoloration of areas of an electronic display, such a television or monitor. It has been falsely associated with plasma televisions exclusively since the debut of flat screen displays.
Due to the exorbitant cost of the first flat panel displays it was prominently written in the owner’s manual to be cautious of static images burning the display panel. However, this was something that was already present on CRTs used in arcades and surveillance systems, but became relevant to plasmas because of the initial cost. It was for this reason that a warning was stressed upon the buyer in order to prevent unnecessary damage, but because associated with plasmas as a defect. For example, one of the first flat panel HDTVs was produced a 1998 50” Pioneer that had cost about $25,000.
The truth is that today all televisions (with the exception of DLPs) can experience screen burn, depending upon its usage. Temporary image burn (formally known as “transient image retention”) is very common with plasma televisions (although it can happen on LCDs as well) and occurs when a still graphic on screen is displayed for a period of time. When other images take prominence afterward, the transient image retention slowly goes away.
It should be noted that permanent screen burn can develop over time if motionless images or graphics on a display are consistently shown. For example, some digital full color digital displays at airports experience permanent burn, particularly those with lightly colored rows. Screen burn-in can sometimes be “messaged” into softening the edges of the ghost images, but require special software or devices to do so.
Screen burn-in was much more of a problem in the past than it is now because of new built-in preventative measures which help to prevent or lessen the effect of ghost images, but it does not fully take away the risk. Refer to your display’s user manual for any optional settings that might help reduce burn-in, such as pixel orbiting, pixel shifting, screen savers and lowering the contrast at or below 50%.
Lastly, individuals who continually expose their displays to static images, such a video game GUI, digital menus and so forth, be prepared to come across some level of burn with continued use. Even with the use of preventative features on a display or the use of remedial software, the possibility of permanent damage is still likely.