At 32 inches, our test sample is neither packing a huge screen, nor a ton o' pixels at a native resolution of only 720p. However, save for a few bold budget models, $350 is not too steep an asking price for a 32-inch 2013 LCD—assuming that it provides a picture quality up to modern standards.
The LN530B is not a powerhouse performer, but for the price delivers decent picture quality. Its biggest drawback is in contrast performance: While this LCD gets decently bright, it produces mediocre black levels. Even so, it's still a good choice for a dorm or kitchen TV.
Mundanity, thy name is glossy black plastic.
This lilliputian LG would capture anyone's imagination—if it had been the first flat panel ever made. Dressed head-to-toe in a glossy black plastic, its design is entirely run-of-the-mill for 2013. Even still, its appearance does stand out from the crowd: Compared to budget bin LCDs from off-brand names, the LN530B is arguably just a little more smooth, sleek, and attractive.
But not by much. This LG sports modest, half-inch bezels and an equally thin-edged panel balanced atop a flat, grained stand that widens as it tapers from front to back. The neck holds the panel a few inches aloft from the base, leaving a moderate space between the two.
'Round back, you'll find the TV's on-set controls and connectivity ports. The 32LN530B only allows for a paltry two HDMI inputs, located on the TV's left side when facing it, so your high-definition connection options are somewhat limited. There's also a USB port for software updates or playback of files on an external device. Everything else is standard: shared component/composite, RF jack, optical audio out, and a service port.
Finally, the LN530B ships with a standard infrared remote. Most of LG's 2013 brood include the company's Magic Remote, but the clicker that accompanies this entry-level unit is nay so fancy. Picture your basic, mid-size black plastic remote stuffed with buttons, and you've got a good idea of how it works.
A minute to learn, a lifetime to master
For an entry-level unit, the 32LN530B is quite complex. Like most of the 2013 LGs we've reviewed this year, its Settings menu includes a complex array of options for customizing the way the TV looks, sounds, and operates. You won't find any smart content, 3D, or voice commands here, but the TV is quite customizable for being as cheap as it is. Unfortunately, this complexity is not necessarily useful to the average consumer.
To fully take advantage of the complex picture adjustments availed by the LN530B, you'd need to be a trained calibrator. Like the $4,000 Panasonic ZT60, the LN530B offers users the option to manually adjust the television's gamma correction, 2- and 10-point grayscale values, and individual hue, saturation, and brightness levels for the TV's CMS (Color Management System). These are fully fleshed-out calibration controls—not the kind of thing most people are going to know how to use, or at the very least have the equipment to make educated adjustments.
For LG's higher-end TVs, these well-labeled sub-systems are a very welcome addition to the menu. They make hiring a calibrator (or D.I.Y'ing) much, much quicker than having to punch in a secret code as in years past. However, the LN530B—especially the 720p, 32-inch model—is definitively not high-end. No sane videophile would buy this as the centerpiece of a home theater, and who's going to hire a calibrator to tweak this TV when the TV itself costs less than the calibration? Granted, LG has simply implemented them into the mainboard of their OSD, which is an innocent enough action. Outside of these extensive calibration controls, however, the LN530B doesn't do much else.
The one "extraneous" feature you'll find here is the ability to play back photos and music from a USB storage device—but we're appalled when a modern TV can't do that, so really, this par-for-the-course addition is nothing to get excited about.
Flagship color accuracy for a pittance
The 32LN530B is a $350 LCD that has only one job to do: Produce a high-quality picture. While it's definitely an entry-level set, we still expect certain facets of modern picture quality to be met. Unfortunately, the LN530B has a big problem with its dynamic range (or contrast ratio), keeping it from true greatness.
First, though, it deserves a modicum of praise for producing a very accurate color gamut. International standards dictate that TVs should produce colors that are of a certain hue and saturation, and the LN530B vigilantly adheres to this standard. Its reds, blues, and greens (among other things) are spot-on, almost perfect. Unfortunately, it errs in its white balance, struggling to produce a white of a single consistent correlated color temperature across the board.
This means that, for the most part, content you watch looks accurately colored, and rich in hue. Subtler picture elements such as gray-on-black and lines within complex patterns will vary in consistency, however. Fortunately, the LN530B follows a beautifully gentle gamma correction curve, allocating plenty of detail to the rich, shadowy content that sets TVs apart from other displays.
The LN530B also handles motion-intensive content quite well. During our test process, it exhibited little blurring, and none of the color or shape trailing common to sample-and-hold based LCD technology. While I don't flat out recommend it for gaming, I could see it as a great sports TV.
Its big drawback, however, is that it does not produce ample contrast between the brightest and darkest elements on screen. While this TV certainly gets bright enough for a standard room, its luminous blacks take away from the value of theater-style viewing; dim, or dark room watching simply isn't enjoyable, as the blacks produced are much lighter than real black.
A narrow contrast ratio and a poor black level mar this TV's ability to produce a truly compelling picture. For daytime soaps, news, cartoons—it's great. As expected, though, this entry-level unit is not up to the task of matching the year's best TVs.
This LG gets the job done, and then some.
The LG 32LN530B is an interesting television. It has more calibration controls and tweakable options than many mid-tier and even high-end TVs, but at its size is likely never going to be calibrated outside of a professional testing environment. Destined for guest rooms, dorms, garages, and kitchen counters, the $350 LN530B is decidedly a workhorse kind of product.
On the upside, it does work, and quite well—just not as well as we were hoping. Expect a handsome, if simple design and easy setup. The LN530B will flourish in brighter rooms, producing a crisp, colorful 720p picture. If it could produce a deeper black level or gather more contrast efficacy in some way, it would have a much better score. As a secondary display, though, I think $350 is a fair price (but look for a deal anyway).
Overall, the LG 32LN530B is a decent performer. It lacks the contrast performance and deep black levels of higher-end, theater-grade televisions, but its color production, motion handling, viewing angle, and gamma correction range from acceptable to very good. While its final score was hurt drastically by its poor minimum luminance rating, this TV is still a solid performer for its price point.
Plenty bright, but nothing to rave about otherwise
Contrast ratio, the measure of a television's dynamic range, is a very important part of creating an immersive, lifelike picture. Televisions with high contrast ratios are capable of creating more dynamic pictures, and are more flexible within various ambient lighting conditions. Black level, our highest rated test category, is what truly determines a television's contrast efficacy. Unfortunately, the LN530B's black level is too luminous.
We tested a 20% APL black level of 0.29 cd/m2 , which is just shy of 0.3—in other words, not very dark. When discussing black level, less is better, as even small changes in this non-linear minimum light level creates a massive visual difference on screen. Plenty of LCDs have hit less than 0.1 this year, which spells bad things for the LN530B.
For peak brightness, we measured a 20% APL white of 228.20 cd/m2 , which is plenty bright for most environments, though we've certainly tested much brighter TVs from LG in the past. The final contrast ratio—787:1—is quite poor by 2013 standards.
Grab your skinniest friends.
Our horizontal viewing angle test helps determine a TV's flexibility. While it's more important to have a wide viewing angle on larger TVs—especially those destined for wall mounting—maintaining contrast and color integrity at off angles is something every TV should do, to some degree. Generally, we like to see about ±45° (90° total) from LCDs. The LN530B falls a bit short.
Compared to similarly priced 32-inch units, this LG's total 57° of viewing flexibility is a bit short. Sitting more than 28° from the center of the screen is going to result in graying blacks, dampened whites, and mild color shifting. Really, your best bet is to watch head-on; this limits the ability to share the screen with other people, though two viewers could pack in if necessary.
A strong adherent to standards
The LN530B produces a very accurate color gamut. TVs are meant to adhere to a set of color standards—called Rec.709 in shorthand—and the LN530B does this beautifully. Its gamut is almost perfect: Red, green, and blue are right where they should be. By necessity, this means that cyan, magenta, and yellow are also very accurate. The only drawback is white, as we'll see in the next paragraph.
The LN530B's version of white is a little off; this became very apparent during our color temperature test. Color temperature is a measurement, in Kelvins, of the temperature of a light source. TVs typically should produce the same temperature from the darkest grays all the way to peak white—the temperature should stay the same, only the intensity should change. The LN530B struggles, and ultimately fails to do this, producing visible color temperature errors as it darkens from white to black.
Gamma is a measurement of how a TV interpolates an incoming signal; in the digital world, varying degrees of luminance would all be spaced a set interval apart. However, our analog eyes require that the difference increase dramatically as more light output is added—it takes more of a difference for us to see a difference. The LN530B's color and grayscale curves favor shadowy hues, and ramp evenly and uniformly in an impressive manner.
Meet the tester
Editor, Home Theater@Koanshark
Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.
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