Of course, many consumers aren't ready for all the expensive new tech, which can make shopping for a new television in 2014 feel a bit like wandering through television purgatory.
Meet the LG 50LB5900 (MSRP $799.99), a fantastic option for those in search of something simple to put in the living room. This 50-inch TV doesn't harbor a smart platform, doesn't display 3D content, and doesn't pack piles of bells and whistles. What it does do, however, is produce a great picture for a modest price. I spotted the 50-inch model online for just $579, and LG also offers the series in 47-, 55-, and 60-inch panels.
The LG 50LB5900 (MSRP $799.99) is a solid, mid-class television with commendable performance and an affordable price tag. There's not much going on under the features hood, but the LB5900 excels where it matters.
Testing revealed a quality picture with accurate colors, deep, inky black levels, and detail-rich shadows.
Silver is the new black.
The LB5900 features a sleek, minimalist design that bucks the trend of charcoal-on-black televisions. Its silver-tinted panel rests on two feet, leaving the space below the screen free of clutter. The visage is simple and elegant without sacrificing style.
On the back of the panel are indents housing the TV's hook-ups. There are two HDMI ports, component and composite inputs, a USB 2.0 port, an RS-232 input, a digital audio output, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a coaxial connector.
Lastly, a basic remote offers every button you'll need to navigate this simple, non-smart TV.
A bevy of customization options
LG loves to pack TVs with a wide variety of picture customization options. The LB5900 is no exception, with more calibration settings than you can shake a remote at. There are 20-point white balance controls, a robust color management system, and a healthy batch of picture settings—a toolbox sure to please anyone hoping to calibrate their new TV. In a perfect world, every mid-range TV would offer a similar set of options.
We test every test twice–before and once after calibration. Our pre-calibration tests reveal how well a TV performs without any picture optimization, and our post-calibration tests shine a light on the limits of a panel's true potential.
In calibrating the LG 50LB5900, I began in the TV's "Expert1" picture mode with a color temperature labeled "Warm2." In order to achieve a proper brightness for a dark room, I lowered the backlight from 80 to 30. I also adjusted the gamma setting for a darkened environment, switching it from 2.2 to 2.4.
From there, I utilized the TV's 20-point white balance controls and its color management system to fine tune its primary and secondary colors. LG's picture menus are no joke, so proceed with caution.
A handsome TV isn't worth much if its picture doesn't hold up. Thankfully, the LB5900 boasts a great picture with only a few minor flaws. From contrast, to color, to motion, this set won't let you down.
Beginning from the top, this panel isn't troubled by shabby shadow performance. Due to the LB5900's deep black level and the ability to differentiate similar shades of gray, images onscreen look lifelike and convincing. The color output is also phenomenal, which is where most of this TV's value is. Since all of its primary and secondary color points render accurately, watching Blu-rays on the LB5900 is truly enjoyable. Skin tones, landscapes, and skies all appear lush and accurate, just as they should.
The LB5900 delivers a native 120Hz refresh rate, as well, so motion flows quite smoothly. Action movies and sports broadcasts will benefit the most from a sterling refresh rate, making the LB5900 an excellent TV for game day.
There are some minor blemishes, of course: The LB5900's viewing angle is crushingly narrow, meaning your guest list for this week's movie night might need to be shaved down. The corners of the LB5900's screen are also slightly darker than the rest of the picture. That said, the center of the screen is impressively uniform.
Unlike higher-end models that require professional calibration in order to produce a decent picture, the LB5900 packs a great picture right out of the box. This isn't to say that minor calibration tweaks won't make a noticeable difference, but its performance doesn't hinge on it. Unwrap this TV, pop it on your entertainment stand, and enjoy.
Healthy grayscale performance is largely dependent upon a television’s RGB sub-pixels. Ideally, a TV emphasizes these red, green, and blue sub-pixels evenly, regardless of luminance. Since TVs create neutral tones like gray and white using all three sub-pixels simultaneously, we measure sub-pixel emphasis by taking readings at various steps along that grayscale. If a TV doesn't emphasize RGB sub-pixels properly, grayscale elements become tinged with unwanted color.
Out-of-the-box, the LB5900 underemphasizes red, especially towards higher outputs. After calibrating the TV’s 20-point white balance controls, I reined in the LB5900’s sub-pixels, achieving even emphasis across the grayscale.
Furthermore, error within grayscale production is almost always the result of improper sub-pixel emphasis. This error is measured in a collective called DeltaE, where 3 or less is ideal.
Prior to calibration, the LB5900 produces an average DeltaE of 4.73, with most of the error falling in the 40-70 IRE range—not a bad result. After calibration, the grayscale error falls to a negligible level of 0.94—a fantastic reading.
A worthy midrange competitor that trades flash for value
What the LB5900 lacks in smart features, 3D functionality, and flashy extras it more than makes up for in picture quality and value. If the absence of a smart platform is deal-breaker, the Panasonic TC-50AS530U is available online for comparable prices, and the ever-competitive Vizio E series is a phenomenal alternative you just can't help but consider.
Nevertheless, for those hoping to stave off the adoption of ultra-HD or busy smart features, the value of the LB5900 is unmistakeable: This panel is ready and able to deliver great-looking TV shows and movies on a budget many can afford.
A television’s contrast ratio is the luminance of reference white divided by minimum black. A deep black level is the most important criterion in the production of a quality picture, because a shallow black level sinks an otherwise great-looking television faster than just about any other performance flaw.
Thanks to a phenomenal black level of 0.038 cd/m2 and a reference white of 223.3 cd/m2 , the LB5900 produces a very healthy contrast ratio of 5876:1. Overall, and thanks to bright highlights and deep shadow tones, this achieves a convincing picture with a great sense of depth and realness.
Viewing angle is critical when lounging around a TV with family or friends; stray too far from a head-on angle and the picture might degrade.
We measure each television’s viewing angle to determine how far from the center viewers may sit before suffering a huge drop in overall picture quality. To do this, we simply measure contrast from head on, and again at 10º intervals moving away from the center. When contrast plummets to below 50% of its original value, the TV has reached what we consider to be its limit. This is one of the few areas of performance where the LB5900 struggles. Its total viewing angle tops out at 34º, or ±17º from either side of its head-on view.
The standard for color performance is set forth by the International Telecommunication Union. Known as “Rec. 709,” this standard is a collection of color addresses that achieve ideal shades for HDTVs.
These color points (three primaries, three secondaries, and a white point) are represented visually by a color gamut. The primary color points are red, green, and blue, and the secondary points are cyan, magenta, and yellow.
The LB5900 produces highly accurate colors out-of-the-box, but thanks to an extensive color management system, it’s possible to finely tune these color points even further. That said, the LB5900’s pre-calibration color gamut is fantastic, and anyone wary of utilizing a relatively complex color management system can rest assured that this TV’s colors are good to go out-of-the-box.
Gamma (also known as “gamma sum” or “gamma curve”) is a measurement of luminance distribution across a grayscale from dark to light. If a television pushes too much or too little luminance between different levels of brightness, there will be a noticeable loss of detail in those regions of the picture.
We test and calibrate our TVs for a home-theater setup, with an ideal gamma curve for a dark room being 2.4. The LB5900 produces an average gamma of 2.16 prior to calibration, which is a bit too bright. After calibration, the LB5900 settles in at 2.43, with a remarkably even distribution throughout the grayscale—a positive result.
Meet the tester
Senior Staff Writer@Reviewed
Michael Desjardin graduated from Emerson College after having studied media production and screenwriting. He specializes in tech for Reviewed, but also loves film criticism, weird ambient music, cooking, and food in general.
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