Without even turning the screen on, the is very easy on the eyes. With a smooth minimalist bezel and a clean-looking swiveling anodized metal stand, the may not be the most drop-dead gorgeous TV we've had in the labs this year, but it's definitely a sleek addition to any entertainment center that places high value in a modern look.
The remote control to the may be a rather large animal, but it certainly has no lack of functionality. Much like the remotes of other mid-range LGs, that of the is loaded with features not found on your entry-level set. It sits well in the hand, and most of the common functions are easily reached with your thumb.
Included in the 's package is your screen, a stand, remote, batteries, assorted screws, manual, and several different items of documentation.
When people talk about the advantages of plasma screen technology, the number one attribute is the richness of the black values. Plasma screens can display black values by barely activating their cells, getting close to 0.0 cd/m2. LCD screens will have their pixels shut off for black values, but the backlight will still shine through creating some amount of luminance. The had trouble getting superbly dark, which is strange for this type of screen technology. The Samsung model in the comparison below is an LCD television, and it is besting the by a significant margin, something we rarely see. More on how we test black level.
Such a poor black level showing can often be explained by a supreme peak brightness. A really bright screen would suggest that a deeper black level would be harder to achieve given the power of the lights generating the picture. However, the recorded peak brightness for the is not sterling. A peak brightness of 103 cd/m2 is average for a plasma screen.
We are willing to sacrifice peak brightness for some truly great dark values, but we don't see that on this LG. Without a great peak brightness, you will have a hard time watching television in bright rooms, rooms with daylight, or many electrical lights. More on how we test peak brightness.
A poor black level and an average peak brightness will yield a less than satisfactory contrast ratio. Generally we accept a ratio of over 1000:1, which the barely reaches. But you can see that comparable models far outdo this LG by more than 3:1.
More on how we test contrast.
Plasma screens can deactivate their cells when the input signal asks for pure black. You can see this demonstrated in our Tunnel Contrast test results below. We measure the luminance at the center of the screen while changing the percentage of the screen showing pure black. When 20% or more of the screen is black, the cells shut off completely. With less black on the screen, you can see a steady climb in the luminance of black values. More on how we test tunnel contrast.
Similar to tunnel contrast, the White Falloff test shows us that when areas of white on the screen get larger, the luminance of these values falls. For plasma screens, this is expected. To create white values, plasma cells must fully activate. When fully activated, plasma cells get really hot. If you think about the whole screen showing white, each screen will be fully activated, and the entire display will get heated. Generally, when displaying areas of more than 20% white, plasma screens will dim the luminance output of their cells so as not to overheat and destroy the television from the inside.
Little points of white, like stars in a night sky, will appear much brighter than a white castle in a tundra. More on how we test white falloff.
Displaying an even picture with no inconsistencies was not a problem for this LG plasma. In fact, plasma screens tend to have strong uniformity because each cell emits light individually. We see uniformity problems in the form of blooming and flashlighting from an non-uniform array of backlights on LCD screens.
You do have to watch for image burn in, or ghosting, on plasma screens. If you leave the same static image on the screen for too long, you will see it as a ghost image in the background of other content. More on how we test white falloff.
This is an atrocious greyscale graph in the chart below. We want to see a smooth line, not one with all those mini peaks and valleys. Each one of these aberrations represents a jump in luminance from one value to the next. Each one of these jumps means that the increase in luminance was too high, followed by an over correction to make the luminance too dark, darker than values before it.
The most obvious jump happens at about value 100 out of 255. This significant increase in brightness occurs in the middle values, thereby separating the brighter values and the darker values drastically. LG probably made this decision to compensate for the lack of brightness and contrast. If there is such a large difference between light and dark, a strong contrast will result. However, with such a drastic adjustment in brightness, both the bright and dark values are being crushed. Thereby, changes in brightness will be less distinguishable at both ends of the spectrum. The result is a significant loss of detail. Images will look very flat without many values of light and dark to create the illusion of three dimensions.
The color temperature remains relatively consistent throughout the spectrum of light and dark. You can see in the chart that the temperature rises to cool the picture a little in the middle of the spectrum, and drops to add a warm hues to the darkest pictures. Mostly, these deviations are not large enough to ruin the picture. More on how we test color temperature.
Much like the greyscale graph, these color curves are all wrong. You can see that large jump in brightness at around the same value as the greyscale graph. Again, this adjustment is intended to increase contrast; to create a difference between light and dark values. Again, this manipulation will crush the values on either end of the spectrum.
Look at the lines from the left part of the graph before the big jump. The slope of these lines is very shallow, meaning that there is very little difference between values. Without many changes in luminance, there will be fewer values available to describe a strong picture. More on how we test RGB curves.
The strips below are visual representations of the graph above. You should be able to see a large jump in brightness from very dark, to very bright, and then not many other values at all.
When we test the performance of a TV in relation to how well it handles motion processing, we look mainly at motion smoothness and what kinds of artifacts the moving picture creates. The does manage to maintain a startlingly good level of detail in its image while in motion, but it does have some odd artifacting issues: namely that the image seems to have trouble with refresh rate (making square objects more of a rhomboid parallelogram than a square), and some stair-stepping of lines.
Overall, the motion performance of the is very good, and there are only the aforementioned minor blemishes to report. In comparison to other high-end televisions, this performance is solid. More on how we test motion performance.
Due to its internal processing, the has no difficulty in properly displaying 24fps content. For reference, 24fps content encompasses all film content like movies or many TV shows. More on how we test 3:2 pulldown and 24fps.
Because the has a native resolution of 1080p, displaying content from different sources that may use different resolutions have to be rescaled to view properly. Below is a summary of how the handled other standard NTSC formats. More on how we test resolution scaling.
When displaying 480p content, the shows no overscan, and no resolution issues worthy of note.
The shows 2% horizontal and vertical overscan when displaying content in 720p, as well as some interference in high-frequency patterns.
Well, if you could see anything, that would be a plus. We kid, but the overall experience watching 3D content is diminished by the fact that the brightness is cut down so badly by the 3D glasses. Other than that, though, the crosstalk and picture quality is better than it is on most TVs.
Wearing 3D glasses tends to decimate a television's contrast ratio. The glasses have dark lenses, much like a pair of sunglasses, that filter any light coming through. The peak brightness previously recorded was low to begin, but when you run it through the dark lenses of the glasses, it gets to really low light levels. A (generously given) reading of 8 cd/m2 is terrible, and we could see how dark images were with these glasses on. We have tested many a 3D television this year and we have to say that this was one of the dimmest 3D experiences yet.
Overall, the color temperature error while in 3D mode isn't too bad all things considered. You are probably very unlikely to see the "warming" of color temperature in some ranges of signal intensity that we measured, but our data comes from robots, and robots do not forgive.
Much like it does in 2D, the 3D color curves of the are just plain terrible. We're still not sure why they have to take that massive swing in brightness at a certain point in signal intensity, but it ruins a lot of detail in shadow.
As far as color gamut goes, though, The managed to stay relatively close to what the 2D color gamut of the set was, so few if any complaints here.
Our crosstalk data shows that images were, for the most part, isolated to one eye very well. The biggest crossover occurred when black appeared next to white, and this showed a very high error in our tests.
When viewing 3D content, this error was readily apparent. A woman in a black suit, against a light grey or whitish background had massive halos and ghost images all around her. White hair at night similarly had halos that detracted severely from experiencing 3D images.
We really like this new generation of LG 3D glasses. Compared to last years models and some from other companies, these glasses are light and comfortable. Considering that some serious technology goes into creating active shutter glasses, we were impressed with how compact and light these were.
These 3D glasses are much more like sunglasses than the typical mad scientist goggles that you expect from active shutter tech. We liked the glasses, but they are not going to help this TV produce better 3D images.
The displays at 1080p and can show all standard NTSC formats.
Check out that Samsung in this comparison, what a puny viewing angle. It is the only LCD display in the comparison here and it perfectly demonstrates one of the advantages of a plasma screen. The can show a great picture, retaining more than 50% of its original contrast ratio up to 74º off center on either side.
Lacking the TruBlack Filter of the more expensive models, the had trouble with electric lights shined at the screen. Given that the peak brightness of this television was so low, lights in the same room will compete heavily with images coming from the screen. When we shined lights directly at it, the reflection was not strong, but it was bright and hazy enough to blot out a good portion of the image. Try to keep it really dark in the room when you are watching this TV.
There were only a couple of video processing modes on this mid level LG plasma. A couple of them had very little affect, one had seemingly no affect, and another changed the picture to something we weren't quite comfortable with.
Below is a table of how we calibrated the using DisplayMate software and a barrage of tests we use on every television that comes through our labs.
All of our calibration is done in conjunction with the DisplayMate software.
There are a couple of preset video modes that change the picture settings for specific types of content. You can see these same descriptions in the manual.
We were impressed with the array of connections in the back of the . Many companies are starting to phase out the analog ports, but we are not sure that analog is obsolete yet. Many people cherish their older devices, and many more have a working Wii that uses component video to connect. This LG has four full analog connections (two component, two composite) as well as four HDMI ports. There are three different extra control connections, the RS-232C port, allowing you to control your television from an external computer, a wireless control connector, providing control of other LG devices through your TV, and an IR rerouter that gives the remote more control over other devices like you DVD player.
The settings section of the Home menu brings you to some traditional-looking menus. The scaled picture of your content returns to full screen and a transparent overlay menu with various settings appears on the left side. When you manipulate any of the settings, the menu converts to a small bar at the bottom of the screen that lets you see how you are affecting the picture with each change.
These series of menus, and the Home menu hub, show that LG understands how new technology is changing the definition of a television. No longer is a TV just a display, it can do so much more with internet and media ports. With all of these options, LG has done well to collect them all into a centralized, and easy to operate, interface
With that said, we think the menus could use a visual overhaul. The difference between the traditional settings menu and the Home menu hub can be visually confusing. Consistency could really tie this whole system together, but all-in-all, LG is on the right track with menus that are easy to operate.
This year, LG has elected to condense as many models of television as possible into one manual. As you can imagine, we got fairly annoyed at having to sift through material meant for one of 30 different television sets (we're not exaggerating). While the manual itself has a good amount of the information you're looking for, it omits some of the finer details in favor of inundating you with a bunch of information that is totally irrelevant to you. The table of contents is fairly average, but navigating this mess of extraneous information is a gigantic pain. Consider grabbing the PDF version to search for keywords, lest your experience be an ugly one.
In the Home menu, there is a "Premium" section where you will find a well organized list of streaming video providers in two rows of icon boxes. You, the user, get to decide which boxes go where, but when you start this LG up for the first time, preloaded are some of the streaming video greats: Netflix, Vudu, Hulu, Facebook, YouTube and a few others.
By clicking on the "premium" section of the Home menu, you will be brought to this fun section of the internet interface. This is the best way to browse the multitude of options available. Each of the buttons can be exchanged for others of your choosing. You have your media link, web browser and apps at the bottom.
At the bottom of this screen, you have access to the media link, web browser and Yahoo apps and the app store.
The app store is like the gift shop at Universal Studios. Everything is colorful, seemingly exciting, and cheap, but you really don't want anything here. Why you would play a game on your television with limited controls, need to check the weather when the weather channel exists, or want to look at Yahoo's puppies of the month, we are unsure.
The has a full web browser as part of the internet features. With the spread of media devices and phones having easy access to the world wide web, we can take or leave this option on our televisions. We think that if your TV can access any streaming content, then you should be able to get on the internet also. It would seem like an unnecessary step to limit this ability, but at the same time, it is generally hard to navigate the internet without a full keyboard. All selections must be made with the menu D-pad, and URLs are typed in using the letter mapping associated with the channel numbers. If you have a smart phone, an iPad, or iPod touch, the internet will be much easier than on the TV. However, we can envision a situation where some consumers would be happy to have this extra bit of connectivity.
The USB media port works really well. Usually, these ports are tacked on to entice consumers with ideas of showing vacation slideshows or sharing the latest YouTube videos, but the menu system is terrible and only a limited number of file formats are supported.
LG did no such thing. The media interface was responsive and intuitive, and we were able to display just about any type of content we had stored on our USB thumb drive.
The handled a long list of files for photos, music, and video, as follows: Video:MPG, MPEG, DAT, TS, TRP, TP, VOB, MP4, MOV, MKV, DivX, AVI, ASF, WMV, M4V; Music: MP3, a copy-protected file will not play; Photo: jpeg jpg jpe.
The menus were well organized. There are options for controlling slideshows, allowing users to change the speed of slides, the picture size, and to choose music to accompany the show. There are also filters for your photos like "Oil Painting", which are not that useful, but might be a bit of fun.
Plasma screens generally use more electricity than LCD displays. Add internet features an 3D imaging and a television will use even more. This LG was about average for its display type and features list, costing almost $50 for a year of standard use.
Of the premier LG plasmas for 2011, the PZ950 series is the best, and the PZ550 series is the most affordable. The feature set is similar, both have 3D and internet connectivity, but the performance was quite different. The PZ950 improves upon many of the problems of the PZ550, like a poor contrast ratio and aberrant color performance. We like the PZ950 over the PZ550 in almost every category, except for price. You will have to pay about $600 more for the PZ950, but you get a lot of quality for the extra money.
The PZ950 had a higher peak brightness and a deeper black level yielding a much stronger contrast ratio.
In 3D, the PZ950 had the same luminance jump in the color curves as the PZ550 did in both 2D and 3D. In 2D however, the PZ950 managed to correct this discrepancy showing a more even transition from darkest colors to brightest colors, thus retaining much more detail across the spectrum.
With a few more overdrive motion processing modes, the PZ950 moved objects more smoothly across the screen than the PZ550.
The viewing angles were similarly wide on both sets. The PZ550 had a few more degrees off center where the contrast would remain relatively unaffected.
There are two more analog audio ports on the PZ950, which may not matter too much. Included with the PZ950 is a wireless adapter though, which is certainly handy.
This comparison shows two very different televisions for approximately the same price. The is a plasma TV with 3D images, the Samsung UN46D6000 is an LCD display with built-in WiFi. For the money, we have to recommend the Samsung, that is unless you have to buy a plasma and are obsessed with 3D images, regardless of their many issues. We like the Samsung for its strong overall performance and the Samsung Smart Hub is our favorite catalog of streaming video.
The Samsung UN46D6000 had a higher peak brightness and a deeper black level for a much stronger contrast ratio. Stronger by more than three times that of the .
This Samsung model had some great color curves and a near perfect color temperature, unlike what you see on the under performing
The Samsung engineers have done some great work with their motion processing functions. We saw some really smooth moving objects in our motion tests, some of the best of the year. The LG did just fine in this category, but not as well as the Samsung in this comparison.
The Samsung UN46D6000 was the only LCD model in our four model lineup. You can see how narrow LCD screens are compared to the plasma alternative. The wins this one outright.
The has a couple of analog ports over this Samsung, which has done away with all but one set. The Samsung comes with built-in WiFi however. Analog may be more important to you if you have a Wii and some older devices, if not, we would suggest the WiFi.
This Samsung does not have 3D images, but remember that 3D imagery on the was so dim as to be almost unwatchable.
For about the same price, the Panasonic TC-P50ST30 is a better plasma screen than the for all the reasons you would buy a plasma screen. The TC-P50ST30 has a fantastic contrast ratio, thanks to one of the best black levels in the business, some great colors, and the widest viewing angle of all the models compared in this review. If you like 3D, this Panasonic showed us some of the best 3D images we saw this year.
With a significantly deeper black level, the Panasonic had the best contrast ratio among all of our comparison models, outdoing the by almost 5:1.
The Panasonic had some warm tinting to pictures employing the dark end of the spectrum, whereas the LG showed two small areas of error. The Panasonic had far superior RGB curves, demonstrating a much better transition from dark to light, using vastly more values of color to describe pictures with a greater amount of detail.
On this Panasonic, we saw objects that moved smoothly across the screen, but there were significant artifacting problems. This LG on the other hand was a strong performer, with no severe problems showing moving objects.
The Panasonic in this comparison had the widest viewing angle of all the televisions.
The has more HDMI and analog ports than the Panasonic TC-P50ST30. The Panasonic has an SD card slot though, and built in WiFi.
The 3D experience on the Panasonic was far superior to that of the . In fact, the Panasonic TC-P50ST30 was one of the best 3D televisions of the year.
LG did not release a good set of plasma televisions this year. We really expected to see a line of televisions that could compete with the best because of the sterling color performance of their LCD displays. However, none of these plasmas were going to win our year end awards. What we saw instead of pristine machines, were a couple of dim displays with overly manipulated mechanics, that basically failed most of our tests.
The ($1099 MSRP) is not completely worthless. When you buy an LG smart TV, you get one of the best menu systems in the game, with great online content done in an easy-to-use interface. The viewing angle, like most plasma screens, was really wide, so you could be spread across the room and see a reasonably unaffected picture. Furthermore, the motion processing was really top notch. Moving pictures will have no problem getting across the screen.
But the list of cons is long and severe. Both the color performance and the black and white values have such a limited range because they have been so crushed on either end of the spectrum. The result is a pretty big loss of detail at both ends of the spectrum, blanketing pictures in ink black shadows and color that lacks value differentiation to describe important detail. If owning a 3D TV excites you, consider that the brightest a 3D image will ever get on this TV is no more than 8, yes 8 cd/m2. Try turning down the backlight of your television down as low as possible and then wear sunglasses, that is what 8 cd/m2 looks like.
We would understand if the the had a few flaws. Hey, no one's perfect, but the drawbacks don't just impede on a perfect picture, they remove the possibility of showing reasonably accurate images at brightnesses you can see. You work hard for your money, and you shouldn't have to spend a good hunk of it on a television that just can't output a proper picture.
The xxPZ550 series consists of two large screened, plasma televisions that display at 1080p. This line is of mid-range value, with the PZ750 and the PZ950 leading the pack of LG plasma models in 2011. Both televisions in the PZ550 series can display 3D images and connect to the internet.
The PZ550 models are similar to the more expensive lines (PZ750 and PZ950) but are missing a few attributes. The PZ550 do not come with the LG Wand remote, the uni-layer design with ultra-slim bezel, or the TruBlack filter that reduces glare of ambient light.
Meet the tester
Staff Writer, Imaging@cthomas8888
A seasoned writer and professional photographer, Chris reviews cameras, headphones, smartphones, laptops, and lenses. Educated in Political Science and Linguistics, Chris can often be found building a robot army, snowboarding, or getting ink.
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We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.Shoot us an email