The TV's biggest issues are its wonky color gamut and poor picture dynamics, and given the size of this TV, its got a criminally narrow viewing angle. Look past these issues and you've got a nice, large TV, but buyer beware.
Sometimes you just want a big screen.

The LG 55LB5900 (MSRP $799.99, online for $599.99) isn't a 4K TV and doesn't connect to the internet. In fact, the 55LB5900 has just as many additional features as its entry level compadre, the 32LB560B: none.

But the story here is its massive, 55-inch panel. If a screen that size doesn't entice you, the LB5900 is available in 47- and 50-inch models, as well as a 60-inch version.

Make no mistake: The appeal of this TV is its relatively affordable 55-inch screen. If bells and whistles are what you're after, this isn't the road you want to go down. The 55LB5900 is a middle-of-the-road, big-screened giant that's not going to send you to the poor house.
In order to compare a TV's out-of-the-box performance with that of its full potential, we test our TVs before and after calibration. The calibration process is limited to the TV's menu software, and not all menu software is created equal.

Like most LG TVs, the 55LB5900 features a plethora of picture customization options: It has 2- and 20-point white balance controls, a full color management system, and a gamma slider.

I began in LG's "Expert" mode with the color temperature set to "Warm2." From there, I changed the gamma to 2.4, lowered the backlight to 35, and made adjustments to the TV's white balance and color.

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Typically, LG's menu software provides extensive calibration options.

We’re gonna need a bigger table.

Although the 55LB5900 has the same principal design elements as the rest of LG’s 2014 entry- and mid-level TV lineup, this TV might prove to be a difficult one to place on a table; the wide-set, angular feet are a bit too wide-set beneath a panel of this size. Make sure you have a big enough surface to place the TV on (at least six feet across) if you’re not planning on mounting it on the wall.

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Credit: Reviewed.com / Michael Desjardin

Be sure that you have a surface wide enough for the 55LB5900; the TV's feet almost reach the corners of the panel.

Size troubles aside, the LB5900 is an attractive looking TV. The screen is framed by a thin, gunmetal gray bezel that puts the TV’s picture centerstage, and the minimal, two-footed stand design doesn’t detract from the mammoth screen.

On the back of the LB5900’s 55-inch panel is a relatively small cutout that houses the TV’s connectivity options: two HDMI ports, shared component/composite video inputs, RS-232C, a USB port, a digital audio output, and a coaxial jack.

Two HDMI inputs for a TV of this stature is a bit meager, to say the least.

Two HDMI inputs for a TV of this stature is a bit meager, to say the least; TVs of this size and price range ordinarily offer at least three HDMI ports. Frankly, anything less than three on a TV like the 55LB5900 feels a little stingy.

LG-55LB5900-Remote.jpg
Credit: Reviewed.com / Michael Desjardin

The responsive remote combined with LG's slick menu software makes surfing the menu a painless endeavor.

The 55LB5900 doesn’t offer LG's smart platform, webOS, so it ships with the same remote we’ve been using for over a year now. It’s a basic, unglamorous remote, but what it lacks in style it makes up for in responsiveness. Coupled with LG’s speedy, no-nonsense menu software, there is remarkably little sluggishness, especially compared to other basic, entry-level remote controls.

Right hand push remote, left hand shrug shoulder

From a performance standpoint, the 55LB5900 is peculiar. The TV tends to under-saturate red while over-saturating its blues, creating a picture that just doesn't feel right; it's not immediately apparent, but you can certainly tell that things are off.

Watching Looper on the 55LB5900 was a frustrating endeavor for this reason. Although the sultry red and orange tones of the movie's warmer settings lacked a little "pop," the bluer elements of the film's palette were too rich, coating the picture in a glossy, bluish hue.

The TV tends to under-saturate red while over-saturating its blues.

Although the 55LB5900 gets pretty darn bright (more about that on the Science page), the TV doesn't get very dark. A mediocre black level means a less-detailed picture, and no where is it more apparent than a movie with a good amount of darker sequences.

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Credit: Reviewed.com / Michael Desjardin

Though the 55LB5900's black level is better than average, it's still shallow enough to hamper dark sequences like the one pictured here.

On the 55LB5900, when Joseph Gordon-Levitt's "Joe" appears before a corn field at dawn, his figure appears to be a silhouette. On a TV with a richer black level, however, more detail comes through in Joe's clothes, facial features, and hair.

This is precisely why we stress the importance of a deep black level. When you lose that much detail in the picture, what you're looking at is no longer representative of what was originally filmed.

The 55LB5900's motion performance is nothing to write home about, but I've certainly seen worse. Given the TV's size, minor hiccups in motion might be significantly more noticeable, so keep that in mind if you're planning on tuning in for a good amount of sports broadcasts.

I find the 55-inch LB5900 to be an appropriate TV for cable TV and gaming.

In general, I find the 55-inch LB5900 to be an appropriate TV for cable TV and gaming. Blu-rays won't look their best on this thing, but you get what you pay for.
TVs produce neutral tones (black, white, gray) by combining red, green, and blue light. When we measure these neutral tones across a grayscale, we can determine how evenly the TV is emphasizing each color. An over-emphasis on red, for example, will leave grays looking warmer than they should. The results of these tests are represented by DeltaE, where a DeltaE of 3 or less is considered ideal.

The 55LB5900 fares pretty well in this area, earning an out-of-the-box DeltaE of 3.99. After an informed calibration, I was able to knock this down to 2.72 via the TV's 2- and 20-point white balance controls.

LG-55LB5900-Grayscale.jpg

An out-of-the-box DeltaE of 3.99 isn't bad, but an informed calibration improves the 55LB5900's performance in this area.

When we examine the TV's RGB balance, we can isolate the problem: The 55LB5900 over-emphasizes blue for the top 70% of its grayscale. Calibrating the TV tempers this problem, but only at the expense of red.

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Prior to calibration, the 55LB5900 over-emphasizes blue.

A TV's contrast ratio is the end result of dividing it's peak white (100 IRE) by its deepest black level (0 IRE). I used the standard ANSI checkerboard pattern to measure a black level of 0.052 cd/m2 and a reference white of 201.2 cd/m2 . This resulted in a total contrast ratio of 3869:1.

At the end of the day, it's a pretty commendable contrast ratio, but the middling black level reveals itself quickly on the 55LB5900's 55-inch screen, especially with Blu-ray content, where finer shadow detail is crushed to black.

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While the 55LB5900's contrast ratio isn't anything to scoff at, a deeper black level would have done wonders for its picture.

A solid deal if you're only in it for the screen

Despite its shortcomings, I'm not sure there's a better, competitively-priced 55-inch TV than the 55LB5900. If there is, I haven't seen it.

This is not to say that the 55LB5900 is a great TV; words of praise that extend beyond "decent" should probably not be trusted. That said, this is a massive TV that can be purchased right now for a hair under $600. Some might consider that alone to be a victory, so if you couple that with the fact that the LB5900's performance isn't a complete disaster, you've got a winning recipe for value. How much value that recipe yields is entirely up to you.

This is a massive TV that can be purchased right now for a hair under $600. Some might consider that alone to be a victory.

As far as alternatives go, the Vizio E550i-B2—the 55-inch version of Vizio's 2014 E Series—can be purchased for around $720. This is significantly more expensive than the 55LB5900, but consider the fact that the Vizio comes equipped with a smart platform. That may seem like a worthy upgrade, but you can easily get all those smart features with a streaming box.

It's not a heavy hitter from a performance standpoint.

If the 55LB5900 is still calling to you, our only advice would be to temper your expectations and enjoy just how far this LG will stretch your dollar.
A TV's viewing angle describes the amount of distance one can stray from a head-on angle before the picture's contrast deteriorates past its initial reading.

For a 55-inch TV, its viewing angle is incredibly important, since one of the most common reasons for buying a TV this big is to share the experience with a room full of people.

The 55LB5900 sports a total viewing angle of 32° (or ±16°) which is far, far too narrow for a 55-inch screen. If you're sitting 15 feet away, for example, the picture will start to degrade if you're just 5 feet to the side of the center.

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The 55LB5900's viewing angle is far too narrow for a 55-inch screen.

A color gamut is a means of visualizing the accuracy of a display's primary and secondary color points. There is an international standard for the reproduction of these color points, and if a TV cannot meet them, a color gamut will illustrate why.

In the 55LB5900's case, red is slightly undersaturated and skewed towards blue, and blue is oversaturated. The TV's secondary color points are mostly accurate, though magenta also favors blue a bit too much.

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A color gamut is a visualization of a TV's color accuracy.

Gamma describes how quickly a TV distributes luminance out of black (0 IRE), through the grayscale, and into white (100 IRE). Ideally, a TV will allocate the proper amount of luminance at a reasonable clip to avoid dramatic leaps between similar tones. If you've ever seen a TV produce blotchy, uneven shadow tones, you've witnessed poor gamma.

We test and calibrate our TVs for a gamma of 2.4, which is best for dark rooms. The 55LB5900 produces an out-of-the-box gamma of 2.35. After taking the TV's gamma slider from 2.2 to 2.4, the TV produced a gamma of 2.39.

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The 55LB5900's gamma, before and after calibration

Meet the testers

Michael Desjardin

Michael Desjardin

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.

See all of Michael Desjardin's reviews
Michael Desjardin

Michael Desjardin

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.

See all of Michael Desjardin's reviews

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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.

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