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Or are they?

Would you believe me if I told you that LG makes plasma TVs? Last year, it even had a flagship plasma display—the PM9700—to compete with its top-of-the-line LED. While LG has scaled down its plasma lineup considerably, it still has a few new models this year. At the top of the (mini) mountain is the PN6500, and although it lacks any smart or 3D features, a 50-inch model retails for just $829.99. Unfortunately, LG seems to have forgotten what makes a plasma TV desirable in the first place.

Adequate design, plus a snazzy remote

It’s definitely not LG’s best-looking TV of the year, but at least the PN6500 has some style. You’ll see the relatively thin bezels, which appear to be brushed metal, but are really plastic. A sideways glance reveals that the PN6500 is actually quite thin, but don’t be fooled: This is one heavy TV. According to LG, our 50-inch review model weighs just shy of 60 pounds, but feels way heavier. Maybe gravity was being unkind to us.

A sideways glance reveals that the PN6500 is actually quite thin, but don’t be fooled: This is one heavy TV.

Connections are limited to just two HDMI inputs, a USB jack, a combination component/composite input, a digital audio output, and your standard RF input. Since the PN6500 is a budget-friendly model, this is to be expected.

We also expected a standard remote, as opposed to the Magic Remote that LG bundles with its higher-end displays. The company's take on a more “normal” remote is much smaller than ones from Panasonic and Samsung. Nothing felt cramped on it and the all the typical buttons (menu, mute, input, etc.) are all accounted for. Plus, it fits nicely in your pocket!

On the interface side of things, this is not the same menu you'll see on the company's smart TVs. What's offered on the LG PN6500 is a barebones menu system that looks a bit outdated, but functions very well. There are even advanced options included, like the ability to tweak the values of primary colors. Pretty nifty stuff, but don't go overboard—changing some of these options can really mess up the picture.

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Everything tested well, except contrast. That's kind of a problem.

Oh, boy. This is a tough one to dissect. Let’s start by saying the PN6500 produces a decent image, especially its colors. Red, green, and blue are accurate, and whites look almost perfect. The viewing angle on this LG is also one of its strengths—it’s incredibly wide!

Everything looks muted because of its pitiful contrast.

We need to talk about the PN6500’s contrast, though. One of the major benefits that plasma TVs offer are their deeper black levels. LG’s PN6500 challenges this notion; its black level is practically the worst we've ever seen on a plasma. And while it gets bright for a plasma display, it can’t counteract the damage that its poor black level brings.

How does this affect your TV-viewing life? A high contrast ratio means a more lifelike picture—you want this. As good as the PN6500’s colors are, everything looks muted because of its pitiful contrast. A dark black level makes a TV’s image pop. Even the great motion performance on this LG can’t make up for that.

Poor contrast on a plasma TV is a no-no.

We wanted to love the LG PN6500. It has a lot going for it: good looks, accurate colors, an incredibly wide viewing angle, and terrific motion performance. But a terrible contrast ratio ruins the entire package. What’s worse, this is a plasma TV, which means it should have a rich, dark black level. The fact that it doesn’t is troublesome.

Why buy a plasma that doesn’t embody the technology's primary strengths?

LG’s LED displays usually have poor black levels and incredibly bright white levels to make up for them. Would you ever buy a sports car that accelerated slower than a hybrid? Probably not, so why buy a plasma that doesn’t embody the technology's primary strengths?
On this page, you will find explanations for some of our scientific tests that we run on TVs. We test every single display using the Konica Minolta CS-200 chroma meter and LS-100 luminance meter. On the software side, we use DisplayMate for test patterns and calibration assistance.

One of the worst black levels we've seen on a plasma TV.

LG, where did you go wrong? The black level on the PN6500 is so bad that it only manages to get a contrast ratio of 610:1. These days, a contrast ratio of 1000:1 is considered average, and we typically see televisions do much better than this. That's why the PN6500 is such a surprise. Its white level of 122.60 cd/m2 is fairly bright for a plasma display, but having a black level of 0.2 cd/m2 almost defeats the purpose this technology. Why buy a plasma TV if it doesn't have a good black level?

LG-PN6500-Contrast.jpg

A black level this bright should not be seen on a plasma TV.

We noticed that content on the PN6500 had a muted appearance as a result of its shoddy contrast. This is why a TV's black and white levels are so important to picture quality—they help give a more lifelike image. Isn't that what you want in a display? Unfortunately, the PN6500's picture simply looks "meh."

While contrast was one of the worst we've seen, this viewing angle is one of the best.

While the PN6500's poor contrast detracts from its overall picture quality, you'll at least be able to view it from any angle in your living room without detracting from that quality any more. Who are we kidding, though? A perfect viewing angle on a TV with a contrast ratio this bad is like eating fancy side dishes with your burnt steak.

Walking around our test lab and looking at the PN6500 from increasingly wide angles produced the same picture as viewing it straight-on. Unfortunately, not all is golden: This display suffered from some serious reflection issues. In a moderately bright room, I could see myself reflected at all times on the screen.

LG-PN6500-Viewing-Angle.jpg

The PN6500 has a near-perfect viewing angle.

Surprisingly accurate colors

Color tested very strongly on LG's PN6500. First and foremost, we need to point out this TV's terrific color accuracy. Greens, blues, and whites are all nearly perfect. Reds were oversaturated, but it hardly made a difference in most content.

The way these colors are displayed is... interesting, to say the least. The PN6500's color curves appear very jagged, meaning there are problems transitioning from one hue to the next. None of the colors peak early, though, meaning their full values can be seen.

One of the most important tests we do is determining a TV's color temperature error, and the LG PN6500 performed extremely well here. Color temperature error determines if whites and greys look discolored, and aside from a few dips into orange-hued territory, there was barely any noticeable color shifting.

Meet the tester

Josh Fields

Josh Fields

Staff Writer

@reviewedtech

An enthusiast of all things tech, Josh is one of Reviewed.com's resident television experts. When he's not looking at bright TV screens in a dark room, he's probably reviewing a laptop or finding a new snack at 7-11.

See all of Josh Fields's reviews

Checking our work.

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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