The LG PM9700 is the company's best plasma television to date, but it's still a long way behind the competition at the price.
If there's one company that's really doubled its efforts in regard to TV design this year, it's LG. Judged purely from the outside, the 2012 line looks like it should comprise the best TVs on the market -- very sleek and slim. But based on our experiences with models such as the LM9600, LM6700 and the G2, looks can be deceiving. Similarly, the LG PM9700 has seen some design improvements and even some picture-quality tweaks, but it still finds competition tough.
This plasma is decent enough but out of its depth at this price level. Picture quality is improved on last year's with better black levels and a new matte screen that's a real boon in bright rooms, but when you're comparing it against plasma TVs as marvelous as the Panasonic ST50 and Samsung PNE6500, it loses out.
Featurewise it's not bad, with unusual inclusions like WiDi for mirroring your laptop display on your TV and LG's exclusive Wii-like Magic Motion remote, and the Smart TV suite is easy to use and content-rich. But when it counts, picture quality trumps features.
Is the TV the company's best plasma yet? As a Magic 8-Ball would say the "signs point to yes" but is it enough given the superiority of the competition? "My reply is no."
At CES 2012, LG told us that the company's new models can produce black levels up to 40 percent deeper than 2011 models. Comparing the 2011 50PZ950 to the 2012 50PM9700 that claim appears to be sound, with an noticeable improvement in depth of black (0.0136 compared with 0.0219 for those counting).
There is one major thing holding back the LG PM9700, however, and I wish it didn't have to be this way: there is no way to turn off the TruMotion effect in most picture modes, including THX and Expert. As a result, you'll see the excessive smoothing (aka Soap Opera Effect) and jellylike haloing artifacts characteristic of dejudder. The only mode I found that lacked smoothing was Game, which I used throughout my calibration and testing.
In Game mode, the picture was fairly punchy with reasonable color and a decent amount of depth. The only other major strikes against the TV's picture quality are the noticeably lighter black levels compared against competing TVs like the Panasonic ST50 and UT50 and the Samsung PNE6500. The LG does handle bright reflections better than any of those, however, although a trade-off to its matte screen was a slight softness to detail when viewed in the dark.