LG CS560 series review: Relatively cheap LCD TV has poor image quality

Click the image at the right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV’s picture controls worked during calibration.

Picture quality
I arrayed seven budget TVs for my comparison lineup, including a TCL and a Philips, and the LG CS560 and the LG LS4600 battled it out for bottom of the picture quality ladder. Yet, though it's almost half the price of the LS4600, the CS560 did surpass the more expensive TV in some ways. Firstly, colors were more saturated; skin tones in particular were more natural than the LS4600 was capable of.

Secondly, while black levels were fairly dreadful on both TVs, the CS560 had marginally less backlight clouding, which meant that more shadow detail could be seen in dark scenes. It still wasn't what you could call "good," though. But turn on the lights and the CS560 had very good contrast in comparison with the more expensive TV. Who needs LED backlighting when a TV half its price can offer a marginally better picture?

As befits a budget model, though, two other areas showed signs of compromise -- off-axis viewing and picture processing were definite weak points.

Comparison models (details)
Toshiba 40E220U 40-inch LCD
LG 47LS4600 46-inch LED
TCL L40FHDP60 40-inch LCD
Samsung LN46D630 46-inch LCD
Samsung LN46E550F 46-inch LCD
Philips 46PFL5907/F7 46-inch LED
Panasonic TC-P65VT50 (reference) 65-inch plasma

Black level: The thing that most harms this LG is the most important aspect of picture quality: black level. If a TV lacks the ability to produce a relatively deep shade of black, no amount of shadow detail will save it -- it will look flat and two-dimensional. Conversely, a highly contrasting image helps fool your eyes into believing a TV's picture is more three dimensional.

The LG CS560 had the worst black levels of my lineup, with gray blacks, and it wasn't even the cheapest TV in the room. While there was some shadow detail in our dark "Star Trek" test scenes, the generally gray smear of lighter blacks ruined the perception of depth.

Color accuracy: Both LG sets fared well against the competition in this category, although the LG LS4600 suffered from a lack of saturation compared with the CS560. While the latter's color in Expert mode was already quite good, I was able to wring even better response out of the Color Management System. Skin tones were rich and relatively full of "life," and there wasn't any part of the color spectrum that seemed to jut out, with natural greens and blues as well.

Video processing: I wasn't surprised to find that the TV wasn't able to complete our synthetic tests -- the engineers have to cut some features to arrive at a price, right? Like most 60Hz models, the CS560 was unable to reproduce the 1080p/24 test scene without significant judder, and the 1080i replay was also prone to errors.

Uniformity: While the CS560 wasn't as poor as the LS4600 in uniformity terms, it was still worse than any of the others in the lineup. Backlight inconsistencies and bright areas caused lower-level shadow details to get washed out in certain parts of the screen. The top half of the screen was quite prone to these backlight clouding issues in particular.

The TV demonstrated poor off-axis response as well, with a very gray and washed-out picture when viewed from the side. Along with the LS4600, it was again one of the worst in the lineup when seen from off-angle.

Bright lighting: While its dark-room performance was fairly bad, the CS560 was a much better performer in the light. Its screen is matte, a finish that minimizes reflections. Compared with before, dark scenes have a good amount of pop, with the TV able to mask its lack of true dynamic range. Compared with the TCL P60, which is equally adept at home theater environments and bright rooms, you have wonder where the extra $100 premium is going.

GEEK BOX: Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.0526 Poor
Avg. gamma 2.2176 Good
Near-black x/y (5%) 0.2733/0.2779 Poor
Dark gray x/y (20%) 0.3112/0.3303 Good
Bright gray x/y (70%) 0.3102/0.3284 Good
Before avg. color temp. 6900.1018 Poor
After avg. color temp. 6548.1284 Good
Red lum. error (de94_L) 0.5922 Good
Green lum. error (de94_L) 2.177 Average
Blue lum. error (de94_L) 0.9419 Good
Cyan hue x/y 0.2172/0.3302 Good
Magenta hue x/y 0.3243/0.156 Good
Yellow hue x/y 0.417/0.5064 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Fail Poor
1080i Deinterlacing (film) Fail Poor
Motion resolution (max) 330 Poor
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 330 Poor
LG 42CS560 calibration report

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    LG 42CS560 - 42" LCD TV

    Part Number: 42CS560/US

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    Quick Specifications See All

    • Display Format 1080p (FullHD)
    • Diagonal Size 42 in
    • Type LCD TV
    About The Author

    Ty Pendlebury reviews televisions in CNET's New York office. He originally hails from CNET Australia. Ty's interests include gaming, indie music, hi-fi, streaming media, movies, literature, and cycling.