In the last few years the most compelling LCD challengers to the picture-quality reign of plasma were equipped with multizone LED backlights that could dim or brighten in different areas of the screen independently. Broadly known as "local dimming" technology, in the best cases it delivered superb black level performance and manageable tradeoffs in the form of stray illumination or "blooming." In worse cases, such as the LG LE5500 series, that stray illumination is not managed well.
Unfortunately, we suspect that many buyers lured by the LG's claims of dimming won't understand the differences--among them the fact that this TV uses LED that illuminate the screen from the edge, rather than from behind. The LE5500 does offer plenty of perks, including accurate color, decent bright-room performance, a stylishly thin frame and numerous Internet features, but seekers of LED-based LCDs who place a premium on image quality should look elsewhere.
Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 47-inch LG 47LE5500, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.
|Models in series (details)|
|LG 42LE5500||42 inches|
|LG 47LE5500 (reviewed)||47 inches|
|LG 55LE5500||55 inches|
|Panel depth||1.1 inches||Bezel width||1.6 inches|
|Single-plane face||No||Swivel stand||Yes|
|Other: Red-tinted frame|
The LE5500 measures just over an inch thick at 1.1 inches, compared to the 1.4 inches of the LE8500--the difference between edge-lit and full-array LED backlights, we suppose. The 5500's glossy black frame is tinted slightly purplish-red along the outside, providing a more subtle accent then the darker yet full-frame red of Samsung's UNB7000 series but still failing to match most interior decors. The relatively thin bezel of the 5500 makes for a compact TV, but with the tint it seems lower-tech to our eye than monochrome flat panels.
|Remote control and menus|
|Remote size||9.2 x 1.8 inches||Remote screen||N/A|
|Total keys||45||Backlit keys||38|
|Other IR devices controlled||No||RF control of TV||No|
|Shortcut menu||Yes||On-screen explanations||No|
LG's clicker, the same one included on the LH8500, is a long, thin wand with decent button differentiation and friendly, rubberized keys. We liked the bulge in the middle that corresponds with a convenient notch on the underside for your index finger; we missed direct infrared control of other devices. The menus are basic and functional with plenty of ways to get around, including a nice Quick Menu of shortcuts. We would have liked to see explanations, though, especially for the more advanced picture-setting functions.
|Key TV features|
|Display technology||LCD||LED backlight||Edge-lit with local dimming|
|3D compatible||No||3D glasses included||N/A|
|Screen finish||Matte||Refresh rate(s)||120Hz|
|Dejudder (smooth) processing||Yes||1080p/24 compatible||Yes|
|Internet connection||Yes||Wireless HDMI/AV connection||Optional|
|Other: Optional wi-fi dongle (AN-WF100, $70), Optional wireless media box (AN-WL100W, $350)|
The LE5500 arranges its LED modules around the edge of the screen, but similar to Samsung's edge-lit UNC8000 series, it still manages to offer a semblance of local dimming. LG calls its edge-with-local-dimming backlight "LED Plus," and says there are 12 "addressable segments" on the screen of the 42- and 47-incher, whereas the 55-incher has 16 segments. Contrast that with the 200+ zones on the full-array local dimming 8500 series, and you'll have some idea why the scheme on the 5500 is far from perfect (see Performance).
Other notables include the external "LG Wireless Media Box" option that enables you to connect HDMI and other gear wirelessly, which can really help custom installations. We'd like to see built-in Wi-Fi, given all of the LG's Internet options, but you'll have to either buy the dongle or get a third-party wireless bridge. We tested LG's dongle, which worked well, but we didn't test the media box by press time.
|Amazon Video on Demand||N||Rhapsody||N|
LG's Netcast array of streaming partners is standard-issue. There are no major missing links, however, aside from any kind of audio service like Pandora or Slacker radio. Netflix and Vudu delivered the video quality we expect via both Ethernet and Wi-Fi from LG's dongle. We didn't test USB or DLNA network streaming.
|Other: 8 custom games; Skype requires speakerphone accessory (Price TBD)|
The selection of nonstreaming Internet features nothing to write home about, and most of the utilities, with the exception of Picasa, come courtesy of Yahoo Widgets. At the time of this writing, the LE5500 has access to 11 widgets. Yahoo's platform is somewhat more usable than in the past, with snappier responses to button presses and faster load times for individual widgets. That said it could be a lot faster, and the initial load of the main widget taskbar can take 20 seconds or more--still an eternity on a television. Apps selection and usability overall is a step behind Samsung and Vizio.
The Games platform, not to be confused with the games included with Yahoo Widgets, includes extremely basic custom titles, for example, Sudoku and Whack a Mole--the less said the better about these pointless exercises in frustrating gameplay. Of course you'll need to buy the external speakerphone kit to use Skype. It hasn't been released yet, so we didn't test it for this review.