|Adjustable picture modes||7||Independent memories per input||Yes|
|Dejudder presets||2||Fine dejudder control||Yes|
|Aspect ratio modes -- HD||6||Aspect ratio modes -- SD||5|
|Color temperature presets||3||Fine color temperature control||10 point|
|Gamma presets||3||Color management system||Yes|
|Other: 2-point and 10-point IRE systems available; 2 THX modes; guided "Picture Wizard" setup tool|
For 2010 LG added a couple of improvements to the industry's best suite of user menu picture controls. It now offers the ability to adjust dejudder processing, a welcome extra pioneered by Samsung last year (although it doesn't work nearly as well; see Performance for details). There are also specific gamma settings (1.9, 2.2 and 2.4) in the excellent 10-point IRE system available in the Expert menu. While the LE5500 lacks the THX modes found on step-up models, Cinema provides a substitute, and unlike THX, it's also adjustable--albeit not to the same extent as Expert.
As with last year all of the adjustable picture modes can be separate for each input. We also liked the improvements made to the Picture Wizard, which consists of a series of test patterns that can help non-Experts adjust basic controls and get the gist of what picture setup is all about.
|Power-saver mode||Yes||Ambient light sensor||Yes|
|Picture-in-picture||No||On-screen user manual||Yes|
The ambient light sensor can be engaged by choosing the Intelligent Sensor picture mode, and you can choose a "screen off" option in the TV's energy saver menu to just get sound, reducing consumption to 38 watts. LG calls its onscreen manual "simple," and that's definitely the case--it's more like a rundown of features than a usable manual.
|HDMI inputs||3 back, 1 side||Component-video inputs||2 back, 1 side|
|Composite video inputs||1 back, 1 side||S-video input||0|
|VGA-style PC input||1||RF input||1|
|AV output(s)||0||Digital audio output||1 optical|
|USB ports||2 side||Ethernet (LAN) port||Y|
|Other: Side headphone jack; RS-232 port; proprietary "wireless control" port for media box|
The input scheme is pretty standard aside from the necessity to use breakout cables (included) to connect component or composite sources to the side. The side bay is narrow enough that LG recommends a width no greater than 10mm (0.39 inches) for HDMI and USB cables/thumbdrives. The second USB port is nice if you monopolize the first with the optional Wi-Fi dongle.
Our first experience with local dimming from an edge-lit LED configuration, with Samsung's C8000 series, was significantly better than what we saw on the (significantly less expensive) LG LE5500. The LG's imprecise dimming produced distracting brightness variations, and the TV's black level performance overall was still worse than other standard, nondimming edge-lit models'. Accurate color in bright scenes and a matte screen for bright rooms help soften the blow somewhat, but all told the LE5500 turned in mediocre picture quality.
After setup we spun the Blu-ray of "Edge of Darkness" and lined up the following comparison models for our maim image quality tests.
|Comparison models (details)|
|Sony KDL-46EX700||46-edge-lit LED|
|Samsung UN46B7000||46-edge-lit LED|
|Samsung UN55C8000||55-inch edge-lit local dimming LED|
|Vizio VF552XVT||55-inch local dimming LED|
|LG 47LE8500||47-inch full array local dimming LED|
|Panasonic TC-P50G20||50-inch plasma|
|Pioneer PRO-111FD (reference)||50-inch plasma|
Black level: The LG LE5500 produced the lightest shade of black in our lineup. The difference was most visible during darker scenes, such as beginning of Chapter 2 where the shadowed street, nighttime sky between the houses and of course the letterbox bars were all relatively bright. The two standard edge-lit LED-based LCDs, the Sony EX700 and Samsung B7000, appeared somewhat darker than the 5500, and the others in the lineup got darker still. Dark objects in brighter scenes, such as Thomas Craven's black jacket in the foyer as he leans over the injured Emma, were also visibly brighter on the LG.
We also noticed significant blooming and stray illumination in dark areas, effects we attribute to the LE5500's imprecise dimming as the backlight fluctuated in brightness. The worst examples came in all-black scenes with one or two bright elements, such as the credits or our Blu-ray player's onscreen icons. Certain dark areas of the screen would appear markedly brighter than others; the black above and below the credits, for example, would be lighter than to either side. Less-noticeable but still distracting was the stray illumination in normal scenes, especially in the letterbox bars. Chapter 8 provided one example, where the upper left corner bar would darken and lighten as the bright fluorescent light disappeared and reappeared as the camera routinely switched subjects. Blooming was much more noticeable and distracting on the LE5500 than on any of the other local dimming models, including the edge-lit Samsung C8000.
Shadow detail on the LE5500 also suffered a bit as a result of the fluctuating backlight; the actors' dark hair during the Chapter 8 conversation, for example, was more obscured than on the other displays.
Color accuracy: During bright scenes the LE8500 fared well in this area, reproducing accurate skin tones and other delicate colors compared to our reference. We appreciated that the faces of Thomas and Emma and his daughter in the kitchen, for example, looked natural and well-balanced, outdoing the flatter-looking Vizio and Samsung B7000. As can be expected from a display with lighter black levels, however, saturation was less impressive than on the other displays.
Dark areas and shadows, as usual for many LCDs, veered precipitously into blue, and we consider this the LE5500's major color-related flaw. The issue was more pronounced than on any of the others aside from the Sony, but the LG's lighter blacks made it even more noticeable.
Video processing: A new system available on LG' 2010 LCDs allows further customization of dejudder or "smoothing," as well as the antiblur effect, of the TruMotion processing. Labeled User and consisting of sliders labeled Judder and Blur, it seems similar to the system we liked so much from Samsung, but doesn't work nearly as well.
We're not fans in general of smoothing effects, which tend to make film look more like video--instead we strongly prefer the (typically 24-frame, filmlike) look the director intended. That's why we like to eliminate such effects entirely, when possible, when watching movies. With Samsung's system (and to a lesser extent the ones we tested from Toshiba and Sharp) we can get the combination of no smoothing along with full motion resolution, but with LG's system that doesn't work. Dialing down smoothing (by reducing the Judder slider, which really should be renamed "dejudder," to "0") unfortunately causes the LG to improperly handle the 1080p/24 cadence--apparently treating it with the 2:3 pull-down process, similar to a standard 60Hz TV. As a result, on the LG we could see the characteristic hitching, stuttering effect in our favorite test for cadence, the shot over the aircraft carrier Intrepid from "I Am Legend," whereas TVs that properly handled 1080p/24 showed the correct, smoother yet still filmlike cadence characteristic of 24-frame film. Increasing Judder didn't help; the image just became extremely smooth. The only way to achieve that correct film cadence on the LE5500 was to turn TruMotion Off.
The LE5500 performed generally as well as any 120Hz LCD on the motion resolution test, delivering between 300-400 lines when dejudder was turned Off and 600-700 lines when it was engaged using either of the two preset TruMotion modes. Using the "blur" slider (which should be labeled "antiblur" since increasing it decreases blurring) in User mode gave gave slightly worse results: between 500-600 lines at the highest setting. As usual, we found it nearly impossible to discern the difference in motion resolution between any of these settings when watching regular program material, as opposed to test patterns.
Uniformity: In addition to the blooming issues noted above, th