Those Expert modes, which bear the logo and the input of the Imaging Science Foundation, offer a passel of additional controls. Our favorite, first introduced by LG last year and still exclusive to the company, is a 10-point white balance system that can really help get a more accurate grayscale. The company upped the ante for 2009, adding the capability to target a 2.2 gamma, internal test patterns, and even color filters for blue-only, green-only, and red-only to help set color balance. A full color management system is also on-tap, and we love the capability to apply Expert settings to all inputs or just one at a time. Of course, most of these settings will appeal only to pro calibrators and HDTV geeks, but either way, LG's 2009 models offer the most complete suite of user-menu picture adjustments we've seen on any HDTV to date.
LG touts the efficiency of this set, and rightly so, according to our tests (see below). In addition to the "home use" and "store demo" initial settings common to the Energy Star 3.0-qualified televisions, there's a quartet of progressively more aggressive Energy Saving settings that reduce the backlight--and thus light output along with wattage consumed. Engaging the settings disables the standard backlight control.
The LH50 series is missing picture-in-picture, but does provide plenty of aspect ratio control, including five modes for use with HD sources and four with standard-def. Two modes are adjustable zooms, and there's a "set by program" mode designed to automatically choose the correct aspect ratio setting based on the signal. We recommend using the Just Scan mode with 1080i and 1080p material, which assures zero overscan and proper 1:1 pixel matching for this 1080p display.
Connectivity is fairly extensive on the LH50, beginning with four total HDMI ports, three on the back and one on the side. The back panel also offers two component-video inputs, an AV input with composite video, an RF input for antenna or cable, an RGB-style analog PC input, an optical digital audio output, and an RS-232 port for custom installations. In addition to the fourth HDMI port, the side panel has a second AV input with composite video and a USB port for display of digital photos and playback of MP3 music files. Our one connectivity complaint is the lack of any S-Video inputs.
Overall, the LG LH50 series delivered solid picture quality, anchored by excellent color, but fell short in the all-important black level category. We also encountered a video processing issue that prevented the LG from properly handling 1080p/24 sources.
calibration. We were able to address the slightly blue grayscale in all but the darkest areas while hewing as close to the 2.2 gamma as possible (we ended up with 2.17), and we even moved the already-excellent primary and secondary colors to near perfection. Those controls are largely responsible for the set's excellent color accuracy.
After setup, we lined the LG up next to a few competing TVs, including the Samsung LN46B650 and LN52B750, the Sony KDL-52XBR9, and the Panasonic TC-P50V10, as well as the JVC LT-P46300 and our reference Pioneer PRO-111FD. For most of our image quality tests we employed the Blu-ray of "Body of Lies."
Black level: Compared with the other displays in our lineup, the LG produced a lighter shade of black. In dark scenes, like the torture of the inmate DiCaprio remembers in Chapter 1, dark areas, shadows, and the letterbox bars looked brighter and less realistic than any of the other sets, albeit closest to the Sony XBR9, the Samsung B650, and the JVC. Shadow detail was solid, on the other hand, and we could make out more detail in the hair of DiCaprio's beard and the prisoner's shaded face, for example, on the LG than we could on the Samsung B650 or the JVC. As usual, the realism of the LG's shadows was hampered by its lighter blacks.
Color accuracy: As with past LG displays, the LH50's extensive picture adjustments really helped it deliver accurate color in all but the very darkest areas. From the street scenes in Chapter 6 to the desert scrub to DiCaprio's skin tone as he gazes over the suspected insurgent compound, the LG's grayscale, color points, and color-decoding accuracy combined for an image that appeared closer to our reference than any of the other displays in the comparison. The main downside of bright-scene color was the LG's lower saturation than most of the other sets (a result of lighter black levels), which caused colors to have a bit less punch and impact. That said, saturation was still very good.
Conversely, the LG LH50 became quite discolored in very dark areas. We noticed the blue tinge to blacks most in the fades between chapters, when the screen would go completely dark aside from the place name (eg, "Amman, Jordan"), but in any dark scene, blacks and shadows were bluish. The LH50's tinge was more noticeable than any of the other sets in our lineup; the B650 came close, but its darker black levels made the blue discoloration less noticeable than on the LG.
Video processing: The LH50 performed worse in this area than the other higher-refresh-rate LCDs in our comparison.
In general, we dislike the overt smoothing effect of dejudder, and while we understand some viewers might disagree, we feel it makes film-based sources look too much like video. The LG LH50, with its TruMotion 120Hz dejudder processing, is no exception. In many scenes we noticed a slight halo around objects in the foreground as they moved against the background, such as the heads of the khimar- and ghutra-wearing passersby seen between the stalls in Chapter 9. This artifact was worse in the High rather than the Low dejudder setting, as was the artifact where fast-moving objects, such as the features of the informant's face as he turns to talk to DiCaprio in the same scene, seem to break apart briefly and then reassemble. Both of these artifacts were less common and intense on the Samsung and Sony display' dejudder modes.
Unlike most 120Hz displays, the LG LH50 failed to properly handle 1080p/24 sources. With Real Cinema engaged (regardless of dejudder setting), 1080p/24 material would catch and stutter randomly, often, and noticeably enough to render the material unwatchable in our opinion. The issue happened most often with camera movement and pans, such as the flying shot over the deck of the Intrepid from "I Am Legend," or when an onscreen object moved, such as the face of the sheik in Chapter 4 of "Lies." It seemed to occur at least every minute during any 1080p/24 film. Disabling Real Cinema fixed the issue, but caused the normal slight stuttering, hitching motion characteristic of 2:3 pull-down, not the proper 1080p/24 cadence we expect from a 120Hz TV. For films, we recommend LH50 owners disable Real Cinema as well as the 1080p/24 output of their Blu-ray players.
In terms of motion resolution, the LG LH50 performed like most other 120Hz sets we've tested, delivering between 300 and 400 lines when dejudder processing was disabled and between 500 and 600 lines when we turned it on. As we mentioned, there's no way to separate dejudder and antiblur processing. The LG also passed both film-based and video-based de-interlacing tests and delivered every line of 1080i and 1080p still sources when in Just Scan mode, but, as usual, none of these resolution characteristics were easy to discern in program material, as opposed to test patterns.
Uniformity: The LG LH50 sample we reviewed exhibited average uniformity across its screen, with slightly darker areas around the edges and corners compared with the middle, but no overly bright spots. We did see some visible backlight structure during brighter scenes, when slightly darker sections became visible against clouds, for example, but it wasn't distracting or egregious by any means.
When seen from off-angle, the LG performed worse than the other displays in our lineup, becoming washed out quite a bit more quickly than either the Sony or the Samsung. The screen didn't discolor too badly when seen from either side of the sweet spot directly in front of the screen, however.
Bright lighting: As a matte-screened display, the LH50 handled ambient lighting better than the shiny-screened Samsung LCDs and both plasmas, and as well as the matte Sony and JVCs. Bright lights in the room weren't reflected as brightly in its screen, and the screen did an adequate job of preserving black levels in the bright room--if not as good as the Samsung was able.
Standard definition: With standard-def sources, the LG turned in a fine performance. It resolved every line of the DVD format, and detail in the grass and stone bridge was solid. Jaggies were kept to a minimum and the waving American flag looked smooth. Noise reduction worked well to remove moving motes from the skies and sunsets, and we appreciated that 2:3 pull-down detection kicked in quickly and effectively to remove moire from the grandstands behind the race car.
PC: With PC sources, the LG performed well, delivering every line of resolution from a 1920x1080 input with no overscan or edge enhancement via both HDMI and VGA. The latter input showed some interference in the highest-frequency test patterns, and text appeared a bit softer than via HDMI, but it was still better than many VGA sources we've seen.
|Before color temp (20/80)||6991/6900||Average|
|After color temp||6523/6494||Good|
|Before grayscale variation||346||Average|
|After grayscale variation||27||Good|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.64/0.333||Good|
|Color of green||0.293/0.607||Good|
|Color of blue||0.146/0.06||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Y||Good|
|480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps||Pass||Good|
|1080i video resolution||Pass||Good|
|1080i film resolution||Pass||Good|
Power consumption: We did no