The LG 55LA860W sits just below the LA960 in LG's 2013 TV line-up, making it the second-highest specified TV in LG's range of Full HD LED models.
It's fairly pricey for a 55-inch TV at £1,800, but the hefty outlay buys you a pretty impressive lineup of features, including a built-in camera, voice search functionality, an attractive smart TV system, local dimming support and LG's motion-sensitive remote control.
User interface and TV guide
LG has made only some minor tweaks to its smart TV system this year -- it's still based around the Home Dashboard, which shows several panels for different types of content, including smart TV apps, streaming 3D videos and games.
The main update is that you can now add your own custom panels with shortcuts for your most-used apps and features. You can also move the panels around, so you can put the ones you use most often nearest to each other.
The Home Dashboard also has a shortcut banner that runs across the bottom, from which you can access the settings menu and AV inputs list. The settings menu is pretty much identical to what LG has been using on its TVs for a couple of years. I've no gripes with this though -- it's excellent. It looks inviting thanks to the generous use of graphics and it makes it easy to get the most out of the set's pictures, thanks to its full colour-management system.
The only slight problem is that there's no real explanation of what the various sliders and switches do, so a hints box similar to that which Panasonic has included in its menus would be a good idea. LG has added a very handy picture wizard, however, which guides you through the process of setting up the pictures to suit your tastes. It's easy to follow and produces good results, unlike the picture wizard on Philips' TVs.
Unfortunately, LG's programming guide is still weak. There's no video thumbnail window -- a feature Samsung TVs have had for years -- so when you open it up you lose all video and audio from the channel you were watching. It also lacks an information box to show you a description of the show you've highlighted in the guide. Instead, to view these details you have to hit the Info button on the remote, which is a tad annoying, especially if you're jumping between lots of shows.
Digital media and Internet features
Other big names such as Sony, Samsung and Panasonic have pretty much completely changed the look of their smart TV systems this year. LG has decided against a complete re-jig, but instead has made a few slight tweaks here and there.
Its system is still based around the Home Dashboard. This shows a number of panels across the top, with shortcuts to apps, video, games and your streaming media. Meanwhile, across the bottom there's a banner of icons for stuff like the settings menu, AV inputs list, TV guide and full Internet browser.
What has changed is that now LG allows you to move the panels around via a simple drag and drop process. You can now also create you own panels so you can group your most commonly used apps or features together in one place, which is very useful.
In terms of available smart apps, the system is not too bad, but not on a par with Samsung's platform. You do get apps for BBC iPlayer, Netflix and Lovefilm, as well as Blinkbox and Knowhow movies, but it lacks other big hitters such as 4oD, ITV Player and Demand 5.
LG has also added voice and motion control to this TV, but the results are pretty mixed. The motion control is very simple. You hold your hand up with your palm facing the TV and if the TV recognises your gesture it'll pop up a simple circular control panel that allows you to change the volume, channel and input source or to power off the TV. There's no cursor to control, you just move your hand and the TV will switch between the onscreen buttons. I didn't find it very useful and it can vary between a couple of seconds and 20 to 30 seconds before it recognises you're holding your hand up.
The set also lets you search for stuff just by asking. To use this you need to press the mic button on the motion controller, wait for the voice-recognition box to pop up onscreen and then say the name of the show or movie you want to search for. It only seems to currently work with BBC iPlayer and the TV guide at present and if you select content from iPlayer, it just launches the app, it doesn't actually start playing the content for you, which is frustrating. It's surprisingly accurate at working out what you're saying, but without really working with any apps, its usefulness is currently limited.
The TV can also play media files from USB keys or stream them across a home network from a PC or networked hard drive. It works with a pretty decent range of file formats, including MKVs and Xvids, but annoyingly the fast-forward and rewind controls don't work when you're streaming media, only if you're playing it back from a USB drive.
The set has three USB ports and if you do connect up a drive to them you can use it to record TV shows to disk. There's only one Freeview tuner though, so you can't watch one channel while recording another, unlike Panasonic's WT65, which has dual tuners. It also supports Miracast, so if you have an Android phone running version 4.2, you can mirror what's on the phone's screen to the TV over Wi-Fi.
Design and connections
Apart from its stand, the 55LA860 doesn't look massively different to last year's LM860 model. Last year's model was a handsome set, so this isn't necessarily a negative. The bezel around the screen is narrow and the whole chassis is very slim.
The ribbon stand also looks very attractive and helps to lighten the overall look of the set, as from the front it seems to suspend the TV in the air. The stand doesn't swivel like a normal pedestal stand, but cleverly LG has added small wheels and sliders to the base so you can easily move the TV from side to side.