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LG's best local dimming, passive 3D TV ships now

The LG LW9800 offers a full-array local dimming LED backlight and passive 3D--the first such combination available on any TV to date.

The high-end 55LW9800 is shipping now for $3,799. LG

Today at the CEDIA trade show in Indianapolis, LG announced the availability of the 55LW9800, its best 2011 LED-based LCD TV and the first on the market to combine a full-array LED local dimming backlight and passive 3D.

The 55LW9800 is the successor to the well-reviewed LX9500 from 2010, a full-array model with active 3D. LG had announced high-end local dimmers for the U.S. market at CES in January under the LW7700 and LW9500 series names, but subsequently said it would scuttle those sets--which used active 3D technology--in favor of a TV with passive 3D.

The 55-inch 55LW9800, shipping now for the lofty price of $3,799, is that TV. No other sizes or series of LG local dimmers were announced at the show, so we expect this to be the only such TV for 2011. [Update Sept 13: Our expectations were arguably incorrect; see the comments below].

While the 2010 models like the LX9500 and the 2D-only LE8500 were superb, we complained about the unusual uniformity issues we saw, which manifested as bands of uneven lighting that were visible in some material. LG told us that the 55LW9800, with its new Nano backlighting technology, addresses this issue specifically.

According to the press release, "The Nano full LED display employs a thin film incorporating a full array of LEDs, giving it more uniform light distribution and detailed local dimming from over two hundred addressable sectors." The 55LX9500/LE8500 had 216 sectors, so we're guessing the Nano 55LW9800 has the same number. We also expect it to be among the better LCD performers of 2011, challenging models like the Sony XBR-HX929 and Sharp Elites.

In our review of the LW5600 series earlier this year, we found its 3D picture quality inferior to the active variety used by most competitors. For what it's worth, the 55LX9800 is the first passive 3D model to bear the THX logo for 3D certification; it's also THX-certified for 2D.

The 55LW9800 also has a 480Hz refresh rate and all of the extras found on the LW5600, including the Magic Motion remote and four pairs of passive 3D glasses. Unlike the matte LW5600 it has a glossy screen finish; we're not sure yet whether it's as mirrorlike as that of the 2010 models.

We expect to receive a review sample in the next week, so stay tuned for a full evaluation.