People have been tolling plasma's death knell for what seems like years, but the "other" flat-panel technology is still available from LG, Samsung, and Panasonic. The first 2010 model we've tested is LG's PK750 series, and it exhibits the same plasma characteristics--better off-angle viewing and uniformity than LCD; worse energy efficiency--as ever. Its depth of black, though better than last year's LG plasmas, still can't compete with its brethren from those other brands' plasmas, or with the better LCDs available. That said, we appreciate the PK750's style and feature set at this price level, especially compared with similarly equipped 2010 models like the Panasonic TC-P50G25 and the Samsung PN50C6500. If you're looking for a midrange plasma and don't demand videophile image quality, the PK750 deserves consideration.
LG's new clicker 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 the direct infrared control of other devices.
LG's 2009 models were among the first to include Netflix, but since that service is now available on most Internet TVs, the company's Netcast array of streaming partners is now standard-issue. There are no major missing links, however, aside from any kind of audio service like Pandora or Slacker radio. In our tests, Vudu and Netflix performed as advertised, delivering the video quality we expect from both services via both Ethernet and Wi-Fi from LG's dongle.
Most of the nonstreaming apps, with the exception of Picasa, come courtesy of Yahoo widgets. At the time of this writing the PK750 has access to 11 widgets. That platform is somewhat more usable than last year on LG, with snappier responses to button presses and faster load times for individual widgets. That said, it could be a lot faster still, and the initial load of the main widget taskbar can take 20 seconds or more--still an eternity on a television. In comparison, the apps platforms of Samsung and Vizio felt much snappier than LG's widgets, and content selection was wider on Samsung, Vizio, and Sony.
LG's 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.
Plenty of presets are provided for those who'd rather not futz with settings. The two THX modes, one for bright and one for dim environments, are not user-adjustable, and there's a new Auto Power Saver Mode, again nonadjustable, that depends on room lighting to do its job. LG's Picture Wizard is onhand to guide novices through basic settings.
LG is among the best on the market for sheer numbers of adjustable parameters, but in the PK750's case the results were disappointing (see Performance). The TV's two Expert modes allow fine adjustment of 20 points of white balance, which seems like overkill compared with the 10-point system on the LH8500. The 750's 20-point system lacks the guidelines for gamma found on the 8500, but the 750 does offer LG's usual suite of other adjustments, including a standard 2-point system.
Like most plasmas the PK750 offers three ways to combat burn-in, including white and color washes and a pixel orbiter, which shifts the whole image around on the screen. Since temporary image retention seems more common on this set than with other plasmas, we welcome the washes in particular.
LG's 50PK750 represents an improvement in picture quality over the company's LG 50PS80 model from last year, but it's still not up to the performance of the best plasmas and LCDs on the market. Black-level performance was a culprit, as was the display's inability to properly handle film-based 1080p/24 content. The PK750's color accuracy was a strength, although not as strong as some other LG models we've tested.