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LG PK950 series (photos)

LG's PK950 series plasma TV competes well against the picture quality of flagship models from other manufacturers.

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David Katzmaier
1 of 16 Sarah Tew/CNET

Overview

Many home theater fans will give plasma the nod over LCD and LED-based flat-panel displays, if only because plasma TVs nearly always exhibits perfect uniformity and off-angle viewing characteristics, and often have better black levels than LCDs do. Those same fans may also dismiss LG and focus on Samsung and Panasonic, the other two plasma makers left in the market, but in the case of LG's PK950 series, they'd be overlooking a gem.

LG's best plasma TV for 2010 is also the company's best ever, and while it lacks 3D and some of the interactive options found on the competition, it also costs less than other makers' top panels. Its black levels are deeper than those of previous LGs, its color is mostly accurate and it handles 1080p/24 Blu-ray sources correctly, unlike many competing plasmas. Add to that a sleek, single-pane look, and the LG PK950 presents a combination to tempt image quality sticklers and style mavens alike.

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Corner detail

Flush glass and a transparent edge contribute to the PK950's sleek looks.
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Stand detail

A glass stand top and transparent stalk set the PK950 apart from its step-down brother, if not from Samsung sets.
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Back panel inputs

The LG isn't missing any major connection options from the its back panel input bay, which has three HDMI, two component-video and a "wireless control" port for the company's proprietary, optional wireless HDMI system.
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Side panel inputs

The second USB port on the side is nice if you monopolize the first with the optional Wi-Fi dongle.
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Magic Wand remote

LG's Magic Wand remote works like a Nintendo Wii controller, letting you manipulate menu items by waving the wand.
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Standard remote

Yes, a standard thumb-operated remote is also included. And we liked using it better. But back to that wand...
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Wand remote main menu

Hitting the Home key on the wand calls up a simplified menu system and a big cursor control, and moving the remote itself to point the cursor activates menu items.
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Wand menu home

The home menu has larger icons but leaves out more-advanced controls. You can adjust pointer settings, although we found accuracy at the default settings was excellent and needed no adjustment.
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Wand menu keypad and extra controls

In case you really love using the wand, you can even use it to enter numbers.
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Big Options wheel

LG's options wheel of TV shortcuts is super-sized in Wand mode.
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NetCast streaming media

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 pretty pedestrian. However, there are no major missing links aside from any kind of audio service like Pandora or Slacker radio.
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Yahoo widgets

Most of the nonstreaming apps--with the exception of Picasa, a clock for time zones around the world, an onscreen calendar and a few games--come courtesy of Yahoo Widgets. At the time of this review, the PK950 has access to 15 widgets.
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Advanced picture controls

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 LG LH8500 series or Samsung's high-end 2010 sets, and didn't work well in our testing. Fortunately, the TV also offers LG's usual suite of other advanced adjustments, including a standard 2-point system.
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Side view

For what it's worth, the 2.1-inch depth of the PK950 also falls in the middle between the Panasonic (3.5 inches) and slim Samsung (1.4 inches) plasmas.
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Picture quality

All told the LG PK90 series delivered an excellent performance, with deep black levels, accurate color and solid video processing that handled 1080p/24 correctly. As usual for a plasma, it also showed nearly perfect off-angle viewing and screen uniformity. We could complain about some color issues in dark areas and secondaries, but they don't take much away from LG's best plasma yet.

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