The 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. Of course you'll need to buy the external speakerphone kit to use Skype. It hasn't been released (or priced) yet, so we didn't test it for this review.
|Picture settings (screen shots)|
|Adjustable picture modes||6||Independent memories per input||Y|
|Dejudder presets||2||Fine dejudder control||Y|
|Aspect ratio modes -- HD||6||Aspect ratio modes -- SD||5|
|Color temperature presets||3||Fine color temperature control||10 point|
|Gamma presets||3||Color management system||Y|
|Other: 2-point and 10-point IRE systems available; 2 THX modes; guided "Picture Wizard" setup tool|
For 2010 LG added a couple of improvements to the industry's best suite of user menu picture controls. It now offers the ability to adjust dejudder processing, a welcome extra pioneered by Samsung last year (although it doesn't work nearly as well; see Performance for details). There are also specific gamma settings (1.9, 2.2 and 2.4) in the excellent 10-point IRE system available in the Expert menu, as well as a second THX picture preset; now you can choose from THX Cinema or THX Bright Room, although neither is user-adjustable without inputting a special code.
As with last year all of the adjustable picture modes can be separate for each input. We also liked the improvements made to the Picture Wizard, which consists of a series of test patterns that can help nonexperts adjust basic controls and get the gist of what picture setup is all about.
|Power-saver mode||Y||Ambient light sensor||Y|
|Picture-in-picture||N||On-screen user manual||Y|
The ambient light sensor can be engaged by choosing the Intelligent Sensor picture mode, and you can choose a "screen off" option in the TV's energy saver menu to just get sound, reducing consumption to 36 watts. LG calls its onscreen manual "simple" and that's definitely the case--it's more like a rundown of features than a usable manual.
|Connectivity (more info)|
|HDMI inputs||3 back, 1 side||Component-video inputs||2 back, 1 side|
|Composite video inputs||1 back, 1 side||S-video input||0|
|VGA-style PC input||1||RF input||1|
|AV output(s)||0||Digital audio output||1 optical|
|USB ports||2 side||Ethernet (LAN) port||Y|
|Other: Side headphone jack; RS-232 port; proprietary "wireless control" port for media box|
The LG's input scheme is pretty standard aside from the necessity to use breakout cables (included) to connect component or composite sources to the side. The side bay is narrow enough that LG recommends a width no greater than 10mm (0.39 inches) for HDMI and USB cables/thumbdrives. The second USB port is nice if you monopolize the first with the optional Wi-Fi dongle.
The LG LE8500 delivered outstanding picture quality, meeting or exceeding in many areas the performance we saw on the directly competitive Samsung UN55B8500 from 2009. The LG's black levels and color were superb; its off-angle picture surpassed that of the Samsung, but on the flipside its video processing was disappointing, and it introduced more blooming and stray illumination. The biggest difference between the two, however, and one that caused us to reconsider the relative performance rating of the review, is the unusual unevenness in the LG's backlight. If not for that, it would be on a par with the Samsung as the best LCD we've ever tested.
calibration we switched to Expert mode to take advantage of LG's 10-point IRE system and got extremely good results, improving gamma a bit (from 2.28 to 2.21), evening out the grayscale further, especially in dark areas, and improving shadow detail at the expense of the deepest blacks. One minor complaint is that even the 10-point IRE controls were a bit coarse at times, so we were unable to dial in the 20 and 40 IRE levels to as close as we've achieved on previous LGs. We didn't have to avail ourselves of the color management system since primary and secondary colors, along with color decoding, were nearly spot-on.
For our image quality tests below, we watched "Star Trek" and employed the following lineup.
|Comparison models (details)|
|Samsung UN55B8500||55-inch local dimming LED|
|LG 47LH90||47-inch local dimming LED|
|LG 47LE5500||47-inch edge-lit LED|
|Samsung UN46B7000||46-inch edge-lit LED|
|Sony KDL-52NX800||52-inch edge-lit LED|
|Pioneer PRO-111FD (reference )||50-inch plasma|
Black level: The LG LE8500 reproduced some of deepest black levels we've seen from any TV, tying and in some scenes surpassing the Samsung UNB8500 and trumping all of the other sets in our lineup with the exception of the reference Pioneer Kuro. Its depth of black was most apparent in low-light scenes, such as the dusky "classroom" on Vulcan where the shadows, letterbox bars and other dark areas appeared inky and nearly indistinguishable from the black bezel of the screen. As usual the difference was also visible in brighter scenes, albeit to a lesser extent, where blacks and the contrast of the darker letterbox bars made everything look punchy and realistic.
Shadow detail was also excellent. One example came in Chapter 1 during the staredown between the captain and the Romulan commander; their half-lit faces appeared just a tad more realistic than on the LE8500 than on any of the other displays, with the sole exception of the reference Pioneer. The difference between the two best LCDs, the LG and Samsung 8500 models, was slight, but the LG won in this category.
One difference between the two 8500 displays came in the way each handled dimming, where the Samsung had the advantage. We noticed more blooming on the LG, which manifested as the halo of brighter light interrupting the black around the PS3's play arrow icon, than we did on the Samsung, but blooming on the LG wasn't bad, and better than we've seen on most other local dimming LED-based TVs. The LG also introduced more stray illumination than the Samsung; for example, when the car crosses the dark field at the beginning of Chapter 2, slightly brighter patches flashed subtly in the shadows when it approached the parking lot. These instances were rare, however, and the effect quite subtle. Nonetheless we didn't see any such flashing on the 8500 or the other displays.
We were pleased to note no obvious fluctuations of the LG's backlight as a whole, even during relatively prolonged fades to and from black such as during the titles for "Watchmen."
Color accuracy: Like most LGs the LE8500 after calibration put up some of the most accurate grayscale and gamut numbers of any TV, and the benefits were apparent in program material. Skin tones, such as the faces of Kirk and Bones on the bridge as they confront the captain in Chapter 6, looked closer to our reference than any TV in the lineup, beating the Samsung 8500 and the LH90 by a hair. Color was consistent from light to dark areas, and the deep blacks led to lush, vibrant saturation, seen in the green fields and red car, not to mention the deep blue of the sky, in the joyride from Chapter 2.
As we saw on the Samsung 8500, near-black areas remained true and didn't veer into far into blue like many of the other LCD displays in our test.
Video processing: A new system available in the LE8500 allows further customization of dejudder or "smoothing," as well as the antiblur effect, of the TV's TruMotion processing. Labeled User and consisting of sliders labeled Judder and Blur, it seems similar to the system we liked so much from Samsung. In this case, however, it doesn't work nearly as well.
We're not fans in general of smoothing effects, which tend to make film look more like video--and we