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Editors' note: The rating on this review has been lowered because of changes in the competitive marketplace.
Flat-panel TVs are slim and sleek, but in the real world a lot of that style is lost when there's a DVD player and a cable box next to the TV, with a nest of wires in the back. The LG 32LG40 takes care of at least part of the problem, with a built-in, slot-loading DVD player that's nicely hidden in the side of TV. This 32-inch LCD also features extensive picture control options, which contribute to its accurate color and natural-looking picture. We would have appreciated deeper black levels--the competing Sony KDL-32M400 and Vizio VO32L get darker--but overall we still preferred the image quality on the 32LG40. With street prices dipping as low as $700, the 32LG40 is actually a pretty good buy for those willing to spend a little extra for the convenience of a built-in DVD player and don't mind the slightly lighter blacks.
If you want your TV to stand out a little in the room, the 32LG40's design is for you. The bezel surrounding the screen is glossy black, and along the bottom there's a thick strip of deep red plastic, similar to Samsung's "Touch of Color" design. In the lower right-hand corner is a light that glows blue when the TV is on and red when it's off--luckily you can turn it off in the setup menu. The set sits on top of a circular swivel stand, with a distinctively skinny stem that connects to the TV. It certainly won't fit in every room, but if you're looking for something different (and it fits your décor), the 32LG40 may be the way to go.
LG's remote looks decent from afar, but is disappointing in actual use. We found the cluster of similar buttons around the cursor control difficult to differentiate without constantly having to look down at them. A little illumination would have gone a long way. We were also really annoyed that LG neglected to include a dedicated button to toggle between aspect ratio settings, instead including a "Simplink" key for compatible HDMI-connected gear that most people will never use. And if you use the built-in DVD player frequently, you'll have to struggle with the tiny playback controls at the bottom of the remote. The remote can command three other pieces of equipment beyond the television itself.
The standout feature of the 32LG40 is its built-in DVD player. While we're generally not huge fans of "combo" products, this actually makes a lot of sense, especially for a bedroom set where you may not want a clunky separate DVD player. DVD playback is conveniently controlled by the same remote as the TV, although, as mentioned before, the small DVD-centric buttons feel like an afterthought.
Like other 2008 LG HDTVs, this LCD features tons of picture adjustments in seven different picture modes, all of which remember settings independently per input. If you're counting, that's 63 total "slots" over the set's nine sources, for a range of adjustability that should satisfy even the tweakiest of viewers. We also liked that all of the main picture modes indicate whether they're at default or custom settings with the presence or absence of "(User)" printed after the mode name.
The two Expert modes allow even more adjustment, starting with the most comprehensive color temperature control we've tested. It moves beyond the three presets with both 2-point and 10-point adjustment options. The latter lets calibrators really hone in on the D65 standard and create a more linear grayscale than would otherwise be possible. Expert also adds a full color-management system for tuning the primary and secondary color points, again a boon for careful calibrators. A raft of other adjustments is available, too, such as gamma and noise reduction.
The 32LG40 includes a healthy five manual aspect ratio modes and a sixth that detects incoming content and attempts to adjust aspect automatically. LG chose to call its zero-overscan mode Just Scan, just like Samsung, and we'd recommend using this mode with HD content unless you notice interference along the extreme edges of the screen, which can occur on some cable and satellite feeds.
Like many new HDTVs, the 32LG40 offers a choice of "home" or "store" upon initial setup; selecting "home" is supposed to cut down on energy consumption, but according to our Juice Box results, it didn't tame power consumption very much in the default setting.
Connectivity on the 32LG40 is mostly comprehensive. The back panel includes a pair of HDMI inputs, a PC input, a component-video input, one AV input with composite and S-Video, an analog audio output, and an optical digital audio output. The side panel adds a third HDMI input as well as another AV input with composite video. We would have liked a second component video input, but that's becoming rarer on smaller LCDs, and is less of a big deal on this model since you won't need to connect a DVD player.
Overall the 32LG40 was solid performing LCD, albeit with a few demerits, such as slightly light black levels and, to a greater extent, disappointing off-angle performance.
The 32LG40's picture quality was greatly enhanced by its abundant controls. During calibration we were able to improve color temperature accuracy and grayscale tracking compared with the out-of-the-box performance. This made for realistic flesh tones and shadow detail that tended to look neutral, instead of "pushing" blue or green. Check out the bottom of this blog post for our full picture settings.
Black level: The black levels on the 32LG40 were about a shade lighter than the other sets we used for comparison. This was very noticeable during dark scenes of Daredevil, where the pitch black shadows just couldn't reach the same level a KDL-32M400. While we could make the 32LG40 darker by making the backlight dimmer, doing so sacrifices shadow detail, which is why we opted for the lighter overall blacks. We did notice slightly more shadow detail in the 32LG40 compared with the KDL-32M400, particularly on the crevices of Daredevil's bodysuit, but the Vizio VO32L bested them both (but not by much). The 32LG40's relatively light blacks are certainly the set's weakness.
Color accuracy: Colors on the 32LG40 looked the most natural out of the displays we had set up. That wasn't a surprise, considering our objective measurements showed that the 32LG40 had very accurate primary colors out of the box, and we were able to dial these in even closer with the extensive color management system. Flesh tones looked lifelike, comparable with the Vizio VO32L, although we'd give a slight nod to Vizio, which looked just a tad more saturated without pushing red. We also thought the darkest blacks on the 32LG40 tended more toward blue than we'd like, but we preferred the more accurate color in shadows versus the VO32L's greenish shadows. Again, the accurate grayscale is largely because of the 32LG40's robust color controls, which allow you to adjust the red, green, and blue at different IRE levels.
Video processing: The LG did an excellent job with our video processing tests, passing the difficult film resolution test from the HQV on Blu-ray. The 32LG40 looked good on the slow pan across Raymond James Stadium, while the KDL-32M400 had significant moiré in the grandstands. Like most HDTVs we test, the VO32L had no problem with video-based de-interlacing tests.
Uniformity: LCDs often have trouble with uniformity, but the 32LG40 is mostly an exception. While we could easily make out "hot spots" on both the Sony KDL-32M400 and the Vizio VO32L, the 32LG40 looked nearly uniform, with just a slightly darker upper left-hand corner. Off-angle viewing, however, was a completely different story. The 32LG40 washes out significantly when moving off angle, looking redder and lighter than in the sweet spot. The KDL-32M400 is much better at maintaining a stable image, while the VO32L has similar off-angle issues.
Bright lighting: The 32LG40 features a matte finish, which greatly reduces reflections from in-room lighting. The KDL-32M40's screen was significantly more reflective, while the VO32L had a similar finish.
Standard-definition: We tested standard-def performance (with an external DVD player) and the performance of the built-in DVD player using the same test material. We could detect no difference between the two, and both were perfectly fine for casual viewing, although videophiles will notice some imperfections.
The 32LG50 passed the initial resolution test, showing all the detail of DVD. It also handled the next two jaggies tests, showing only minor jagged edges. The next test was a little worse, as we saw significant jaggies in the ripples of the waving flag. The 32LG40 also struggled with the difficult 2:3 pull-down test, as it slipped in and out of film mode, resulting in moiré in the grandstands while a race car drove by. It did better on a test pattern with CNN-style scrolling text, but we did notice that images in the background still had some jaggies.
We switched over to program material, and the 32LG40 handled the introduction to Star Trek: Insurrection well, smoothly rendering the curved lines of the bridge and boats. Next up was the opening sequence to Seabiscuit, and like we've seen with many DVD players, the 32LG40 struggled, with some scenes covered with jaggies and image instability.
PC: As a PC monitor, the LG 32LG40 performed excellently over HDMI. There was no overscan in 1,360x768 mode, and even small text was clear and readable from several feet back. Using VGA it displayed the same resolution but the image was slightly off-center and we found no way to correct it. It also looked a bit softer, although small text was still readable from several feet back.
|LG 32LG40||Picture settings|
|Picture on (watts)||116.19||67.86||n/a|
|Picture on (watts/sq. inch)||0.27||0.16||n/a|
|Cost per year||$35.96||$21.00||n/a|
|Score (considering size)||Good|
|Before color temp (20/80)||7042/7257||Poor|
|After color temp||6443/6434||Good|
|Before grayscale variation||849||Average|
|After grayscale variation||63||Good|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.6384/0.3333||Good|
|Color of green||0.2842/0.6098||Good|
|Color of blue||0.1453/0.0633||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Y||Good|
|480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps||Y||Good|
|1080i video resolution||Pass||Good|
|1080i film resolution||Pass||Good|