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If you want a smart TV with a stylish exterior, but don't really care about a bunch of other jazz, LG is hoping to coax the hard-earned pounds out of your pocket with its 32-inch LG5000 TV.
Although 32 inches is still at the smaller end of the HDTV spectrum, it's sure to appeal to people who want a sensibly priced screen, which will almost certainly replace an ageing CRT in their front room. It's available now for well under £500 online.
The exterior of the 32LG5000 is actually very pretty indeed. There are no real frills to speak of, but the black frame looks great. On the far right of the screen is a simple button to turn the TV on. There is also an LED buried beneath the plastic of the bezel. When the TV is on standby, it's red; when the set is on, it glows blue. It's a good-looking TV overall, without being too showy.
The remote control is simple and the buttons are large and sensibly located. The TV is quick to respond to the remote, which is a must for us, as pressing buttons and waiting isn't something we expect to have to deal with in the year 2008.
At the rear, the TV has a pair of HDMI inputs and a pair of Scart sockets. There's a third HDMI on the side of the TV, although it's so close to the rear panel, we aren't entirely sure why LG bothered with a side panel at all. You also get component inputs and a PC VGA connection for media centres or laptops and there are S-Video and composite inputs too.
There isn't a massive amount to say about what this TV can do. It's aimed squarely at a market that want a TV to show TV programmes. These people might want to watch some HD content as well, so that's what the 32LG5000 does.
There are a few things worth mentioning, though. It has 'AV mode', which is essentially a group of settings for the various types of material you're likely to watch. 'Cinema mode' is, unsurprisingly, aimed at films and tries to accurately reproduce white levels and colour balance. 'Sport mode' optimises primary colours, and reduces motion blur, while 'Game mode' increases the detail in dark images and dynamically adjusts the sound.
Because the TV is designed to have invisible speakers, LG needed to ensure the sound quality was as good as possible, and that speech was as clear as it could be. To this end, it has included a function called 'clear voice' that aims to improve the audibility of the spoken word. The idea here is that voices are the most important part of the sound coming out of a TV, and most people are going to want to hear what's being said on-screen.
LG also appears to understand that lighting conditions in your living room change all the time. To help improve the picture, whatever the ambient light is doing, it has included an option called 'intelligent sensor', which examines the light in a room and adjusts the backlight to match. It's a simple idea, but a pretty good one and while nothing new, it'll improve TV viewing for people who don't want to clamber around inside a TV menu.
And the menus on the 32LG5000 are very appealing. They're the new-style interface, and have beautiful logos and well-designed menus that guide you through the configuration of the TV with minimal confusion.
Out of the box, we weren't that impressed with the picture quality of the LG, but with a little tweaking, it is easily possible to greatly improve how the picture looks. This is generally the case with TVs, where manufacturers seem to forget who is paying the cash for their product and simply set up everything to look good in a shop.
Once we'd finished tweaking, we settled down to watch some daytime TV. We would suggest that you don't attempt to adjust the picture settings when David Dickinson is on -- his luminous skin tone isn't the most natural, and can cause you to incorrectly dial the brightness down to compensate.
HD gaming from our PlayStation 3 offered plenty of thrills and spills. Switching the TV to 'Game' mode did produce a likeable image, and the excitement from Colin McCrae Dirt was plentiful, with great colour and no motion blur or other unwanted artefacts.
The HD picture quality is very good too, and although this set is a 720p model, it has no problems at all displaying 1080p pictures, albeit downscaled to fit on the 1,366x768-pixel panel. It can even accept 24p video from Blu-ray -- handy if you're a film fan. Movies played back on our PS3, such as Resident Evil: Apocalypse, had oodles of detail and colour. Although not the sharpest picture we've ever seen, it was still pleasing.
We were also rather taken with the sound quality. The invisible speakers are exactly that, and that can mean trouble on LCD TVs, which aren't known for their brilliant audio quality at the best of times. The LG5000 managed to pump out a surprising amount of sound, however, and was clear, with no signs of muffling. If you haven't seen this Resident Evil film, you won't know that each and every line of dialogue is painfully written and packed full of so many clichés that it's a miracle everyone in it isn't just grimacing the whole time. Still, the TV does a faithful job of recreating the sound, even if what's being said is idiotic.
We like this LG5000 TV. Freeview pictures are strong, and once we'd invested some time setting it up properly, we felt that the picture was fairly impressive. If you're looking for a good all-round performer, but have no need for a massive 1080p TV, this could be the sort of TV you're looking for. Other options include Toshiba's 32CV505D (we reviewed the 37-inch version) and LG's own 32LC46, which is even cheaper.
Edited by Jon Squire