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Pretty much every LG TV these days seems to have 'bargain' written all over it, so it's no surprise to find the 32-inch 32LH5000 LCD TV delivers 100Hz processing, a 1080p resolution, plenty of picture-setting flexibility, and extensive multimedia support for around £550. If it can deliver tip-top performance as well, we could have a genuine classic on our hands.
Any bargain hunter looking to get the absolute maximum bang for their buck will probably be drawn to the 32LH5000 like a moth to a flame. For a start, it's elegantly designed for its price point, with a gleaming finish, subtle curves and a seductively minimalist aesthetic.
The 32LH5000 doesn't skimp on connections either. It offers four HDMI ports, and also permits playback of JPEG, audio and even DivX high-definition video files via a built-in USB port. There's even an RS-232 port, allowing the TV to be integrated into a full-on AV system -- a really ambitious touch for a 32-inch TV.
Another unexpected find for £550 is the 32LH5000's 100Hz processing, which doubles the usual 50Hz PAL refresh rate in a bid to tackle LCD technology's customary motion blur and judder problems.
Larger TVs in the LH5000 range, we should point out, add a scanning backlight to proceedings, to deliver a pseudo 200Hz effect. Presumably, LG decided -- with some justification -- that you don't really need 200Hz on a TV as small as the 32LH5000.
Joining forces with the 100Hz system is LG's XD Engine processing, which, like similar systems on pretty much every brand of TV these days, aims to improve colour, contrast, motion and detail levels.
Add a 1080p resolution into the spec mix, and the 32LH5000 has already gone well beyond what you've any right to expect for £550. Yet it's got some more unexpected tricks up its sleeve, or rather tucked within its exemplary on-screen menus.
The first surprise is the discovery of a couple of picture presets labelled 'ISF', which stands for 'Imaging Science Foundation'. The presence of the ISF presets shows that the TV has been deemed sufficiently flexible to be professionally calibrated by an ISF engineer, should you be willing to pay for one to come out.
Among the extensive adjustments available are a series of gamma presets, separate 'dynamic' colour and contrast boosters, multiple noise-reduction settings, and even the option to adjust the strength of the 100Hz processor.
To its credit, LG has tried to make some of this flexibility accessible to technophobes by building into the TV a 'picture wizard' system, which guides you through picture set-up via a series of decently explained test signals.
Unfortunately, though, no matter how much we toyed with all the 32LH5000's myriad settings, we couldn't quite conjure up a totally lovable picture.
The main reason for this is the screen's rather average black-level response. Dark scenes just don't have the punch they do on good rival screens, such as the Samsung LE32B650 or the Sony Bravia KDL-32V5500, chiefly because a pall of gentle grey pervades anything that should look black.
Also, as with nearly all other LCD TVs, this problem increases considerably if you have to watch the set from any angle greater than about 40°. The slight greyness also makes it rather difficult to see some of the background detailing that helps give dark scenes a sense of depth, and mutes some of the colour tones in dark scenes.
A more minor concern we have with the 32LH5000 is that its high-definition pictures don't look particularly sharp, even though the screen has a 1080p resolution.
The 32LH5000 certainly has its good points, though. Its pictures are extremely bright for one thing, standing in stark contrast to those of the Toshiba Regza 32AV635DB, which we tested recently.
Colours are rich and vibrant during bright scenes too, and the 100Hz system does a really good job of keeping judder out of the picture. Just make sure you only set the 100Hz option to its 'low' mode. Otherwise, you'll have to put up with quite a few processing side effects, like flickering and shimmering around moving objects.
The 32LH5000's sound isn't bad for such a small flat TV. There's enough power and range on hand to let the TV handle the challenge of a raucous action scene, and voices sound clear and natural, especially with the TV's Clear Voice processing engaged. Audio can be slightly harsh when a sound mix has plenty of treble information in it, but it's not really severe.
Multimedia hounds and bargain hunters will find much to like in the LG 32LH5000, and we've got to admire LG for the ambition it's displayed with a 32-inch set. But, in the end, the TV comes up just slightly too short in the performance stakes to earn a totally unqualified recommendation.
Edited by Charles Kloet