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LG 32LX1D review: LG 32LX1D

LG's relatively expensive 32-inch flat-panel LCD, model 32LX1D, has a combination of cutting-edge features and relatively strong performance that will appeal to high-end shoppers who want to ditch the cable box.

Phil Ryan
5 min read
In many ways, LG is doing what most electronics companies strive for with flat-panel TVs. The company has created a line of LCD and plasma televisions with attractive designs and a level of performance and features that let them command a price premium above the growing swarms of bargain-basement panels. The 32LX1D is a good example of this trend: it's one of the first LCDs of this size with both a built-in EPG and a CableCard slot, as well as an excellent selection of inputs that includes FireWire--features that budget LCDs simply cannot afford to include. Whether those features, not to mention a noticeably better picture, are worth the steep price premium will depend on your priorities and your budget.
A tasteful, glossy black frame surrounds the LG 32LX1D's screen with built-in, forward-facing black speakers on the left and right. A slightly curved Plexiglass accent below the screen is black in the middle, fading to clear Plexi on the edges. The back is silver plastic with a panel to hide the wires, while the included base is black. Unfortunately, you can't tilt or rotate the panel on the base. Although a number of key functions--including aspect-ratio and picture-in-picture controls--are hidden behind a sliding panel, we found the silver-plastic remote to be otherwise well laid out and comfortable to hold.
At 1,366x768, the 32LX1D's native resolution should be enough to display full 720p HDTV. All incoming signals are scaled to fit the panel's available pixels. One NTSC tuner serves up regular TV, while an ATSC tuner lets you receive over-the-air HDTV signals. The Digital Cable Ready QAM tuner and the CableCard slot let you watch digital and HD cable without an external box. And the TV Guide EPG makes sure you don't lose out on the sort of programming info that most digital cable subscribers now get from their cable box.
At least that's the idea. In our tests using Time Warner Digital Cable in New York City, we were unable to get the guide to populate with program information. We tried hooking up the system both with and without a cable box and even tried various zip codes (one of which worked fine with the TV Guide system on the Panasonic DMR-EH10 DVD recorder), but unfortunately, it still wouldn't load. Since TV Guide relies on the local cable service's ability to pass the guide information, it may work fine with your cable system. In our experience and that of users around the country, however, you probably shouldn't count on flawless performance with TVG.
Other features include independent input memories, a set of selectable color-temperature controls, and picture-in-picture (PIP). There's only one NTSC tuner, but happily, DTV sources can be used as the second picture, as well as any of the other video inputs. A built-in memory card reader, which accepts all eight of the most common memory cards in capacities as high as 4GB, lets you view JPEG digital images or even listen to MP3s. Aspect -ratio control includes 4:3 (displays 4:3 sources properly), 16:9 (displays 16:9 sources properly), Horizon (fills the screen by stretching the sides of the image), Zoom 1 (crops the top and bottom of the picture to fill the screen width), Zoom 2 (crops less of the top and bottom, while stretching the image to fill the screen width), Cinema Zoom (enlarges the picture in correct proportion in 16 user-selectable steps), and Set By Program (displays the source pixel for pixel). Impressively, all of these choices--with the exception of Horizon--are also available for high-def sources.
Inputs are ample and include two high-bandwidth component, two S-Video, two composite, two RF coaxial (one cable and one antenna), one HDMI, one VGA-style RGB PC, two stereo RCA audio, one PC audio 1/8-inch minijack, and two optical digital audio inputs. Outputs include one composite video, one stereo RCA audio, and one optical digital audio. Two FireWire connections let you hook up D-VHS recorders and/or similarly equipped camcorders or compatible DVRs.
Out of the box and set to the Expert picture mode, the color temperature was actually quite good, especially in darker portions of the picture where it came within 300K of the reference 6,500K. Interestingly, when we set color temperature to Warm and properly adjusted the contrast, brightness, and other controls, the color temperature ended up bluer and less accurate than in the Expert mode. As a result, this is one rare occasion where we'd recommend using the picture preset as opposed to custom adjustments. In other tests, the color decoder evinced a slight red push, while primary colors, though not as bad as some LCDs, were a bit orangey in the reds and limey in the greens. Overall, the LG's color performance definitely outdoes that of most flat-panel LCDs we've reviewed.
"Chapter Four: The Breach of Deeping Wall," from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers DVD looked decent. Despite a minor amount of false contouring and a fair amount of noise in darker portions of the screen, we certainly enjoyed the panel's better than average black level. You can clearly see the different plates that make up the armor of the Uruk Hai as they march across the rock bridge toward the gate of Deeping Wall. Unfortunately, a look at the opening scene of Star Trek: Insurrection showed that this panel lacks 2:3 pull-down, and test patterns showed that the sharpness control can't be defeated. Both of these contributed to an increase in noise.
As usual, high-definition content--even the sophomoric antics of Art Mann Presents on HDNet--looked best of all, though still suffered from some noise. Of course, 720p looked better than 1080i. As usual, our test patterns showed that the 32LX1D falls short of fully resolving 720p, an issue that can probably be blamed on scaling. The lone LCD we've seen that's capable of dishing out a perfect 720p resolution pattern was the Philips 32PF9996, which didn't fill the screen.
With its comprehensive feature set and classy styling, LG's 32LX1D is a solid choice among higher-end LCD TVs, even if it's more expensive than most of the competition. Right out of the box, it offers admirable performance. Unless you really want to ditch your cable box, Samsung's LT-P326W, with its similar looks and good performance, is a better overall value. If you can't justify this TV's high price, your best bet from the budget lot would probably be the Syntax Olevia LT32HV.


Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 7