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LG30 LCD review: LG30 LCD

LG30 LCD

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David Katzmaier
David_Katzmaier.jpg
David Katzmaier Editorial Director -- TVs and streaming

David runs CNET's home entertainment division, where he leads a team that covers TVs, streaming services, streaming devices and home audio. If he doesn't know something about the gear you use to keep yourself entertained at home, it's not worth knowing.

Expertise A 20-year CNET veteran, David has been reviewing TVs since the days of CRT, rear-projection and plasma. Prior to CNET he worked at Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as the Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics. Credentials Although still awaiting his Oscar for Best Picture Reviewer, David does hold certifications from the Imaging Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology on display calibration and evaluation.
8 min read

The less-expensive, smaller LCD category is usually where manufacturers cut some corners with picture settings, but the 32LG30 from LG is the entry-level picture tweaker's delight. This 32-inch HDTV includes the same incredibly extensive set of manual picture controls found on the flagship LG60 series, and those controls allowed us to really improve the picture. We still couldn't get its black-level performance to outdo that of the best small LCDs we've tested, however, and a couple of other issues keep it out of the top tier. Still, if you're looking for the TV with the most manual control of the picture you can get, and you're willing to spend a couple hundred dollars over the lowest-end budget sets, the LG 32LG30 deserves a serious look.

6.9

LG30 LCD

The Good

Extensive picture controls; accurate, well-saturated color after calibration; solid screen uniformity; comprehensive connectivity; stylish design with hidden speakers and swivel stand.

The Bad

Somewhat expensive compared with off-brand entry-level models; blacks not quite as deep as the best small LCDs'; dark areas tend toward blue; subpar off-angle viewing.

The Bottom Line

LG's 32LG30 doesn't produce the deepest black levels, but its color accuracy after calibration will warm geeky hearts.

Design
The 32LG30 cuts a slick-looking figure by small-screen HDTV standards, with its glossy black finish, slightly curved bottom edge with an angled panel, and skinny pedestal atop a rounded, swiveling stand. The power indicator is a large, yet dim, LED on the far right that can be disabled if it's not your thing, and the speakers are hidden underneath the panel. All told, the set measures 31.5 inches wide by 23.7 inches tall by 8.9 inches deep and weighs 29.5 pounds; without the stand it shrinks to 31.5 inches wide by 21.4 inches tall by 3.1 inches deep and weighs 26.2 pounds.

LG includes the same remote with the low-end 32LG30 as it does with the high-end 47LG60 we reviewed previously, and we don't like it. 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 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. The remote can command three other pieces of equipment beyond the television itself.

The company has overhauled its menu system from last year, and the changes are mostly for the better. The stark black-on-light-gray menus are legible and large, and we liked that the input menu, which is arranged horizontally, grouped active inputs near the left where they were easy to select quickly. We would have liked to see text explanations accompany menu items, and navigating the extensive Expert menu (see below) can be quite tedious, but overall we liked the simple arrangement. We also appreciated the Quick Menu, which allows for control of aspect ratio, picture presets, and other options without having to deal with the full menu system.

Features:
The 32LG30 is among the more well-featured models on the market, but fortunately for people who don't like wasting money, its native resolution is the standard 1,366x768, not 1080p, which is a waste at this screen size. The set's picture controls are again identical to those of the higher-end 47LG60, which makes this little LCD easily the most tweak-friendly set of its kind on the market.

LG 32LG30
The LG's plethora of picture modes can all be adjusted, including the two advanced Expert modes.

Each of the whopping seven picture modes is adjustable and independent per input. With the nine input sources we counted, that's 63 different memory "banks" to store picture settings. We can't imagine anyone using all of those, but just having the option to create multiple custom picture settings that are all remembered per input is pretty cool, especially at this level. We also liked that all five 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.

LG 32LG30
With two ways to adjust color temperature and a full color management system, the LG has more picture tweaks than any TV in its class.

Two of the modes, labeled Expert, allow for control of the full range of picture settings. The 32LG30 has a more comprehensive color temperature adjustment than any HDTV we've tested, moving beyond the three presets with both 2-point and 10-point adjustment options. The latter allows calibrators to really hone in on the D6500 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 are available too, the most important of which includes gamma and noise reduction. Performance has the details below, as well as our complete picture settings.

LG 32LG30
With two HDMI inputs and a PC input, among other connections, the LG's back panel is as well-equipped as any 32-inch LCD.

Connectivity on the 32LG30 leaves nothing to be desired. The back panel sprouts a pair of HDMI inputs, a PC input, two component-video inputs, 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.

LG 32LG30
The side panel has a third HDMI input along with a USB port, but the latter is for service only, not thumbdrives filled with digital photos.

Performance
Color accuracy after calibration was the LG's main strength and helped earn it a good performance rating overall, although precalibration the picture was a good deal less-accurate. In the negative column, black-level and off-angle performance weren't as good as the best such sets we've tested.

More so than with any HDTV we've reviewed recently, calibration really benefited the 32LG30. Armed with those extensive picture controls, we were able to take the quite-blue color temperature of the Warm preset and turn it into a grayscale that was superb, especially for a small LCD. We didn't have to mess much with the color management system, for its part, owing to the LG's already-accurate out-of-box color points. Check out our complete picture settings for all the nitty-gritty, including our calibrations for both 2- and 10-point methods--as with the 47LG60, the 10-point method improved grayscale linearity quite a bit. Of course, to set those controls yourself you'll need specialized training and equipment.

For our comparison and image quality tests, we lined the 32LG30 up next to the Samsung LN32A450, the Sony KDL-32M4000, the Toshiba 32CV5210U, and Insignia's NS-LCD32-09 and checked out The Golden Compass on Blu-ray from the PlayStation 3.

Black level: The darkest areas of the picture--such as the letterbox bars above and below the image, the black screens and star fields during the opening credits and prologue, and the night sky behind Lord Asriel--appeared a bit lighter than the other sets aside from the Insignia. These scenes looked a bit less rich and realistic on the LG as a result, but the difference wasn't drastic, and it didn't affect our perception of more brightly lit scenes much. Shadow detail in the standard Medium gamma position, the best to our eye, was about equal to the Sony and not as distinct as on the Toshiba or Samsung.

Color accuracy: In most areas the LG's color was the best in our comparison after calibration, edging out the also excellent Samsung by a nose. Saturation was rich and deep, which was more especially impressive considering the LG's slightly lighter black levels (which can limit perceived color saturation significantly). The key, along with excellent color decoding, is the set's superb grayscale after adjustment, which made delicate skin tones like Lyra's sunlit face as she challenges the gypsy children look warm and natural. Primary color accuracy was also excellent, as evinced by the green of the trees and grass on the Oxford campus and the solid red of the airship, which looked indistinguishable from our color reference.

Unfortunately, the 32LG30 suffered from the worst case of bluish blacks among any of the TVs in our comparison. Black areas had a distinct bluish tint, which happily didn't affect brighter areas, but which we couldn't ignore, especially in dark scenes.

Video processing: Unlike many HDTVs the 32LG60 passed the test for proper deinterlacing of both film-based and video-based 1080i content. It also resolved more detail via 1080i than a couple of the other sets in our comparison, so you can set your HD sources to any high-definition resolution without having to worry about truncating detail.

Uniformity:The LG's screen remained fairly even across its surface, betraying only one somewhat brighter area in the upper right corner, which was subtle enough to escape notice during program material, including letterbox bars. Off-angle performance, on the other hand, was below average; black levels suffered quite a bit when we moved even a seat to the right or left of the sweet spot directly in front of the screen. We also noticed reddish discoloration begin to appear in the darkest areas from those same slightly less-sweet seats.

Standard-definition: The 32LG30 acquitted itself well with standard-definition sources. It resolved every detail of the DVD format according to the resolution patterns, and details in the stone bridge and grass were crisp and relatively sharp. We appreciated its ability to smooth out jaggies from the edges of moving diagonal lines, however. LG's noise reduction did a fine job of cleaning up the "snow" and moving motes in HQV's low-quality shots of skies and sunsets. We were disappointed to see that the LG fell briefly out of film mode, failing our 2:3 pull-down test, which may cause artifacts when watching film-based material via 480i.

PC: Via HDMI, the LG resolved every pixel of a 1,360x768 source, according to DisplayMate, and as a result text looked crisp and clean. Via RGB, on the other hand, resolution was truncated quite a bit, making text appear broken up and alternating light/ark. The fault may be in the set's aspect ratio selection, which didn't allow us to choose the "just scan" mode, which would allow perfect scaling, with an analog PC source.

TEST RESULT SCORE
Before color temp (20/80) 7,290/7,429 Poor
After color temp 6,577/6,449 Good
Before grayscale variation +/- 891 Poor
After grayscale variation +/- 50 Good
Color of red (x/y) 0.63/0.332 Good
Color of green 0.29/0.607 Good
Color of blue 0.145/0.057 Good
Overscan 0.0 percent Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Yes Good
480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 frames per second Yes Good
1080i video resolution Pass Good
1080i film resolution Pass Good

LG 32LG30 Picture settings
Default Calibrated Power Save
Picture on (watts) 117.88 61.7 N/A
Picture on (watts/sq. inch) 0.27 0.14 N/A
Standby (watts) 0.99 0.99 N/A
Cost per year $37.10 $19.71 N/A
Score (considering size) Good
Score (overall) Good
*Cost per year based on 2007 average U.S. residential electricity cost of 10.6 cents per kw/hr at 8 hours on/16 hours off per day.

How we test TVs

6.9

LG30 LCD

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 6
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