Most big screen TVs are some type of sleek variation on a black and silver theme, but LG has used it to greater impact than most. The whole 1160 X 660 X 147mm set is black, including the bezel surrounding the screen and side speakers. In addition to making the unit appear larger than it actually is, the mono black look gives it a macho, bachelor-pad, slightly intimidating feel -- think the All Blacks or Darth Vader.
So as not to totally overdue the black thing, LG has wisely placed the set on a round brushed chrome base that looks like a big dowel. A door on this rounded anchor opens up to reveal two memory card slots, S-video and composite AV ports, power, volume and channel buttons. With this panel closed, the base blends beautifully with the brushed chrome stand.
The Darth Vader remote, too, is tall and black. The white back-lit power button is easy to find at the top centre of the remote and the volume and channel up/down controls are conveniently situated in the middle of the remote. Some of the less-frequently used buttons, such as the ones that control the XStudio mode, are a bit tiny, but that's hardly a deal-breaker.
If you intend this TV to go into a big open plan room, say a combined family-room kitchen, it conveniently swivels on its stand about 40 degrees. Sorry couch potatoes, this is a manual procedure, and cannot be done through the remote as with the Hitachi 42PD8800TA or the Philips 32PF9830. Additionally, LG's LCD TVs incorporate something they call an S-IPS module to enhance wide angle viewing. Whatever it is, it works, as we didn't notice any fading or picture degradation when viewing the screen from a side angle.
The 37LP1D is feature-loaded, so those looking for a lot of bang-for their buck should be pleased. For starters, LG has integrated an HD tuner to make good use of its high-definition capabilities. Getting an HD broadcast was dead simple and only required one press of the input button once we were set up. There's one caveat that should be mentioned though. This unit was tested in a residence on Sydney's North Shore that is connected to the Foxtel Digital cable service and so we were left to test the free-to-air HD signal with a set of bunny-ear antennas. Surprisingly, we got clear HD reception from Ten Digital and ABC, however no joy with broadcasts from channels Seven, Nine or SBS. This would probably be rectified with connection to a more substantial externally mounted antenna, but it will pay to check the HD signal strength from your home before you spend the extra dough for a TV with the high-def tuner built-in.
Another nice inclusion that's still in the not-found-in-many-models-yet category is what LG calls its XStudio, or more plainly, the mode that plays JPEG images and MP3 music files. Want to see your happy snaps on the big screen? Forget having to hook up through a camera or photo printer, the easiest route is to pop your memory card into one of the LG's memory card slots, punch the XStudio button on the remote, and use the controls to view your images. The 37LP1D supports MS/MS-Pro, SD, MMC, SMC, xD and CF memory cards, although it does place restrictions on the maximum capacities which varies depending on card type (SMC and MS:128MB, MMC: 256MB, SD and xD: 512MB, MS Pro: 1GB and CF: 2GB). Within XStudio you can rotate images and set up slide shows, with all functions accessible through the aforementioned fairly small buttons on the remote control. Straightforward stuff, but we found the Delete All prompt almost a bit too easy to hit by mistake. As we increasingly believe people will want to share digital photos and music on big screens and home theatre sound systems, it's a very simple, but nifty feature to have.
Other extras include the (cool, but probably seldom used) Picture-In-Picture (PIP)/Twin picture modes; a Child Lock system whereby the TV can only be operated with the remote control; and a Sleep Timer that can be set to automatically switch the set to standby after a preset time (selectable in various options between 10 and 240 minutes) -- surely a handy function for late night TV addicts who regularly crash in front of the tube. All connectivity options are also amply covered and the unit includes a desireable all-digital HDMI port.
Picture wise, the 37LP1D performs about as well as we've seen in the big LCD crowd. It has four preset picture options - Dynamic, Standard, Mild and Game -- as well as an Intelligent Eye setting that's designed to select the most suitable picture option depending on the surrounding lighting conditions. If you don't trust the Intelligent Eye, there's also an Adaptive Picture Mode that shows all four options on a 4-way split screen. You then can press the OK button on the setting you prefer, and the split screen disappears.
Of course, you can also override the presets and select the User setting to manually adjust the contrast, brightness, colour, sharpness and tint to your own liking. We used this option to turn down the reds for our preference for less rosy skin tones -- a condition that seems common in many TVs-- but overall the colour was pretty good.
Our biggest reservation in the picture quality was with the old LCD bugaboo -- muddy black levels. Perhaps it's because we see the advances in this area that plasma and projector technologies have made, but it seems that no amount of fiddling with the picture settings can really bring the same degree of definition in blacks to the LCD arena. As we found with the Toshiba 42WL58, we believe the image deficiencies with the LG 37LP1D come from the limitations of LCD technology, rather than any engineering shortcomings by LG. The picture is OK as far as it goes; but if you've seen a lot of plasma big screens put through their paces, this LG LCD's not going to take your breath away.