LG LA6200 series review: Smart, pretty, but lackluster performance

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The Good The LG LA6200 LED LCD TV features thin, attractive styling with narrow bezel and sleek swivel stand; a capable, customizable Smart TV suite; accurate color and uniform screen; and is 3D-compatible, with four pairs of glasses included.

The Bad Subpar picture quality overall with light black levels, worse video processing than a typical "120Hz" TV and a middling bright-room image; surprisingly poor 3D image; cluttered Smart interface.

The Bottom Line The midrange LG LA6200 LED LCD TV gets points for looks and smarts, but loses even more due to its picture quality.

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5.8 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 5
  • Value 5

In the cutthroat world of midrange HDTVs, where the profits and growth are even thinner and flatter than the LCD panels, a beautiful face and long list of bullet points only gets you so far. You'll need a good picture at a fetching price to make your mark.

The LG LA6200 looks great when turned off, with its modern, thin, aggressive silver exterior, and just as good on paper, with extensive Smart TV extras and 3D capability. Its performance is another matter. The picture quality of the LA6200 just doesn't match up to other sets in its price range, like Vizio's M and Panasonic's E60 LED LCDs, let alone like-priced and even cheaper plasmas, such as Panasonic's S60.

If you love its looks and smarts, particularly if you invest in an optional motion controller remote, the LA6200 might be worth a second look. But for most TV shoppers in this price bracket, better values can be had elsewhere.

Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 47-inch LG 47LA6200, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.

Models in series (details)
LG 42LA6200 42 inches
LG 47LA6200 (reviewed) 47 inches
LG 50LA6200 50 inches
LG 55LA6200 55 inches
LG 60LA6200 60 inches
Sarah Tew/CNET

This year's LG TVs are no slouches in the style department, and their dashing looks trickle all the way down to the LA6200. The thin, dark-silver bezel around the screen is flanked by black strips to either side, and when seen in profile the frame's ridged edge becomes obvious. So does the TV's thickness; as a direct-lit LED, it's a good deal chinkier than edge-lit models.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The stand is another design highlight. It suspends the panel above the table without any visible connection, creating a cool, floaty effect. It also allows a good range of swivel.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Unlike LG's higher-end TVs, the 6200 doesn't ship with the company's Wii-mote-like motion control remote (although you can order it as an accessory for $80). Instead you get the standard multibutton clicker LG has shipped for the last few years. Although it's larger than current trends dictate, I appreciated the clicker's cogent layout and direct access to numerous functions, like the settings menu, that go missing on the button-sparse motion wand.

On the other hand, LG's selection-heavy Smart menus are much more cumbersome to navigate sans motion control. I found myself annoyed at how many clicks it took to reach my selections, and setting up the custom screens was particularly tedious. Still, many users prefer having a single universal remote anyway, so for them even a remote as cool as the motion wand would go unused.

Key TV features
Display technology LCD LED backlight Edge-lit
Screen finish Semi-matte Remote Standard
Smart TV Yes Internet connection Built-in Wi-Fi
3D technology Passive 3D glasses included 4 pair
Refresh rate(s) 120Hz* Dejudder (smooth) processing Yes
DLNA-compliant Photo/Music/Video USB Photo/Music/Video
Other: Optional Magic Motion Remote with voice control (model AN-MR400, $80); optional Skype camera/speakerphone (AN-VC400, $99 list)

As I mentioned above the 6200 uses "direct" LED backlighting, so making it less expensive and thicker than traditional edge-lit LED models like LG's step-up LA6900 series. Another difference between the two is that the 6200 lacks LG's "LED+" local dimming system--although given the mediocre performance that system delivered on the LA8600, LA6200 owners don't have much reason to be jealous. Check out the full picture quality comparison below.

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Aside from Smart TV, the 6200 offers a couple midrange step-up extras over LG's less expensive TVs. One of the most obvious is a "120Hz" specification. Unlike last year on models like the LM6700 the LA6200 is capable of introducing smoothing, aka the Soap Opera Effect (above). That, and the ability to properly handle film-based sources, are hallmarks of an actual 120Hz TV, but on the other hand it delivers the mediocre motion resolution of a 60Hz TV. We asked LG to clarify whether the panel is in fact 120Hz or 60Hz, and we'll update this section if we hear back; in the meantime we're leaving the asterisk on the table above. See the video processing section below for details on our test results, and Fake refresh rates: Is your TV really 120Hz? for more on how, uh, blurry this spec has become.

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Another step-up is 3D, which as usual in LG's case means passive 3D. The LA6200 is one of the least expensive non-Vizio TVs with this extra, and costs a good deal less than the least expensive LED LCD TVs with active 3D, like Samsung's UNF6400. Its biggest advantage over active is its cheap, lightweight glasses, and LG includes four pairs. Check out our guide to 3D TV for more.

Smart TV: Although it's missing the motion remote, camera and voice control, the LA6200 is otherwise equipped with the same Smart TV extras found on the flagship 8600 series. Since the motion remote with voice control is an optional accessory (nope, I didn't test it with this TV) and you can add a camera for Skype, the 6200 can approach the capabilities of its flagship even more closely. It even has a dual-core processor.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Without the motion remote, however, LG's Smart suite is a lot more pedestrian. The main interface is pretty busy and icon-heavy, and while the layout is clear enough, navigating it can get tedious and requires way too many clicks. A row of function shortcuts and apps lines the bottom below a series of "cards," three of which appear on the screen at once. The first card has an inset window showing a live view of what's playing on the current input, set above an equal-sized ad. Hey, at least there are no banner ads.

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The next card shows "premium" services, which by default include Netflix, Hulu Plus, YouTube, MLB TV, and other heavy hitters. LG's app selection lags a step behind Panasonic's and two behind Samsung's, lacking both Amazon Instant Video and HBO Go. Aside from the addition of Pandora and Crackle, the selection of available big-name apps is the same as last year's.

A bunch of other "cards" are available by default, including On Now (see below), My Interests (with weather and news in up to three categories), Smart Share (access to mobile devices, DLNA and USB media), 3D World (LG's proprietary, relatively robust on-demand 3D app), Smart World, and Game World (apps). You can reorder the cards and create a custom one from the bottom row of shortcuts and installed apps (which can itself be reordered, too). You can't delete any, however, and you can't disturb the order of Premium or the inset window/ad. In all the interface is a nice balance of customizability, form, and function -- better than Panasonic's even without LG's motion remote, but not quite as good as Samsung's.

Cable box control and voice control: Optional: When I reviewed the LA8600 I tested LG's On Now system with cable box control, which allows the TV and motion remote to directly control your box in a painless way, and even offer an alternative to browsing and searching live and upcoming TV content, I really liked it. The LA6200 has an On Now app too, but only the optional $80 Magic Motion remote provides cable box control. On Now is well-nigh-useless without the ability to change channels on the box.

The optional clicker also has the ability to allow the TV to accept voice commands as well as conduct voice searches.

Since I didn't test the LA6200 with the motion remote, I can't say how well any of these extras work on the TV -- and I wouldn't assume they're as well-integrated as on the LA8600.

The LA6200's Web browser is as annoying and frustrating to use as you might expect with the standard remote. On the LA8600 it wasn't half-bad thanks to the motion remote, but without it the LA6200's browser should only be used in the most dire circumstances.

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