The only slight negative is that the edges of the chassis and the stand look a little bit plasticky when you're up close, but to be honest, given its more modest price tag compared to some of the higher-end models in the LG range, I can live with this.
It's rather a letdown that LG has only plonked three HDMI ports on this model. Most other manufacturers now include four on their bigger screen TVs. There is a set of full-sized component inputs on the rear, however, as well as a standard Scart socket and an optical digital audio out.
LG has put both a Freeview HD and HD satellite tuner in this model, but the satellite tuner is not Freesat-compatible, so it's not really much use in the UK unless you want to watch foreign channels -- the TV guide doesn't work properly for UK services.
The TV has an Ethernet socket on the rear for hooking it up to a router, but there's also Wi-Fi onboard if you'd prefer to go wireless. What's more, the Wi-Fi chip supports Miracast, so if you've got a Android 4.2 phone or tablet you can mirror what's on the display to the TV via Wi-Fi.
The 42LA690's chassis is very slim at the top, but there's a wider boxed-out section towards the bottom of the rear of the TV that's used to house its two 10W speakers. Along with these stereo speakers LG has sensibly also added a woofer further up on the chassis to give the TV a smidge more poke in the bass department.
The combination of these larger speakers and the mini woofer really does help it to produce meatier audio than many of its peers. This in turn gives action sequences in movies (or just music on normal TV shows) some extra oomph.
2D picture quality
On the whole, the 42LA690's pictures are good for a TV in its class. Its black levels are above average, although nowhere near what you can get from a similarly priced plasma screen. On my review sample, at least, the backlighting was pretty even across the display, so clouding wasn't as big an issue as on some other recent LED TVs I've reviewed.
Its picture presets are pretty strong too, so you don't have to do lots of tweaking in the picture menu to get good results from it. The colour palette in the Movie and ISF Expert presets, in particular, are warm and natural looking, and have plenty of 'pop' thanks to this set's ability to pump out brightness.
The TV also produces very sharp images when it's working with HD feeds, helping to tease out plenty of subtle detail. Images have good dynamic range too, so it deftly handles trickier scenes with lots of variations in lighting within the same frame.
Native motion handling is not bad, but LG's motion processing has to be used with caution. If you go to heavy on the de-judder setting you'll see a lot of flicker to the edges of moving objects in its images.
However, as with the LG 47LA790 I looked at recently, the 42LA690 is not as impressive when it's dealing with standard-definition sources as it is when working with HD feeds. Contrast performance seems to suffer in standard definition and its upscaling has a tendency to look soft and noisy.
3D picture quality
As with all of LG's 3D TVs, the 42LA690 uses the passive 3D system. The advantage of this is that the 3D glasses are cheap and comfortable to wear as they have no electronics built-in. Instead they just use polarised lens, similar to those used in cinemas. As they're not actively shuttering, they don't suffer from flicker and don't dim images onscreen as much as active 3D glasses.
The disadvantage is the passive system halves the horizontal 3D resolution. This sounds worse than it really is, as our brains tend to fill in most of the blanks. Nevertheless, you can see some jaggies on the edges of circular or diagonal edges of objects during some movies.
The set's 3D images are very bright though, and they suffer from very little crosstalk. Both of these advantages help to add a good sense of depth and believability to its 3D images. Overall, it's a good choice for 3D viewing.
It's a shame it doesn't have more support for catch-up TV services and that its standard-definition performance isn't better. The LG 42LA690 is an attractive TV, however, that delivers rich and engaging images for movies on Blu-ray or HD channels on Freeview. Its sound quality isn't half bad either, so overall I think it represents reasonably good value for money.