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LG LH90 review: LG LH90

LG LH90 series
LG's back panel offers plenty of connections, starting with three HDMI, two component video, and an analog PC input. There's no S-Video, however.

LG LH90 series
The side offers a fourth HDMI and a second AV input, along with a USB port for digital photos and music.

Connectivity is fairly extensive on the LH90, beginning with four total HDMI ports: three on the back and one on the side. The back panel also offers two component-video inputs, an AV input with composite video, an RF input for antenna or cable, an RGB-style analog PC input, an optical digital audio output, and an RS-232 port for custom installations. In addition to the fourth HDMI port, the side panel has a second AV input with composite video and a USB port for display of digital photos and playback of MP3 music files. Our one connectivity complaint is the lack of any S-Video inputs.

The LG LH90 series is one of the best performing LCDs overall we've tested, and earned the same rating in this category as the best models from Samsung and Sony. It delivered excellent overall black-level performance and superb color, and video processing overall was very good, but we'd love to see the ability to separate dejudder and antiblur effects. It does suffer from poor off-angle performance and some blooming--issues common to all LED-based LCDs we've tested--but if you sit in the sweet spot the LH90 looks great.

TV settings: LG 47LH90

Prior to setup we always measure every picture mode to determine the most accurate for our "Before" (pre-calibration) Geek Box numbers, below, and in doing so we were surprised to find that THX mode on the LH90 was less accurate than on any other THX-equipped TV we've tested in the past. It had the characteristic dimness we've seen (28.7ftl max light output) and gamma was excellent (2.22 versus an ideal of 2.2), but its color temperature was quite blue (8164K average). We ended up using the default Expert 1 settings for the Before numbers instead, which was very slightly more accurate than THX.

Calibration improved things quite a bit, thanks in large part to the LG's excellent selection of user-menu controls. We increased light output to our nominal 40ftl, removed the blue cast from the grayscale and ended up with excellent gamma (2.19), and tweaked the color management system ever-so-slightly.

Setup completed, for our comparison we lined the LH90 up next to a few comparable sets. From the LCD camp we included the local-dimming-equipped Sony KDL-55XBR8 and the Samsung LN46A950 from 2008, the LED edge-lit Samsung UN46B7000, and the standard CCFL-backlit Samsung LN52B750, while the plasma sets were the Panasonic TC-P50V10 and the reference Pioneer PRO-111FD. We used "Watchmen" on Blu-ray for most of our image quality tests.

Black level: Like the other displays in the room, the LH90 evinced a very deep shade of black. The initial scene in the Comedian's apartment at night, for example, was reproduced beautifully, with inky shadows in the background and realistic depth in black areas like the letterbox bars, the black ninja suit of the assassin, and the night sky outside the windows. In fact the LG's blacks were nearly indistinguishable during dark scenes from those of the Samsung B750, A950, and B7000 LCDs, and not quite as deep as those of the Sony XBR8, the Panasonic V10, and the Pioneer--but again the differences were subtle, even in a dark room in side-by-side comparisons.

The LG also delivered very good shadow detail. In Drieburg's walk home after visiting Hollis, for example, we noticed that the LH90 appeared a bit more realistic and closer to our reference when rendering the dark steps of the brownstone than did the B750 or the B7000, and roughly equal to the other LCD displays, although not quite as good as the plasmas.

Differences in black-level performance came out in lighter scenes, however, when the letterbox bars of the LED displays, especially the Samsung B7000 but also the LG, became brighter than they appeared during dark scenes. Darker bars improve perceived contrast ratio, and the Samsung B750 and the plasmas' bars remained constant and darker than the others during the brightest scenes. Between the three local-dimming LEDs, the LG showed the most variation: it had the brightest bars in bright scenes, and it also faded to a darker black than the others between the bright scenes during the opening credits, for example (although it didn't turn off completely and distractingly, as did the B7000). That said, the brightness variations of the LG's backlight as a whole were subtle and didn't impinge on our appreciation of the film.

We also noticed some blooming in certain scenes with white objects against black backgrounds. It appeared as a sort of brighter cloud around the object against the black, and was most obvious in the menu text and onscreen indicators of our PS3 or on credits against a black background, for example. Bright areas on the screen also occasionally spilled over into the letterbox bars. When Rorschach shines the flashlight around the Comedian's apartment, for instance, the bottom bar brightened slightly near where the picture of Nixon and the Comedian was illuminated, then darkened again as the light faded. The effect was more obvious on the LG than on the other two local-dimming LCDs, and, as expected, none of the other displays showed such blooming effects.

Color accuracy: The LG was superb in this category, delivering color accuracy on par with our reference display and better overall than the most of the others. The consistency of the LG's grayscale was a major strength, enabling it to maintain a relatively neutral cast to blacks and dark scenes--without the bluer cast of the Samsung sets, but still not as true as the Sony XBR8 or the plasmas. In brighter scenes we appreciated the realism of the LG's skin tones, seen in close-ups of Laurie in her mom's living room both backlit by the bright window and in the normal room lighting. The green in the plants outside and the red of her sweater vest looked nearly identical to the colors on our reference display. Colors were just a bit less rich and saturated than on the plasmas and the XBR8, but again, the difference was quite subtle even side by side.

Video processing: In terms of blur-reduction, the LH90 performed slightly better than LG's LH55 series of standard-backlit 240Hz TVs we tested earlier. Whereas that series delivered between 700 and 800 lines of motion resolution, the LH90 came in between 900 and 1,000--comparable with the best sets in our lineup, including the 240Hz Samsung, albeit not as good as the Panasonic plasma. Disabling the LG's dejudder processing by setting "TruMotion 240Hz" to Off caused the test to register between 300 and 400 lines, which is typical of a 60Hz LCD. Of course, in our experience the blurring seen in test patterns, despite the large numeric differences in the motion resolution, is quite difficult to perceive in real-world program material. As we noted above, it's impossible to get the improved motion resolution of the LG's antiblur effect without also engaging dejudder processing--one advantage of the Samsung B750 and B7000 models.

As usual, with film sources like "Watchmen" we preferred the look of the picture with dejudder turned Off as opposed to either Low or High--only Off preserves the look of film the director intended--but if forced to choose between the latter two, we'd take Low in a heartbeat. It produced fewer artifacts, as usual, although we did notice some unwanted effects nonetheless. For example, in Chapter 13 we see a taxi pass by the open doorway to Edgar Jacobi's apartment, and its rear half appears to subtly detach as it slides by. We also saw the telltale "halo" occasionally, such as when Dreiberg exits his kitchen and creates subtle trailing ripples in the door and wall in the background. As usual, such effects were worse in High. Comparing Standard on the LG to the same setting on the Samsungs' and Sony's dejudder modes, we noticed a few more artifacts on the LG, and motion looked smoother (and less film-like) on the LG than on the Sony.

We did appreciate the LG's Real Cinema setting, however, which functioned as advertised to preserve the true frame rate of film as long as the 240Hz function was disabled. We set our Blu-ray player to 1080p/24 output mode, turned the Real Cinema setting on, and fed the LG our favorite test clip for evaluating film cadence, the helicopter flyover of the Intrepid from "I Am Legend." The LH90 showed the proper amount of judder without the slight hitching motion characteristic of 2:3 pull-down, which returned when we set Real Cinema to Off.

Finally, the LH90 series delivered every line of static resolution and properly de-interlaced video-based sources, but, like other LG sets we've reviewed (and unlike most other current 1080p HDTVs), it failed to properly de-interlace film-based sources.

Uniformity: Blooming notwithstanding, the LG LH90 was able to maintain a consistent image across the screen, with no brighter areas as we saw on the B7000 and, to a lesser extent, the B750. LED backlighting does seem to provide better consistency in this regard than its standard fluorescent counterpart.

The biggest challenge of LED backlit (and edge-lit) technology we've noticed so far is poor black levels and color fidelity when seen from off-angle, and the LH90 was no exception. The issue was clearest in dark scenes, such as Rorschach's slow-motion walk among the ladies of the night. Sitting just one seat to the right or left of the sweet spot in front of the screen made black levels significantly brighter. Blacks on the A950 and B7000 looked slightly worse when seen from off-angle, however, while the other displays better maintained black-level integrity (and naturally the plasmas didn't change at all when seen from the side). The LH90 also showed more color shift, specifically appearing bluer in dark areas, than did any of the others except for the B7000. Finally, the effects of blooming were exaggerated from off-angle, with the brighter cloud around objects on a dark background even more obvious.

Bright lighting: Like the Sony XBR8, the LH90 is blessed with a matte screen that reflects in-room lighting less intensely than the shiny screens of the Samsungs or the plasmas' glass. As a result it was generally better suited to situations where a light or window was reflected in the screen. The Samsungs did maintain black-level integrity a bit better than the matte LCDs, but the difference wasn't major.

Standard-definition: The LH90 delivered very good SD performance. It resolved every detail of the DVD format, and the grass and stone bridge in the detail section appeared as sharp as we expected. Jagged edges in moving lines and a waving American flag were smoothed-out well, and noise reduction worked properly to reduce or eliminate moving motes in low-quality shots of skies, sunsets, and flowers. It also handled 2:3 pull-down properly, removing moire from the grandstand.

PC: Via digital HDMI, the LG performed as expected, delivering every line of a 1,920x1,080 source with no overscan or edge enhancement. Via the analog PC input, we experienced some slight ghosting along the edges of lines that we couldn't quite eliminate, but otherwise the picture was the same as via digital.

Before color temp (20/80) 7739/8007 Poor
After color temp 6427/6482 Good
Before grayscale variation 1298 Poor
After grayscale variation 57 Good
Color of red (x/y) 0.637/0.331 Good
Color of green 0.303/0.603 Good
Color of blue 0.152/0.058 Good
Overscan 0.0% Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Y Good
480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps Pass Good
1080i video resolution Pass Good
1080i film resolution Fail Poor

Power consumption: We did not test the power consumption of this size in the LG LH90 series, but we did test the 47-inch model. For more information, refer to the review of the LG 47LH90. How we test TVs

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