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LG 47LM860V review: LG 47LM860V

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The impressive 55LM960V may sit at the very top of LG's current TV line-up, but the 47-inch 47LM860V runs it close in terms of features. The main difference between the two is that the high-end model uses direct LED backlighting while this one makes do with edge LED backlighting.

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8.3

LG 47LM860V

The Good

Lush colours; Good passive 3D support; Impressive detail.

The Bad

Edge dimming system isn't great; Some loss of detail in darker scenes.

The Bottom Line

The 47-inch LG 47LM860V serves up a stunning design, an impressive selection of smart apps and great passive 3D performance. While its 2D picture output is generally strong, some niggles with the edge dimming system and black levels stop it from scoring higher.

Other than that, there's little to separate the two, so if you can't stretch to the £2,500 asking price of the 55LM960V, will the 47LM860V, which costs £1,500, prove just as fun to watch?

User interface and EPG

In 2011, LG had one of the better menu systems of the big TV manufacturers. This year, it's rejigged it by moving some menus around and adding extra graphical flair.

Pretty much everything now centres around the new home screen. This has panels across the top giving you access to the app stores, 3D video portal and your own video files you've shared to the TV. A banner across the bottom of the screen provides shortcuts to stuff like the settings menu, the AV input selection screen and the programming guide.

Some of the navigation is slightly screwy, especially as there's a lot of duplication in the menus. There are more than three ways to access media streaming, for example. But once you've got to grips with its slightly kooky logic, it's fairly speedy to use.

LG 47LM860V interface
The interface centres around a colourful home screen.

I also like the way LG has included a handy picture wizard in the settings menu that helps you get the best images from the TV. It's extremely easy to follow and actually produces good results, unlike the picture wizards on Philips' TVs.

However, the EPG isn't quite as good as it could be. It's got a clean layout and is quite quick to navigate, but it annoyingly lacks a video thumbnail window, so it completely blocks out all video and audio when you call it up.

Design and connections

The 47LM860V uses LG's new Cinema Screen design, which is absolutely stunning. The key element is the almost complete elimination of the bezel. On this model, when the screen is turned off, it looks like it doesn't have a bezel at all. There's only a thin millimetre-wide seam of black metal running around the outer edge framing the display.

On the 47LM960V, which uses direct LED backlighting, the screen does indeed run all the way up to this metallic strip. On this model, which uses edge lighting, there's a small 5mm gap between the screen and the start of the metal trim. Despite this, it still looks absolutely stunning and is truly jaw dropping the first time you set eyes on it.

LG 47LM860V edge
The set has a stunning virtually bezel-free design although there's a 5mm gap between the screen and the trim.

I don't think the two-pronged stand used on this model is quite as attractive as the ribbon stand found on the LM660T and LM670T TVs. It's still quite classy, especially as you can't see the rear support struts when it's viewed from the front. Combined with the extremely thin bezel, this gives the TV a light and airy look.

LG 47LM860V stand
The stand's double-pronged look is a classy touch.

When it comes to hooking up your own AV gear to the LM860V, you'll find there's no shortage of connection options. There are four HDMI ports on a panel on the left-hand side of the TV. Just above these sit the three USB ports, as well as the CAM slot that you can use if you want to add pay services such as top-up TV, alongside Freeview.

LG 47LM860V ports
There are lots of connections split between the side and bottom panels.

The downward-facing panel on the rear houses all the other ports. Including the RF input for the onboard Freeview HD tuner, optical digital output, VGA port and mini connectors for the Scart and component break-out cables. There's also an Ethernet socket on this panel, but as the TV comes with integrated Wi-Fi, you won't necessarily have to make use of this.

As with LG's other high-end sets, this one comes with two remotes. The first is the standard zapper, which hasn't really changed much from the one that LG was shipping with last year's tellies. The main difference is that there are now Settings, Home and My Apps buttons just above the remote's D-pad to take you directly to these new screens in the TV's menus. Sadly, unlike some of last year's remotes, this one doesn't have a backlight button.

The second remote is a Wii-style motion controller. When you pick it up, a cursor appears on the screen that you control by waving it around in the air. It feels strange to use, but it's actually quite effective, especially when it comes to picking options in menus and entering text for the apps on the virtual keyboard. Rather than trying to shuffle around as you would with the cursor keys on the standard remote, you can just point and click to instantly select what you want.

LG 47LM860V remote
The Wii-style remote takes some getting used to but it's effective for navigating the menus.

Video playback and apps

LG has split up the apps on this TV into two distinct categories -- premium apps and more run-of-the-mill offerings. In the premium apps menu, you'll find the likes of BBC iPlayer (although the final version wasn't available on my review unit), along with apps for Lovefilm, Acetrax and BoxOffice 365 premium movie rental services. There's naturally a YouTube app as well as ones for Facebook and Twitter. You can use Skype if you add the optional camera, but that'll set you back a hefty £100.

Non-essential apps are found in the LG App World menu. This is mostly filled with simple games and basic apps to access news and information services. There are a couple of worthwhile options in there, including one that lets you access your Dropbox account from the TV, but a lot of it is rubbish.

LG has added a full web browser though. Navigating this using the motion controller isn't actually too bad, but the browser is a tad sluggish, especially compared to browsers on tablets like the iPad. Adobe Flash video on websites isn't supported either.

LG includes its 3D World video streaming service on the TV and this is accessible via the main menu. There are some bizarre videos in there and a lot of the content is of a pretty low quality. But as most people won't have access to 3D content when they initially buy the telly, it's probably a sensible move on LGs part to at least provide some free videos for them to test out the set's 3D feature.

Overall, the range of smart TV content on this model is actually quite good compared to the competition. Still, there are some notable omissions, such as Netflix. But as LG now has this service available on its Blu-ray players, it may be added to its TVs in the future.

LG 47LM860V apps
Lovefilm is supported but Netflix isn't available yet.

Naturally, The LM860V also allows you to play back video files, either from drives attached to one of its USB ports or from a PC or NAS drive on your network. Video codec support seems pretty good, as I got it to happily play a range of MKV, DivX, Xvid and MP4 files via the DLNA server in my Iomega NAS drive.

Like most of today's high-end TVs, you can also record TV shows from its Freeview HD tuner to disc if you attach a drive to one of the USB ports. The single tuner means that you can only record the channel you're watching though, unlike most personal video recorders that allow you to record one channel while watching another.

Audio quality

Although picture quality on flatscreen TVs has been steadily improving, audio performance has been going backwards on some of them. For such a skinny TV, the LM860V actually does a good job with the sound.

As with the LM960V, LG has added extra girth at the bottom of the set to accommodate bigger speakers. Even though they're only rated at 10Watts each, they actually produce better than average bass. This helps add some extra meat to the LM860V's audio, so movie soundtracks aren't totally lacking in low end as they often are on a lot of flatscreen models I review.

LG 47LM860V audio
The chassis bulges out slightly at the bottom to accommodate bigger speakers.

2D picture quality

There's a lot to like about the LM860V's 2D picture quality, although I do have a few niggles. Let's start with the positives. This model produces very bright images, and they don't come at the cost of over-driven colours. In fact, once you've tweaked the picture settings, you'll find it produces lush and natural colour tones with relative ease. Detail and sharpness on HD material is another strong point and its viewing angles are very wide -- much wider than the likes of Sony's 55HX853.

While it doesn't upscale standard-definition channels quite as well as some sets, it does make a decent fist of this. Even the more heavily compressed channels on Freeview are very watchable. Another plus point is it doesn't suffer as badly from pooling of light around the edges of the screen as many other edge-lit TVs I've seen. This results in more consistent backlighting across the display.

LG 47LM860V edge dimming
The edge dimming system isn't as effective as it could be.

Like all LED models, there's motion blur if you leave the motion processing settings turned off. You can quite effectively get rid of this without introducing an overly smooth look to movies by selecting one of LG's less aggressive motion processing options, such as the Clear or Clear Plus modes.

There are some weaknesses though. The edge dimming feature doesn't work nearly as well as the local dimming on the LM960T. In fact, it's probably best left turned off as it's rather a blunt instrument. It just darkens or brightens a strip of the pictures all the way from the top to the bottom of the screen, which leads to problems of haloing of the light around brighter objects.

Turning off the edge dimming also makes black level performance less impressive. What's more, this model isn't as good as many competitors when it comes to reproducing subtle detail in very dark scenes. It tends to crush the finer points, hiding the dark textures that should be present.

That said, these issues are relatively minor. On the whole, the set's picture performance is actually good.

3D picture quality

LG has ploughed its own furrow when it comes to 3D with its passive system. Although I was sceptical of passive 3D initially, I now think it's the best option for the majority of users, especially as most people are only likely to watch 3D shows and movies on their TV rarely.

The benefits of passive 3D are clear to see on the LM860V. The glasses are as cheap as chips, so LG provides eight pairs in the box and more pairs will only set you back around £2 each. The glasses are very light and don't cause flicker when you're watching 3D content, so they're more comfortable and less fatiguing than active specs.

LG 47LM860V 3D glasses
The cheap 3D glasses will be popular with families.

What's more, the glasses don't have as much of a dimming effect as the active glasses. Combined with the TV's inherently high brightness levels, this means its 3D pictures really do retain a lot of punch. There's almost no crosstalk -- or image ghosting -- when you're watching the TV from a normal viewing angle. If you stand up or lie on a couch sideways, this does cause the 3D effect to break apart though.

Of course, the issue with passive 3D is that the use of a passive filter in front of the screen halves the horizontal resolution as it sends every second line in the image to each individual eye. But because of the way our brains interpolate the two images, it looks much closer to two-thirds the resolution of Full HD.

Certainly, if you watch this TV in 3D from a normal distance, its 3D images remain quite sharp, with only the occasional stepped edges on diagonal lines or circular objects giving the game way. So overall I think it's an excellent set for viewing 3D on, whether it's bright animated fare like Tangled or darker stuff like Tron Legacy.

Conclusion

The 47LM860V is another impressive TV from LG. The design is absolutely stunning, it offers a very good selection of smart apps and its passive 3D system will be a winner for families. The set also puts in a strong 2D performance but some issues with edge dimming and black levels stop it from achieving a higher score.

For around the same price, you could consider the excellent LG 55LM660T, or the Panasonic TX-P50VT50B and its cheaper TX-P50GT50B sibling.