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LG LM9600 review: LG LM9600

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The Good The LG LM9600 series TV is an incredibly striking piece of furniture with one of the slimmest bezels we've ever seen. Color reproduction is excellent, after a bit of tweaking. The Magic Motion controller has its quirks but is the best Smart TV navigator out there. The feature set is excellent, and passive 3D is virtually crosstalk-free.

The Bad The LM9600 doesn't perform up to its flagship TV pricing or the expectations created by its full-array local-dimming backlight. Its black levels are significantly worse than those of last year's LG flagship, it suffers from blotchy uniformity, and in shadow detail it lags behind other high-end sets.

The Bottom Line While it's got supermodel looks and pricing to match, the LG LM9600 is unfortunately only an amateur performer.

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6.1 Overall
  • Design 10
  • Features 9
  • Performance 6
  • Value 4

There are many decisions to make when buying a television, and one of them is, "Will this look good in my living room?" The TV is as much a piece of furniture as the stand it sits on, and the LM9600 comes the closest yet to looking like a beautiful piece of industrial art. It's just a pity, then, that the more important consideration -- "Is the picture any good?" -- is met with a reply of, "Not really."

At its suggested price, the 55-inch LG LM9600 is $1,000 more expensive than the much better Sony HX850 (review coming soon) and $2,000(!) more than the idol-killing Panasonic ST50. Picture quality has taken a dive compared with last year's flagship LW9800, with noticeably lighter black levels, among other issues.

LG's feature set is strong, however, with crowd-favorite passive 3D and a full complement of Internet video services. But as Samsung has shown this year with its gimmicky Smart Interaction, features may help sell the TV but it doesn't mean you'll use them. Thankfully LG avoids this trap, but I wish they'd spent a bit more time on improving the picture.

High-end LCD shoppers mulling over this TV and the similarly priced and still-current Sony HX929 should have no doubt which one to get: the Sony. It still has the best LCD picture on the market without having to trade up to the astronomical Sharp Elite Pro.

Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the LG 55LM9600, but this review also applies to two of the other screen sizes in the series. All three sizes listed below have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality. There's also an 84-inch 84LM9600 coming out later in the year, but it's quite different from the others and so this review does not apply to it.

Models in series (details)
LG 47LM9600 47 inches
LG 55LM9600 (reviewed) 55 inches
LG 60LM9600 60 inches

If you're looking for a stylish TV, in my mind they don't come more so than the 2012 range from LG. The ribbon stand is original and adds a touch of class, but the thin bezels used on the LM6 model numbers and up really help the TVs stand out.

The LM9600 looks similar to the LM6700, but instead of a silver bezel it comes with black livery, and looks even better in person. The panel is trimmed with a thin aluminum strip, which is the only thing separating the screen from your room, and the border is ravishingly thin at 5 millimeters. Viewed side-on, the TV is incredibly slim, too, and should wall-mount very well since the ports face downward.

It comes with the updated Magic Motion remote, which includes a scroll wheel and couple of extra buttons like a dedicated 3D control, though sadly no Settings key. The scroll wheel works in some screens -- Web pages, for example -- but not on others like onscreen menus and Netflix.

The LG LM9600 features a 5mm bezel. Sarah Tew/CNET

Key TV features
Display technology LCD LED backlight Full-array with local dimming
Screen finish Glossy Remote Motion with voice
Smart TV Yes Internet connection Built-in Wi-Fi
3D technology Passive 3D glasses included Six pairs
Refresh rate(s) 480Hz Dejudder (smooth) processing Yes
DLNA-compliant Photo/Music/Video USB Photo/Music/Video
Other:Dual Play gaming

The LG LM9600 is the company's flagship LED series, and while the forthcoming OLED 55EM9600 and 84-inch 84LM9600 share similar model names, they're different animals entirely. Unlike flashy competitor Samsung with its Smart Interaction gadgets, LG made its LM9600 series' step-up changes -- I won't say they're improvements in every case -- mostly under the hood.

The full-array LED backlight with local dimming is why the LM9600 costs so much. The TV's local dimming is designed to boost contrast by controlling the light output of numerous zones across the TV's screen, and the full array of LEDs behind the screen allows more precise control than most LED TVs, which use LEDs arrayed along the edge. LG's Nano Full LED system ostensibly refers to the Nano light guide used to distribute light evenly across the screen.

The 480Hz refresh rate claim is derived, according to the company, from a true 240Hz panel combined with a scanning backlight. Unlike the LM6700, this set does actually include smoothing (dejudder) processing.

LG's passive 3D system means the company can afford to include more pairs of 3D glasses than its active competitors, so the LM9600 comes with six, count 'em, six. On the off chance that you need more, most cheap polarized glasses should work.

If you're a gamer you may be interested in the Dual Play mode, which lets you convert a split-screen game into two different 2D screens with the use of special glasses. A quick Web search doesn't bring up where to buy them but since there are six pairs in the package you can make your own. You simply swap the left lens for right in one set (and reverse the lens) and the right for left in the other. I tried it and while they didn't fit all that well, the effect worked well enough for a few quick games.

Smart TV: Do you care if your phone has a dual-core processor? No? Well, be prepared to care even less: the LM9600 has a dual-core processor. Why does it need one, you ask? Smart TV functionality can be quite labor-intensive (and some picture processing, too) so a beefier processor is intended to make the experience smoother. But it's not the selling point LG thinks it is.

After the simplicity of the tiles of previous years, LG's new Smart interface looks a bit more cluttered. It now resembles Samsung's with featured content at the top and shortcuts at the bottom. Meanwhile, LG's G2 Google TV features a hybrid LG/Google menu, and though it has its issues, we appreciated its home screen over the LM9600's since it is more customizable.

The main interface, shown here on the LM6700, is shared across the LG range. Sarah Tew/CNET

LG's Smart TV content selection features most of the popular media apps, including Hulu Plus and Netflix, but lacks Amazon Instant for video and Pandora for audio. If you're looking for 3D content, LG offers a number of clips and full programs, though the quality varies.

The company offers an app store called LG Smart World, and while most of the content is minigames, there a few useful additions, such as NBA Game Time/Game Center and XOS College Sports. Unfortunately, downloading even free apps from the World requires you to create an ID and password.

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