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LG 47SL90QD review: LG 47SL90QD

Boasting excellent image quality and deep blacks, the LG 47SL90QD is a very good LED-based television — it’s just a pity about its shallow viewing angle and lack of audio grunt.

Ty Pendlebury Editor
Ty Pendlebury has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.
Expertise Ty has worked for radio, print, and online publications, and has been writing about home entertainment since 2004. He is an avid record collector and streaming music enthusiast. Credentials
  • Ty was nominated for Best New Journalist at the Australian IT Journalism awards, but he has only ever won one thing. As a youth, he was awarded a free session for the photography studio at a local supermarket.
Ty Pendlebury
5 min read

Design

In LG's marketing spiel it describes the SL90 as "a design icon that will be talked about for years to come", but somehow we don't think so. It features a borderless bezel design — which basically means a layer of glass over the entire TV, including where the bezel would normally be. At present all TVs need bezels because they hide the connectors that link the panel to the television's electronics.

8.1

LG 47SL90QD

The Good

Deep black levels. Impressive image processing. Bluetooth streaming.

The Bad

Poor viewing angles. Sound not up to scratch.

The Bottom Line

Boasting excellent image quality and deep blacks, the LG 47SL90QD is a very good LED-based television — it’s just a pity about its shallow viewing angle and lack of audio grunt.

The finished model differs a little from the press shots shown here in that the bottom of the bezel actually graduates from black to grey. When viewed up close the graduation is quite pixellated, but from a normal viewing distance it's subtle. Using cutting edge backlight technology affords the SL90 a slim profile of only 30 millimetres — more with the stand, obviously.

The TV comes with two different remotes — a fully-featured model with all the usual trappings, and a cut-down version with large numbered buttons. For grandad.

Features

LG has made a habit of introducing new and interesting features to its televisions, with the standout being the LG 50PS80FD with an on-board digital recorder. This time around the company has capitalised on the wealth of content available on mobile devices and given us a simple way to consume them — via a wireless link to the TV. The SL90 uses an integrated Bluetooth receiver that can display JPEGs and play back MP3s from compatible devices via an A2DP connection.

The SL90 is an edge-lit LED television which comes with a three million to one dynamic contrast ratio (almost meaningless in the real world as no instrument can measure more than a million to one) and a full high-definition resolution (1920x1080 pixels).

Picture processing gubbins include the company's take on motion compensation called TruMotion 100Hz. While other TVs in the range use a 200Hz engine we've found it be fairly disappointing so falling back on an older tech is actually of benefit to this screen.

The TV uses LG's Invisible Speaker technology which enables the bezel to act as a giant speaker supposedly leading to a greater "sweet spot". The speaker system is rated at 2x 10W of power.

Like many of LG's latest televisions the SL90 features an ISF Expert Mode which allows you to tweak the picture settings to suit your space, or you can simply choose between the preconfigured Day and Night television modes. In our experience, the ISF feature is more comprehensive than the competitive THX mode in the Panasonic Vieras.

Apart from the Bluetooth feature, connectivity is fairly standard with four HDMI ports, two component inputs, a single composite input (about time) and an RGB input for PCs. Also included is a USB slot for connecting an external drive and playing back a larger selection of media than Bluetooth allows including MKV and DivX files.

Given that Energy ratings are now compulsory on televisions it's positive to see the SL90 perform economically, with a rating of 5.5.

Performance

Once we had the LG 47SL90QD up on blocks we found that the television performed very well, and this was thanks to a combination of excellent image processing and inky black levels — but there were some caveats as we'll cover shortly. Firstly, with a DVD such as King Kong in the player, the LG presents a marvelously constructed image. For example, the sunset that opens on Kong's Last Stand was vivid without being garish, and Kong's fur was black and not green, as can happen on some TVs. Also, moving images were crisp, and there was a lack of noise on contrasting edges. In short, images truly had depth and a solidity to them.

When put up against Blu-ray discs the results were similarly positive, beginning with our Silicon Optix HQV test disc — it aced every single test pointing to an impressive performance with HD material. The good news kept coming with the Mission Impossible III Blu-ray. The "bridge scene" showed a lack of additional noise and the TV's ability to remove jaggies meant that the bridge railing didn't exhibit any "moire" effects. There was also very little judder present in the many "flyover" shots that are scattered throughout the film.

Given that many high-def TVs are now also used to play games we tried out the television's Game mode and found that it worked well, though there was one flaw with the screen's make-up that means it's not well-suited to party games like Rock Band...

When we are asked to recommend which TV a person should buy we usually say "plasma in dark rooms, LCDs in well-lit ones" but there are exceptions to this rule, and the SL90 is one of these. In order to get the supernatural contrast ratio the designers have employed a reflective, high-contrast coating; but what this does is also make the screen supernaturally reflective. Due to the shiny nature of the screen, dark scenes in part can cause the TV to become mirror-like, and so it's probably best to watch this TV in low light. Though, we will say that in a completely dark room, a plasma such as the Panasonic G10 outperforms it in terms of contrast. On the LG there is still some light bleed in the corners which can make blacks look blotchy.

But what disappointed us more about this telly was its poor viewing angle. When watching this TV off-axis in a lit room you can't see anything but reflections at an angle of more than 45 degrees. This essentially means you need to be facing the TV to get the best picture. This would be great if it was a computer monitor, but not so good as a TV which needs to be shared with a room full of people. Conversely, it may be perfect for shut-ins.

Given that LG sees itself as an audio brand we were a little nonplussed by the on-board sound's performance. While we were able to stream music to the TV via Bluetooth, it wasn't not very musical. Using an iPhone to stream the Radiohead track "Bodysnatchers" we found it lacked stereo focus and the vocals sounded distant. This lack of intimacy extended to broadcast material with newsreaders and actors sounding like they were "phoning it in" (pun unintended). Unlike the V10 we saw recently, there was a lack of distortion at volume, though at 10W it doesn't go very loud anyway. However, we did find that with some bass-heavy material that the cabinet physically rattled.

Conclusion

If there was ever a TV that showed its strengths and weaknesses so openly and in equal measure then the LG 47SL90QD would be it. Image quality and pure black levels are very good for a screen of this type and the Bluetooth is an interesting addition. But its poor viewing angles and inability to go very loud stunt the screen's otherwise considerable appeal.