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So you're looking for a cheap plasma TV? The LG PA4500 is about as budget as they get.
While not the worst TV in the budget plasma lineup we recently tested -- an honor that surprisingly went to Panasonic's X5 -- the TV was one of two LGs keeping the substitution benches warm. Picture quality is simply OK; while colors were vivid, they weren't true to the source and black levels were some of the poorest tested.
When judged against the Samsung E450 at the same price, it's no contest: the LG may be OK, but the Samsung is very good. Features are the same, design is fairly similar, yet they provide the most important differences. For nearly every budget plasma buyer who still cares about picture quality, it's worth going for the Samsung.
Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 42-inch LG 42PA4500, but this review also applies to the 50-inch size in the series. Both sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.
|LG 42PA4500 (reviewed)||42 inches|
|LG 50PA4500||50 inches|
The LG PA4500 may be a budget TV, but that doesn't mean it has to look dreadful. It's a piano-black oblong number that avoids the silver strips or other obnoxiousness that cheap TVs tend to flaunt. LG draws attention to the TV's frame in its promotional materials, giving it the name Truslim, but the bezel is basically the same width as all of its competitors'.
Where the TV does stand out is in the quality of its stand. LG is one of the only companies that makes swivel stands for budget TVs. The stand is not too bad-looking, either, with a U-shaped sci-fi look that's more "James Cameron prop design" and less "Sarlacc tentacles," as is the case for some Samsungs.
I found the remote compact and easy to use, though it tends toward a lot of green and so looks a bit more sickly than some of the brighter-colored LG remotes.
|Display technology||Plasma||LED backlight||N/A|
|Smart TV||No||Internet connection||N/A|
|3D technology||N/A||3D glasses included||No|
|Refresh rate(s)||60Hz||Dejudder (smooth) processing||No|
If you're the type who flips straight to the Features section of the brochure, there's a very good chance this TV wasn't designed for you. As with the other entry-level plasmas I tested, there's very little beyond picture specs to talk about. For instance, it doesn't have any connected features like Smart TV or apps, but it does offer movie, photo, and music playback via the USB port.
This is a 720p television TV, which means a picture measuring just 1,024x768 pixels. This pixel count is common for entry-level plasmas, and naturally the TV has an onboard scaler that processes any input up to 1080p to the screen's native resolution. The TV, like most plasmas these days, features 600Hz subfield driving, which refers to the rate at which the TV sends the picture to the screen, and not actually related to 120Hz-type engines found on LCD TVs.
Picture settings:This entry-level set includes ISF presets and 20-point grayscale adjustments -- a level of color calibration control no other TV at this level offers. Sometimes these controls don't always work as we expect, but in this case they did, and I give the company props for offering something the competitors don't. The PA4500 also comes with a power-saving mode, but given how effective I found its power usage in its calibrated fashion, we don't recommend using it, especially since it caps light output.
Connectivity: The "highlights" of the LG's connection options are the two HDMI ports, one mounted on the side and one on the rear. Otherwise you get two component inputs, a composite connector, a single USB, and a PC connection.
The LG PA4500's greatest achievement in terms of picture quality is color saturation; it's able to get rich colors out of source material and provide plenty of punch. Shadow detail is also a strength, providing a 3D-like depth to images.
On the other hand its black levels suffer from being relatively light, and so these same images lack oomph and solidity. Color accuracy is also a weak point, with a little too much red in the skin tones. Those negatives outweigh the positives when comparing the PA4500 with its peers.
Click the image at the right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV’s picture controls worked during calibration.
Black level: One of the best things about LG providing a 20-point scale is that it enables users to dial in better shadow detail, and I found this to be the case with the PA4500. There's not much you can do with black levels without affecting the overall brightness of the picture but I found that with tweaking the PA4500 had some of the best shadow detail in our lineup.
At the start of "Batman Begins," Bruce Wayne is languishing against a brick wall in solitary confinement while Ducard stands above him. On a TV with poor shadow detail the bricks above Ducard's head aren't visible, just a dark splodge; the sparse light illuminating the cell could become overblown as well. On the LG the outline of the bricks was discernable and gave more depth to the scene.
Black levels, on the other hand, aren't among the TV's better points. While it performed as well, and even better at times than the more expensive PA6500, it wasn't able to generate the solidity of the equally priced Samsung E450. As black level is the most important aspect of a TV's picture, the Samsung is a better choice for this reason alone.
|Samsung PN51E550||51-inch plasma|
|Panasonic TC-P50U50||50-inch plasma|
|Sony KDL-46EX640||46-inch, LCD|
|Panasonic TC-P50X5||50-inch plasma|
|LG 50PA6500||50-inch plasma|
|Samsung PN51E450||51-inch plasma|
Color accuracy: In general, the LG's color was relatively good, with skin tones and reds more vibrant than the A6500's but more natural than some of the other TVs'. In comparison with the Samsung E550, though, the color wasn't as vivid nor as accurate.
Video processing: LG has traditionally been strong when it comes to video processing, and even on this "lowly" plasma, the company's strengths still shine through. The TV was able to ace both the 24p compliance test and also showed the fewest errors in the comparison during our 1080i scaling test.
On the flipside it also evinced more solarization, or false contouring, than the others. "The Tree of Life," one of our favorite test discs at the moment, caused those visible contours in what should appear as smooth gradations. At the 24:22 mark, for example, a sun rises over another planet, and in the fading light the LG showed a green band not apparent on any of the other TVs. The best TV in this roundup, the Samsung E450, showed smooth gradations of the light flare moving from white hot to the inkiness of deep space.
From a technical point of view, this TV wasn't very good at locking in the colors I spent hours locking in. Testing the TV again on three different occasions gave wildly different readings -- especially in terms of grayscale. Feel free to use the calibration settings, but know that these might change depending on the right ascension of Uranus or if the TV sees its own shadow.
Bright lighting: Of the assembled group of plasma TVs, the LG 42PA4500 was one of the better models for bright rooms, showing less browning and more punchiness than on some of the others. The screen is quite reflective, though; as a result it showed more of the "shiny" things in the room than a TV like the Samsung E450 would.
Power consumption: The LG is a power miser compared with higher-end plasma TVs. With their 1,024x764-pixel resolutions, both the LG and the Samsung E450 have less than half of the plasma cells of 1080p plasmas, so I wasn't surprised to see they used about half the power. Due to the smaller size (42 inches versus 51 inches), the LG used even less power, at 110W, than the Samsung, at 124W. Both TVs are quite power-efficient for plasmas, but they still use more juice than all but the largest LED TVs.
|LG 42PA4500||Picture settings|
|Picture on (watts)||163.05||110.48||78.108|
|Picture on (watts/sq. inch)||0.22||0.15||0.1|
|Cost per year||$35.84||$24.31||$17.22|
|Score (considering size)||Average|
|GEEK BOX: Test||Result||Score|
|Black luminance (0%)||0.0205||Poor|
|Near-black x/y (5%)||0.313/0.3342||Good|
|Dark gray x/y (20%)||0.3118/0.3135||Poor|
|Bright gray x/y (70%)||0.3133/0.3291||Good|
|Before avg. color temp.||6516.9361||Good|
|After avg. color temp.||6510.6542||Good|
|Red lum. error (de94_L)||2.6775||Average|
|Green lum. error (de94_L)||1.2275||Good|
|Blue lum. error (de94_L)||1.061||Good|
|Cyan hue x/y||0.218/0.3177||Average|
|Magenta hue x/y||0.3044/0.1396||Poor|
|Yellow hue x/y||0.412/0.519||Poor|
|1080p/24 Cadence (IAL)||Pass||Good|
|1080i Deinterlacing (film)||Pass||Good|
|Motion resolution (max)||600||Average|
|Motion resolution (dejudder off)||600||Average|