LG is an ambitious brand. After claiming the number one spot in the US for mobile phones the company is focusing its attention on TVs: it wants number one there too. And it hopes to achieve this by offering TVs like the PX950 plasma and the forthcoming LEX8 LCD.
LG has had a couple of distinct design properties in the last couple of years, with the most obvious being borderless, and a secondary aesthetic based around what we'll call "stained glass". The new 50PX950 combines both of these.
With the PX950 you get a flush screen with a "hidden" bezel similar to the LX9500 LCD, but at the edges it continues the blue theme of previous plasma ranges — and though not entirely successful, it's subtle. On close inspection the fit and finish isn't as premium as televisions from rivals.
The 50PX950 is a plasma TV and therefore it's not supermodel thin, but noticeably slimmer than its Panasonic competition. It's all held upright by a tempered glass base and a see-through plastic pedestal.
The remote control? It's a good one — in fact, one of our favourites. The buttons are large, the feel ergonomically sound and easy to operate without looking at. Our only small bugbear is that you need to press a button in the top right corner to operate the backlight.
If you've been following the coverage on CNET Australia you'll be across both IPTV and 3D, and will either be bemused or excited about the fact that it caters for both. For us, the money has always been on internet TV but it's a lot less "sexy" than 3D. Regardless, the LG is still the only television at the time of writing to offer BigPond Movie and TV downloads.
But it's 3D that LG wants to sell to you, and in a bit of a coup it has picked up the first THX 3D certification which aims to improve the quality of 3D pictures. The TV will also convert material to 3D and back again, and the set ships with a single set of glasses.
The panel itself is a 1920x1080-pixel plasma, which features a TruBlack Filter that promises better blacks and less reflections. To us this is important, as a TV like the LG 47LE7500 is distractingly reflective in a lit room.
The TV is well connected and features networking on both Ethernet and wireless (via an included USB dongle). In addition, you get four HDMI ports (but no Audio Return Channel support) and two component inputs. If you want to hear the sound of content on-board the TV you can channel that to your receiver via digital optical out. A VGA input is also supplied.
While the industry is still jumping up and down about 3D the general public isn't as excited by it. But could this television change all that? As the "world's first THX 3D-certified TV from LG" — see what they did with the quantifiers there? — we were curious to see how this TV performed in what has been a pretty appalling turnout this year.
What does the THX 3D certification do? Well, LG has a history of working with THX to ensure "accurate" pictures and sound. This is evidenced in the plethora of professional-yet-simple set-up options available on its TVs. The THX 3D mode aims to extend this by offering reduced crosstalk and better pictures.
In testing, we found it did work as advertised. Switching between "Standard" mode and "THX Mode" we noted the colour palette was less hyperactive and more "natural" on the Monsters vs. Aliens 3D Blu-ray and ghostly crosstalk was diminished. Unfortunately, there were still traces of crosstalk in the guide wires of the Golden Gate bridge, which the Panasonic and Sony systems were able to reproduce this scene better.
Amusingly, the TV suggests you "take a break for 10 min to 15 min every hour" every time you engage 3D mode and we can't see many people stopping a movie halfway through to do their ocular exercises. But it's nice to know they care.
Moving on to 2D content — because let's face it, there's a hell of a lot of it about — we found the LG to be an assured performer. It blitzed the synthetic tests such as reproducing video content and an ability to eliminate "jaggies", which suggests it should perform well with most content.
But what the synthetic tests can't assess is how well the TV will play everyday movies, and so we loaded up our Toshiba BDX2000 player with the Mission Impossible III disc, trawled through to the iconic bridge scene and pressed "send".
The opening fly-over was handled skilfully with little judder and no moire in the fence that runs alongside the road. But once the vision cut to Tom Cruise's face the problems began, and yes smarty-pants we know, but there was even more wrong than that. Plasma can have problems distinguishing between colours tending to leave a line between graduated colours than a smooth surface. The skin tone on Tom's face was blotchy like he'd had a lifetime of drinking cheap port.
Funnily enough we found this to be a side-effect of the THX mode — the colours were a little too "hot" and by pulling the colour slider down a tad we were able to eliminate this.
Otherwise, noise was kept to a minimum and the TV was able to distinguish between digital buzzing (bad) and film grain (good) competently.
Switch to Batman Begins on Blu-ray and the picture that greeted us was detailed and deep, and the colour gradation problem was less pronounced. The black levels may not be as pronounced as the Sony HX800s of this world or even the Panasonic plasmas but there is detail to be found in there, and to us that's important.
This depth was still in evidence on the King Kong DVD and the TV was able to track motion confidently, without any of the "vapour trails" we've seen on models like the Panasonic Viera TH-P65VT20A. Colours were natural, with King Kong's pelt looking like fur and not some form of grey-green liquorice.
Being visual beings as we are, sound quality on a TV is generally something we don't think about. But if you don't have a sound system then the LG makes a good fist of dialogue and sound effects. We were impressed with how full and uncompressed it sounded, and even mumbly actors could be understood relatively well.
Switching to the NetCast IPTV platform we fired up BigPond movies and found the interface to be friendly and easy to use. The quality of the picture depends on the source material, but pulling up a free copy of the schlocky '80s cash-in Masters of the Universe we found that the picture was blocky and not worth the zero dollars we paid for it.
LG TVs have a history of consistent performance but there is usually something small that prevents them from getting full marks, and a reflective panel is one example of this. We were pleasantly surprised, then, to find the LG 50PX950 has no such glaring issues. It's a top performer at a good price.