LG has upped the ante with this 50-inch plasma, but the 50PY2R isn't just a super-size screen. It's affordable, and combines a solid design with brilliant performance -- for such a large screen, pictures are surprisingly clean with only the occasional colour gradation causing it any problems. It is somewhat lacking in connectivity, though
Forty-two inches used to be plasma's limit, but accelerating technology has seen screens grow in both size and stature -- LG has even introduced a 60-inch version of this model.
Nothing comes closer to a cinematic experience than a super-size screen, but you'll need enough room to accommodate it. Sit too close and image quality rapidly deteriorates but, given space, the 50PY2R is capable of exceptional performance, especially from high-definition sources.
The specification is slighted by the absence of a digital TV tuner, and connectivity could be improved, but some seriously advanced picture-processing systems and innovative features such as memory card support are impressive. For the size, the price isn't out of reach either.
Make no mistake -- 50 inches of screen space is enormous. It's so big that anyone seeing this TV for the first time may well find their jaw drops to the floor. Make sure your living room has enough space or you'll be left feeling overwhelmed -- you'll need at least 4m distance between you and the screen.
Rather than disguise its oversized dimensions with an understated design, LG flaunts it in your face. The glossed black screen frame is supported by an imposing surround carrying a pair of integrated speakers, which swells the size even further. It's incredibly heavy, too, so hanging options will need a strong wall -- although the screen does arrive with an elliptical swivel stand.
Primary controls are kept out of sight at the side of the screen, where you'll also find a pair of 'X-Studio' memory card slots. There's support for nine different memory card formats, which allow the screen to access information from a variety of digital devices -- you can listen to MP3 files, view images from a digital camera and access details from a PDA. At the opposite side is a selection of standard AV inputs that grant easy access to devices like games consoles, which won't necessarily always be connected.
For a large screen that'll undoubtedly form the centrepiece of your home cinema system, we hoped to find more extensive connections at the rear. With the number of high-definition devices rising, a single HDMI input is somewhat miserly -- especially if you want to watch high-definition TV and play upscaled DVD films.
Only one of the three Scart terminals is RGB-enabled for the highest quality performance. This is almost shameful as without an integrated digital tuner you'll eventually want to connect a separate Freeview box, and image quality will suffer if you're already using the RGB Scart for a DVD player. Alternatively, there are component video inputs capable of supporting progressive scan if you have a compatible player or recorder. Otherwise, there are only a VGA PC input with audio and a few standard phono connections -- no digital audio output.
The accompanying small, grey remote bears absolutely no resemblance to the screen at all. Quite how you scroll through the menu system using the central cursor without inadvertently changing channel is a mystery.
The screen is HD Ready and will accept both 720p and, albeit slightly downscaled, 1080i high-definition formats used by Sky's HDTV receivers and the latest current and next-generation DVD players or games consoles. If you do want to watch 1080i images in their entirety, or use the future 1080p format, you'll need a screen with a higher resolution, but they are still rare and incredibly expensive.
An integrated digital TV tuner wouldn't have gone amiss, but otherwise the technical specification is extremely impressive courtesy of LG's latest XD Engine technology. The system uses six advanced picture-processing technologies to individually enhance core elements of the image, such as colour, detail and noise. A demo mode proves its worth, although claims that it can convert low-resolution analogue signals to high-definition quality are somewhat exaggerated.
The previously mentioned X-Studio feature also offers relatively unique access to a multitude of memory cards that let you share, view and edit JPEG images, listen to MP3s or both at the same time.
Aside from the confusing remote operation is uncomplicated, using a simple scrolling system to navigate through an extensive range of advanced sound and picture settings. You can choose between several preset modes, or manually fine tune the picture as far as adjusting individual colour tones and temperatures. If you're lazy, the Dynamic picture mode performs best in most cases, but spend a little time playing with the settings and your patience will be rewarded.
Sound options are similarly extensive and, as well as the two side speakers, there's also an integrated subwoofer that adds more weight to the performance, especially when using the bass booster function. Other audio features include a SRS TSXT pseudo-surround mode, which adds spaciousness but never really tricks you into believing you have more speakers.
It's crucial that you leave enough space between you and the screen if you want to appreciate picture quality. It looks good from afar, but get too close and the slightest picture flaws become exaggerated.
Analogue TV broadcasts are decent with extremely well-balanced, natural colours, cohesive movement and less noise than you might expect. Detail is soft, though, and images lack the sort of solid definition that using a separate digital tuner brings. In addition, with the RGB Scart reserved for connecting a set-top box, you'll need a DVD player that's compatible with either component or digital video inputs.
Both progressive scan and especially high-definition sources produce smooth and colourful pictures with distinct black levels. Deep blacks create exceptional contrast and expose fine detail that leaves images looking more realistic than anything LCD can offer. The downside is that you lose a little detail during dark scenes, but otherwise image quality is outstanding. And, for such a large size screen, pictures are surprisingly clean with only the occasional colour gradation causing it any problems.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield