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LG LH55 review: LG LH55


David Katzmaier Editorial Director -- Personal Tech
David reviews TVs and leads the Personal Tech team at CNET, covering mobile, software, computing, streaming and home entertainment. We provide helpful, expert reviews, advice and videos on what gadget or service to buy and how to get the most out of it.
Expertise A 20-year CNET veteran, David has been reviewing TVs since the days of CRT, rear-projection and plasma. Prior to CNET he worked at Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as the Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics. Credentials
  • Although still awaiting his Oscar for Best Picture Reviewer, David does hold certifications from the Imaging Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology on display calibration and evaluation.
David Katzmaier
11 min read



The Good

Accurate color; extensive picture controls including unique Picture Wizard; solid connectivity with four HDMI and one PC input; energy efficient.

The Bad

Reproduces relatively light black levels; does not separate antiblur and antijudder processing; benefits of 240Hz difficult to discern; below-average off-angle viewing; no S-Video input.

The Bottom Line

Although its overall picture quality falls short of the best 240Hz LCDs, the LG LH55 series offers plenty of picture tweaks and accurate color.

Editors' note (March 4, 2010): The rating on this product has been lowered because of changes in the competitive marketplace, including the release of 2010 models. The review has not otherwise been modified. Click here for more information.

At CES this year, LG made a big deal out of its 240Hz technology, claiming it bested similar blur-busting tech from other LCD makers. The LH55 series represents the company's least-expensive HDTV equipped with a 240Hz refresh rate, and when it comes to that feature, as usual, we weren't particularly impressed. The results were similar to those seen on other 240Hz displays--reduced blur that was difficult for us to really discern, although test patterns prove it's there--but we were a bit annoyed that you have to engage the smoothing effect of dejudder if you want to reduce blur. In its favor, the LH55 brings a boatload of other picture quality adjustments to bear, most of them leading to excellent color accuracy, but its overall picture is hampered by lighter black levels, among other minor problems. If you can handle those issues, are sensitive to blur and enjoy picture tweaks, the LH55 is one of the more tempting LCDs out there.

Series note: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 42-inch LG 42LH55, but this review also applies to the other sizes in the series, namely the 37-inch 37LH55, the 47-inch 47LH55, and the 55-inch 55LH55. All sizes share identical specs and features and should provide very similar picture quality.

Editors' note: Many of the design and features elements are identical between the LG LH55 series and the LG LH30 series we reviewed previously, so readers of the earlier review may experience some déjà vu when reading the same sections below.

The LG LH55 looks slick enough, but lacks any overt, eye-catching styling cues. Its most remarkable external feature is the thin, transparent strip along the left and right edges of the frame. That frame rounds slightly along the top edge and is thicker below than above, and its gloss-black coloration is interrupted by the LG logo only. A bump on the bottom left edge houses the blue-lit power indicator. The stand swivels and matches the panel with its glossy black.

LG LH55 series
The LH55's cabinet is edged by a transparent sheet, and a bump-encased power indicator provides a subtle accent.

LG's remote is relatively disappointing. We found the cluster of similar buttons around the cursor control difficult to differentiate without constantly having to look down at them. A little illumination would have gone a long way. There's a prominent button labeled "Energy Saving" that directly accesses said control and a little energy saving graphic to provide enviro-geeks a warm and fuzzy feeling. The remote can't control other brands of gear directly with infrared commands.

LG LH55 series
A secondary Quick Menu allows, well, quick access to a few key functions.

The menu system is quite extensive, so the easy-access quick menu for aspect ratio, picture and sound modes, the timer, and other oft-used functions is welcome. The main menu is laid out the same as last year's model, with the addition of a new onscreen "simple manual" that provides basic setup and function information. One miscue: we'd really like to see explanations of menu items appear onscreen, too, especially since many of them are so advanced.

As we mentioned above, the LH55's main step-up feature is a 240Hz refresh rate, which is designed to combat blurring in motion. There are two species of 240Hz and LG employs the "scanning backlight" variety, which augments the usual 120Hz technique of doubling the standard 60-frame signal with a backlight that flashes very rapidly on and off (much faster than humans can perceive) to help reduce motion blur. In our tests the other 240Hz technique, which actually quadruples the standard signal and is used by Sony and Samsung, produced slightly better results than LG's method, which is also employed by Toshiba and Vizio. Unlike Toshiba, which carefully calls the scanning backlight a "240Hz effect," LG's marketing department has no qualms about touting its method as unqualified 240Hz.

LG LH55 series
Among numerous other picture controls, the Advanced menu is the only place to find the dejudder adjustment.

LG's implementation of dejudder is similar to past 120Hz and 240Hz displays, which force you to engage the smoothing effect of dejudder if you want to enjoy the benefits of reduced blurring. 2009 models from Samsung and Toshiba, on the other hand, allow you to separate the two functions, an option we really prefer to have. The LH55 series offers two strengths of dejudder, Low and High, and also offers a separate "Real Cinema" function designed to work with 1080p/24 sources. Check out the performance section for more details.

Like other LG displays, the picture controls on the LH55 series surpass most of the competition. The company included even more adjustments than last year, starting with a well-thought-out Picture Wizard that uses internal test patterns to help you perform your own basic calibrations of the controls for brightness, contrast, color, tint, horizontal and vertical sharpness, and backlight. Once you've finished, your settings are saved to the Expert1 picture memory slot for your choice of inputs.

LG LH55 series
The Expert menu is the gateway to even more picture control options.

Each of the eight adjustable picture memory slots is independent per input, and we appreciated that all of them, aside from the two Expert slots, indicate whether they're in the default settings. A ninth mode, called Intelligent Sensor, reacts to ambient lighting conditions and automatically sets picture parameters accordingly. Advanced controls abound in even the nonexpert modes, with three color temperature presets, settings for dynamic contrast and color, noise reduction, three levels of gamma, a black level control, wide and standard color spaces, edge enhancement, a room-lighting sensor, and even an "eye care" setting designed to prevent the screen from being too bright (it's disabled in Vivid and Cinema modes).

Those Expert modes, which bear the logo and the input of the Imaging Science Foundation, offer a passel of additional controls. Our favorite, first introduced by LG last year and still exclusive to the company, is a 10-point white balance system that can really help get a more accurate grayscale. The company upped the ante for 2009, adding the capability to target a 2.2 gamma, internal test patterns, and even color filters for blue-only, green-only, and red-only to help set color balance. A full color management system is also on tap, and we love the capability to apply Expert settings to all inputs or just one at a time. Of course, most of these settings will appeal only to pro calibrators and HDTV geeks, but either way, LG's 2009 models offer the most complete suite of user-menu picture adjustments we've seen on any HDTV to date.

LG LH55 series
A unique color filter lets you better utilize the color management system.

LG touts the efficiency of this set, and rightly so, according to our tests (see below). In addition to the "home use" and "store demo" initial settings common to the Energy Star 3.0-qualified televisions, there's a quartet of progressively more aggressive Energy Saving settings that reduce the backlight--and thus light output along with wattage consumed. Engaging the settings disables the standard backlight control.

The LH55 series is missing picture-in-picture, but does provide plenty of aspect ratio control, including five modes or use with HD sources and four with standard-def. Two modes are adjustable zooms, and there's a "set by program" mode designed to automatically choose the correct aspect ratio setting based on the signal. We recommend using the Just Scan mode with 1080i and 1080p material, which assures zero overscan and proper 1:1 pixel matching for this 1080p display.

LG LH55 series
The LG's back panel offers three HDMI inputs, a PC input and a pair of component-video jacks.

LG LH55 series
On the side is a fourth HDMI port, a USB jack, and an AV input with composite video. No S-Video is available.

Connectivity is fairly extensive on the LH55, beginning with four total HDMI ports--three on the back and one on the side. The back panel also offers two component-video inputs, an AV input with composite video, a RF input for antenna or cable, an RGB-style analog PC input, an optical-digital-audio output, and an RS-232 port for custom installations. In addition to the fourth HDMI port, the side panel has a second AV input with composite video and a USB port for display of digital photos and playback of MP3 music files. Our one connectivity complaint is the lack of any S-Video inputs.

The LH55 series can deliver excellent color accuracy, a positive trait balanced by less-impressive black-level performance. Its 240Hz processing reduces blur better than 120Hz displays, but not as well as some other 240Hz models, for what it's worth, and off-angle performance was below average.

TV settings: LG 42LH55
All of those picture settings really helped nail the LG's calibration. Prior to our adjustments, the display's Movie mode came closest to our ideal settings, although it was a bit too dim (33 ftl) and too blue up and down the grayscale. After making all those adjustments, the grayscale was superb in all but the darkest areas, gamma came close to the 2.2 ideal at an average of 2.16, and light output hit our nominal 40ftl level. We didn't need to tweak primary colors or color decoding much, although we couldn't resist making those already-close parameters even closer.

Our comparison involved a few other 240Hz LCDs, including the Toshiba 47ZV650U, the Samsung LN52B750 and the Sony KDL-52XBR9, as well as a couple of plasmas, the Panasonic TC-P46G10 and our reference Pioneer PRO-111FD. This round of image quality tests was conducted with the help of scenes from "Step Brothers" on Blu-ray.

Black level: The LH55 produced a lighter shade of black that, as usual, robbed the image of some of the punch and impact seen on most of the other displays. The difference was most visible in darker scenes, such as the nighttime car ride home from Derek's birthday party, where the guys' dark suits, the shadows inside the car and the letterbox bars all appeared a noticeably lighter shade than on the other plasmas and LCDs, with the exception of the Toshiba, which was slightly lighter than the LG. Shadow detail, such as the outline of the car in the dark driveway or the bark of the tree in the yard, also suffered a bit--although, to be fair, the LG's shadow detail looked as good as can be expected given the lighter black levels.

Color accuracy: In most scenes, especially brighter ones, the LG's color looked superb. When Alice accosts Dale in the men's room, for example, her skin tone looked flush enough but certainly not ruddy, and thankfully without the greener tinge seen on the Panasonic. The green of the grass under the For Sale sign and the plants downtown appeared true compared with our reference, as did the other primary and secondary colors. The LG's imperfect blacks did contribute to a less saturated look than we saw on the other displays, but our biggest complaint on the color accuracy front was the LG's blue tinge to blacks and very dark shadows. The issue was most obvious in very dark scenes, such as when Brennan buries Dale in the back yard, and the blue was more pronounced than on any of the other displays, including the Toshiba.

Video processing: With the LG's "TruMotion 240Hz" processing set to either Low or High mode, the LH55 resolved between 700 and 800 lines of motion resolution according to our test. The test pattern didn't show the same sort of interference and breakup we saw on the Toshiba. If you're keeping track, we saw between 900 and 1000 lines from the Sony and Samsung 240Hz displays we tested, and even more from the Panasonic plasma. Disabling the LG's processing caused the test to register between 300 to 400 lines, which is typical of a 60Hz LCD. Of course, in our experience, the blurring seen in test patterns, despite the large differences in the motion resolution, is quite difficult to perceive in real-world program material. As we noted above, it's impossible to get the improved motion resolution of the antiblur effect without also engaging dejudder processing.

We've never been fans of the overt smoothing effect of dejudder, and while we understand some viewers might like it, we feel it makes film-based sources look too much like video. The LG is no exception. During the car ride home, for example, the motion seemed too video-like even in the Low setting, which was about the equivalent of Standard on the Sony and Samsung. Artifacts in Low mode weren't very common, which is a good thing, but in High they appeared more frequently. One example came during the first awkward dinner, when Brennan got up from the table and his fast-moving arm created a sort of halo or trail in the background. This issue was slightly less-obvious than a similar artifact we saw on the Sony and Samsungs in High and Smooth modes, but in any case, we recommend leaving the TruMotion 240Hz setting turned off for films.

We did appreciate the LG's Real Cinema setting, however, which functioned as advertised to preserve the true frame rate of film. We set our Blu-ray player to 1080p/24 output mode, turned the Real Cinema setting on and fed the LG our favorite test clip for evaluating film cadence, the helicopter flyover of the Intrepid from "I Am Legend." The LH55 showed the proper amount of judder without the slight hitching motion characteristic of 2:3 pulldown, which returned when we set Real Cinema to Off.

Finally, the LH55 series delivered every line of static resolution and properly de-interlaced video-based sources, but, like other LG sets we've reviewed (and unlike most other current 1080p HDTVs), it failed to properly de-interlace film-based sources.

Uniformity: The LH55 sample we reviewed exhibited average uniformity across its screen, with slightly darker areas around the edges and corners compared with the middle, but no overly bright spots or visible backlight structure.

When seen from off-angle, the LH55 performed worse than either the Sony or the Samsung, becoming washed-out quite a bit more quickly--at about the same rate as the Toshiba, in fact. The screen didn't discolor too badly when seen from either side of the sweet spot directly in front of the screen, however.

Bright lighting: As a matte-screen display, the LH55 handled ambient lighting better than the shiny-screen Toshiba, Samsung LCDs, and both plasmas. Bright lights in the room weren't reflected as brightly in its screen, and the screen did an adequate job of preserving black levels in the bright room--if not as good as the Samsung.

Standard definition: With standard-def sources, the LG turned in a fine performance. It resolved every line of the DVD format and detail in the grass and the stone bridge was solid. Jaggies were kept to a minimum and the waving American flag looked smooth. Noise reduction worked well to remove moving motes from the skies and sunsets, and we appreciated that 2:3 pulldown detection kicked in quickly and effectively to remove moire from the grandstands behind the racecar.

PC: The LH55 series delivered every line of resolution from a 1920x1080 PC input with no overscan or edge enhancement via both HDMI and VGA. The latter input showed some interference in the highest-frequency test patterns, and text appeared a bit softer than via HDMI, but it was still better than many VGA sources we've seen.

Before color temp (20/80) 6499/7375 Average
After color temp 6575/6464 Good
Before grayscale variation 621 Poor
After grayscale variation 51 Good
Color of red (x/y) 0.636/0.331 Good
Color of green 0.291/0.605 Good
Color of blue 0.146/0.059 Good
Overscan 0.0% Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Y Good
480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps Pass Good
1080i video resolution Pass Good
1080i film resolution Fail Poor

Power consumption: We did not test the power use of this size TV in the LH55 series, although we did test the 42-inch member of the series. For more information, see the review of the LG 42LH55.

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Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 6Performance 6