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There are many decisions to make when buying a television, and one of them is, "Will this look good in my living room?" The TV is as much a piece of furniture as the stand it sits on, and the LM9600 comes the closest yet to looking like a beautiful piece of industrial art. It's just a pity, then, that the more important consideration -- "Is the picture any good?" -- is met with a reply of, "Not really."
At its suggested price, the 55-inch LG LM9600 is $1,000 more expensive than the much better Sony HX850 (review coming soon) and $2,000(!) more than the idol-killing Panasonic ST50. Picture quality has taken a dive compared with last year's flagship LW9800, with noticeably lighter black levels, among other issues.
LG's feature set is strong, however, with crowd-favorite passive 3D and a full complement of Internet video services. But as Samsung has shown this year with its gimmicky Smart Interaction, features may help sell the TV but it doesn't mean you'll use them. Thankfully LG avoids this trap, but I wish they'd spent a bit more time on improving the picture.
High-end LCD shoppers mulling over this TV and the similarly priced and still-current Sony HX929 should have no doubt which one to get: the Sony. It still has the best LCD picture on the market without having to trade up to the astronomical Sharp Elite Pro.
Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the LG 55LM9600, but this review also applies to two of the other screen sizes in the series. All three sizes listed below have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality. There's also an 84-inch 84LM9600 coming out later in the year, but it's quite different from the others and so this review does not apply to it.
|LG 47LM9600||47 inches|
|LG 55LM9600 (reviewed)||55 inches|
|LG 60LM9600||60 inches|
If you're looking for a stylish TV, in my mind they don't come more so than the 2012 range from LG. The ribbon stand is original and adds a touch of class, but the thin bezels used on the LM6 model numbers and up really help the TVs stand out.
The LM9600 looks similar to the LM6700, but instead of a silver bezel it comes with black livery, and looks even better in person. The panel is trimmed with a thin aluminum strip, which is the only thing separating the screen from your room, and the border is ravishingly thin at 5 millimeters. Viewed side-on, the TV is incredibly slim, too, and should wall-mount very well since the ports face downward.
It comes with the updated Magic Motion remote, which includes a scroll wheel and couple of extra buttons like a dedicated 3D control, though sadly no Settings key. The scroll wheel works in some screens -- Web pages, for example -- but not on others like onscreen menus and Netflix.
|Display technology||LCD||LED backlight||Full-array with local dimming|
|Screen finish||Glossy||Remote||Motion with voice|
|Smart TV||Yes||Internet connection||Built-in Wi-Fi|
|3D technology||Passive||3D glasses included||Six pairs|
|Refresh rate(s)||480Hz||Dejudder (smooth) processing||Yes|
|Other:Dual Play gaming|
The LG LM9600 is the company's flagship LED series, and while the forthcoming OLED 55EM9600 and 84-inch 84LM9600 share similar model names, they're different animals entirely. Unlike flashy competitor Samsung with its Smart Interaction gadgets, LG made its LM9600 series' step-up changes -- I won't say they're improvements in every case -- mostly under the hood.
The full-array LED backlight with local dimming is why the LM9600 costs so much. The TV's local dimming is designed to boost contrast by controlling the light output of numerous zones across the TV's screen, and the full array of LEDs behind the screen allows more precise control than most LED TVs, which use LEDs arrayed along the edge. LG's Nano Full LED system ostensibly refers to the Nano light guide used to distribute light evenly across the screen.
The 480Hz refresh rate claim is derived, according to the company, from a true 240Hz panel combined with a scanning backlight. Unlike the LM6700, this set does actually include smoothing (dejudder) processing.
LG's passive 3D system means the company can afford to include more pairs of 3D glasses than its active competitors, so the LM9600 comes with six, count 'em, six. On the off chance that you need more, most cheap polarized glasses should work.
If you're a gamer you may be interested in the Dual Play mode, which lets you convert a split-screen game into two different 2D screens with the use of special glasses. A quick Web search doesn't bring up where to buy them but since there are six pairs in the package you can make your own. You simply swap the left lens for right in one set (and reverse the lens) and the right for left in the other. I tried it and while they didn't fit all that well, the effect worked well enough for a few quick games.
Smart TV: Do you care if your phone has a dual-core processor? No? Well, be prepared to care even less: the LM9600 has a dual-core processor. Why does it need one, you ask? Smart TV functionality can be quite labor-intensive (and some picture processing, too) so a beefier processor is intended to make the experience smoother. But it's not the selling point LG thinks it is.
After the simplicity of the tiles of previous years, LG's new Smart interface looks a bit more cluttered. It now resembles Samsung's with featured content at the top and shortcuts at the bottom. Meanwhile, LG's G2 Google TV features a hybrid LG/Google menu, and though it has its issues, we appreciated its home screen over the LM9600's since it is more customizable.
LG's Smart TV content selection features most of the popular media apps, including Hulu Plus and Netflix, but lacks Amazon Instant for video and Pandora for audio. If you're looking for 3D content, LG offers a number of clips and full programs, though the quality varies.
The company offers an app store called LG Smart World, and while most of the content is minigames, there a few useful additions, such as NBA Game Time/Game Center and XOS College Sports. Unfortunately, downloading even free apps from the World requires you to create an ID and password.
The LM9600 adds voice search functionality via a microphone on the Magic Motion remote. However, the function isn't as intuitive as Samsung's Smart Interaction, which enables you to search by just saying "Hi, TV." Instead, to use LG's feature you need to navigate to the home screen, press search, wait, press the microphone button, say your search term, press OK twice, and then get presented with the search options. Web search doesn't work and takes you to another Bing screen instead, and while the engine searches YouTube, Vudu, and CinemaNow, it doesn't search Netflix. You'll probably find yourself using voice search once and never again: hunting and pecking on the Magic Motion keyboard is a lot faster.
Thanks to the Magic Motion remote and included scroll wheel, the browser is an excellent addition, and Web pages load and navigate fairly quickly. As with most smartphones, though, just don't expect Flash pages to work properly.
Picture settings: LG offers a wealth of picture settings for owners and professional calibrators alike. The TV includes THX modes for bright rooms, cinema, and 3D, in addition to the two Expert ISF modes. Based on our testing though the default settings for ISF and THX modes are quite similar and not particularly accurate. ISF is the only one of the two that allows adjustment, with 2- and 20-point grayscales, a color management system, and gamma controls, in addition to four levels of local dimming (High, Medium, Low, and Off).
Connectivity: The most unusual thing about the connections on the LG LM9600 is that there are three instead of two USB ports for plugging in peripherals and USB drives. Apart from that the connections are fairly familiar, with four HDMI ports, one AV and one component (with adapter), RGB, antenna, and an optical digital.
Could it be that the sleek, high-level design has come at the sacrifice of the picture? While the LM9600's design is arguably the best on the market this year, as a flagship TV it performs relatively badly for the money. Black levels are half as dark as we measured a year ago on LG's LW9800, yet the price has remained the same.
Surprisingly for a full-array LED TV, the amount of backlight bleed was even more pronounced than on the LW9800. Default colors were overly red in the THX and ISF modes, which is a surprise, and so to get the best color out of the TV you'll want to get a professional calibration or at least try our settings. 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.
|LG 55LM6700||55-inch edge-lit LED|
|Sony KDL-55HX850||55-inch edge-lit LED|
|Panasonic TC-P55ST50||55-inch plasma|
|Panasonic TC-P50UT50||50-inch plasma|
|Sony KDL-55HX929||55-inch full-array LED|
Black level: The ability to produce a deep black is the most important element of any TV's picture. If a TV performs poorly here, its image will look weak and lifeless, lacking what some people call "three-dimensionality." While there have been several TVs with lighter black levels than the LM9600's this year -- LG's own LM6700 and the atrocious Panasonic DT50, for example -- for none has quite so much money been asked.
Compared with the Sony HX850, the LM9600 lacked the shadow detail that gives a picture its depth. We experimented with several different settings, and decided on the LED backlight control at Medium. While our comparison sets were all able to reproduce details such as the windows in the brightly lit top of the Empire State building at the 12-minute mark of "Watchmen," the LG at High turned the top of the building into a blob of white with no discernible details. Even at Medium the TV wasn't able to reproduce the same level of detail.
This trend continued with "Star Trek." At 28.37 minutes the LG lost its grip on the baddies' ship, turning it into mush. On the Sony and Panasonic TVs, the ship looked brown and spiny, while on the LG it looked indistinct and murky.
Color accuracy: Even in THX mode the balance was overly red, and it took quite a bit of time to correct this using the ISF mode controls (again, THX isn't adjustable). Color reproduction after calibration is one of the LG's good points. With the right balance in place, color was very good with no particular skew toward red, green, or blue. Skin tones looked natural and colors reasonably saturated, and this was one of the only ways the LM9600 was able to keep up with the very talented ST50.
Video processing: Helped perhaps by the dual-core processor, the video processing on this LG TV was pretty solid. It was able to properly interpret a 24p signal without stuttering or wonkiness, and it deinterlaced a 1080i signal without defaulting to wavy lines or moire effects.
Uniformity: While LM9600 is a full-array LED TV, it has some uniformity problems akin to what you'd see on edge-lit sets. The TV has some quite noticeable backlighting problems on the sides of the TV that appear as discolored blooms. In comparison, the edge-lit Sony HX850 was able to control effects like spotlighting and blooming while maintaining much higher black levels. Meanwhile, the off axis of the LG displayed a yellow tinge on bright material and the usual gray/blue tinge on blacks.
Bright lighting: Though the TV has a glossy finish, it didn't suffer worse reflections than the comparison sets when we turned the lights on -- a big improvement compared with past full-array LG models like the LW9800. Even dark movies such as "Watchmen" remained comfortable to watch without eyestrain; the set preserved black levels relatively well, easily outdoing the UT50 and keeping pace with the others in the lineup.
3D: The TV performed similarly to the 6700 in terms of 3D with no crosstalk and minimal interlacing artifacts, even at the larger 55-inch size. I believe that most people would notice ghosting and crosstalk effects before they become concerned by line structure, and so prefer passive 3D to active.
|Black luminance (0%)||0.0198||Average|
|Near-black x/y (5%)||0.2784/0.2755||Poor|
|Dark gray x/y (20%)||0.3127/0.3299||Good|
|Bright gray x/y (70%)||0.3124/0.3285||Good|
|Before avg. color temp.||6008.7419||Poor|
|After avg. color temp.||6508.2338||Good|
|Red lum. error (de94_L)||2.8318||Average|
|Green lum. error (de94_L)||2.4758||Average|
|Blue lum. error (de94_L)||1.4763||Good|
|Cyan hue x/y||0.2283/0.3238||Good|
|Magenta hue x/y||0.3126/0.1497||Average|
|Yellow hue x/y||0.4159/0.5103||Good|
|1080p/24 Cadence (IAL)||Pass||Good|
|1080i Deinterlacing (film)||Pass||Good|
|Motion resolution (max)||1200||Good|
|Motion resolution (dejudder off)||320||Poor|