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LG PA6500 series plasma review: LG PA6500 series plasma

LG's PA6500 series plasma TV is cheaper than others its size, but given some of its issues, it's not the best value at this level.

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Ty Pendlebury
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Ty Pendlebury

Editor

Ty Pendlebury is a journalism graduate of RMIT Melbourne, and has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.

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3 min read

It's getting toward the spiky end of 2012, and save the surprise appearance of some OLEDs, we've seen most of the TVs that we expect to score highest in picture quality. This leaves us with televisions like the PA6500: not a dreadful plasma by any means -- no, that's the Panasonic X5 -- but one that still can't qualify for our recommendation.

LG 50PA6500
6.0

LG PA6500 series plasma

The Good

The <b>LG PA6500</b> is an inexpensive plasma with natural-looking colors and solid bright-room quality. Image processing is a highlight, with correct 24p response mating well with the full 1080p resolution. This LG has a living-room-friendly appearance and it's easy to use as well.

The Bad

The LG evinced some of the lightest, least realistic black levels in its class. Colors lack some of the saturation found in the TV's peers, and it showed more temporary image retention. The LG suffers from solarization, which manifests as distinct bands in gradated colors.

The Bottom Line

The LG PA6500 is a decent plasma television if you'll have nothing less than 1080p for cheap, but it's not the best value at this level.

LG's cheapest 1080p plasma does some things right, particularly colors, and some not-so right, the worst being LCD-like black levels that lead to a less "present" picture. The LG PA6500's biggest problem, though, is that its competition is too good. At 50 inches, the entry-level Samsung E450 is cheaper and a better performer despite its lower resolution; if you insist on 1080p, the slightly more expensive Panasonic U50 is the way to go. Meanwhile the 60-inch PA6500 is among the least expensive TVs you can buy at that size, but we'd still recommend paying extra for the much better picture quality of the Samsung PN60E550.

Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 50-inch LG 50PA6500, but this review also applies to the 60-inch size in the series. Both sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Models in series (details)
LG 60PA6500 60 inches
LG 50PA6500 (reviewed) 50 inches

Design
Let me invent a new term to describe the PA6500: it is a perfectly "livingroomable" television. That is to say that it won't stick out in an obnoxious way in your living area, or look so drab as to induce spontaneous comas. The frame is clad predominantly in glossy black with a vaguely gun-metal wedge at the bottom. The swiveling stand has a businesslike appearance and is a welcome change from stodgy rectangular ones.

The bottom of the bezel may be gun-metal gray, but it's subtle. Sarah Tew/CNET

The included remote control is surprisingly full-featured with access to all most commonly used functions: volume, channels, and so on. Indeed, I had to double-check that this was the correct remote since it seemed too good for such a cheap TV.

The remote control is better than I expected. Sarah Tew/CNET

The TV's menu system is similar to the rest of the line, with small, easy-to-read icons leading to a pleasant experience. Of course it does without the Smart TV aspects of the connected televisions, which greatly helps in the "simple" department.

LG PA6500 series plasma TV is decent for its price (pictures)

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"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Key TV features
Display technology Plasma LED backlight N/A
Screen finish Glossy Remote Standard
Smart TV No Internet connection N/A
3D technology N/A 3D glasses included No
Refresh rate(s) 60Hz Dejudder (smooth) processing No
DLNA-compliant No USB Photo/Music/Video

Features
Unlike the cheaper PA4500 and its 720p resolution, the PA6500 is a full-HD, 1080p television. Apart from that though, the set doesn't have many features when compared to more expensive devices. Additions like 3D and smart TV are far from ubiquitous yet, and you'll have to pay a bit more to enjoy them. But if you want free or inexpensive streaming content then a $60 Roku HD will serve you well.

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 is not actually related to 120Hz-type engines found on LCD TVs.

Picture settings: Like the PA4500 that precedes it in LG's lineup, the PA6500 includes plenty of tweaks, including ISF presets and 20-point grayscale adjustments. The TV also comes with a power-saving mode, although like most such additions, it caps light output, which leads to a too-dim picture.

Hello LG menu, you friendly thing you Sarah Tew/CBS Interactive

Connectivity: The LG features three HDMI ports, with two on the side and one on the rear, an uncommon two component inputs, a composite connector, a single USB, and a PC connection.

Picture quality

The PA6500 is essentially a 1080p version of the PA4500 and as a result, its picture quality is very similar to the cheaper TV's. While black levels and shadow details are almost identical in performance, the two do differ in color response. I would describe the PA4500's color as more excitable, with richer skin tones and better color saturation. On the other hand, the PA6500 was more muted, but arguably more accurate. One problem I did find was that the PA6500 was the most susceptible of all the models in the lineup to image retention, as I'll detail shortly.

If the Samsung E450 didn't exist, this TV would probably present a better deal, but for the money you can get a better-performing TV at 50 inches. Plenty of better 60-inch sets are available too, but they do cost more than this LG, making the 60PA6500 a potential bargain pick -- but I'd still pay a couple hundred more to avoid this TV's issues. Yes, the LG does look better some LCDs up to twice the price, but even at this level it's not enough.

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.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Comparison models (details)
Samsung PN51E550 51-inch plasma
Panasonic TC-P50U50 50-inch plasma
Sony KDL-46EX640 46-inch, LCD
Panasonic TC-P50X5 50-inch plasma
LG 42PA4500 42-inch plasma
Samsung PN51E450 51-inch plasma

Black level: Dark scenes revealed the PA6500 as one of the lightest in the lineup. The Samsung E450 showed much deeper blacks and provides a palpably more solid picture for the same as the LG.

That said the LG was the best of my budget lineup, bar the Panasonic U50 at revealing shadow detail. That's not to say it's accurate though; the TV's gamma curve doesn't adhere to our standard (2.2) and was a much lighter 1.8. Regardless, during the flyby of the Romulan mining ship in "Star Trek" it was possible to pick out the shape of the passing ship -- something that the other TV's weren't as successful at doing.

No matter how detailed the shadows, the picture looks less realistic without deep black levels to underpin it. The lighter black levels of the PA6500 did make the images look more indistinct overall, and even the PA4500 managed a smidgen more inkiness at times during playback.

Image retention -- where the image sticks after playing highly contrasting material -- is an issue with this TV, and it leads to ghostly images, particularly on black screens. It's not permanent burn-in, but as I don't want to try to replicate the accidental testing I performed with the Panasonic and Samsung TVs, I can't say if the more serious burn-in is also an issue. There is no obvious anti-burn-in protection on this unit.

Color accuracy: From the red cadet uniforms of the "Star Trek" crew to the lush green landscapes of "The Tree of Life," the PA6500 struggled a little in comparison to its competition. Colors were muted and sapped of the vitality shown by even the PA4500. Colors were less saturated than its lesser-priced brethren but on the flipside they were more natural-looking -- particularly flesh tones.

Video processing: The TV was able to complete both the 24p compliance test and also showed few errors in the comparison during our 1080i scaling test. These tests indicate that the TV is able to handle both interlaced and HD sources well.

As I saw in the PA4500, the PA6500 is also susceptible to solarizing effects -- where gradations of color break up into bands. This is a plasma issue -- particularly for budget models like the LGs. At 24:20 during the Tree of Life we see a dawning sun, and the PA6500 broke this into bands, including one green one. Most of the other TVs didn't do this.

Bright lighting: The PA6500 has a glossy screen that collects reflections -- the mortal enemy of open blinds. That said, its screen also preserved contrast well. All told, the LG was actually the best performer in the light, definitely better than the U50, and this is one of its best characteristics.

Power consumption: Plasma is unlike LCD in that the resolution has a part in how much electricity it uses. While the 720p plasmas, the Samsung E450 and LG PA4500, used surprisingly little power, the 1080p PA6500 uses what I was expecting. It drew 188 watts in calibrated mode, which is a little less than twice what a 720p plasma would. If you want power efficiency, again go for the Samsung E450 or an LED/LCD model.

Read more about how we test TVs.

Juice box
LG 50PA6500 Picture settings
Default Calibrated Power save
Picture on (watts) 210.05 188.11 112.75
Picture on (watts/sq. inch) 0.2 0.18 0.11
Standby (watts) 0.11 0.11 0.11
Cost per year $46.13 $41.32 $24.80
Score (considering size) Average
Score (overall) Average
Annual energy cost after calibration
="g4">LG 50PA6500
$41.32 

LG 50PA6500

LG 50PA6500
6.0

LG PA6500 series plasma

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 5Performance 5Value 7
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