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LG PM9700 review: LG PM9700

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The Good The LG PM9700 series is the best plasma the company has ever produced, with deeper black levels than last year. Bright-room picture quality is very good thanks to the matte screen finish. The LG offers a good mix of features including the Magic Motion remote, onboard laptop mirroring, and a Web browser.

The Bad This LG has a worse picture, with lighter black levels and less accurate color, than some cheaper plasma rivals. There's overbearing, undefeatable smoothing applied to every mode except Game. 3D image quality is the worst the company has released this year.

The Bottom Line The LG PM9700 series improves on the company's 2011 plasmas, but it's unable to compete with similarly priced TVs.

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6.8 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Value 6

If there's one company that's really doubled its efforts in regard to TV design this year, it's LG. Judged purely from the outside, the 2012 line looks like it should comprise the best TVs on the market -- very sleek and slim. But based on our experiences with models such as the LM9600, LM6700 and the G2, looks can be deceiving. Similarly, the LG PM9700 has seen some design improvements and even some picture quality tweaks, but it still finds competition tough.

This plasma is decent enough but out of its depth at this price level. Picture quality is improved on last year's with better black levels and a new matte screen that's a real boon in bright rooms, but when you're comparing it against plasma TVs as marvelous as the Panasonic ST50 and Samsung PNE6500, it loses out.

Featurewise it's not bad, with unusual inclusions like WiDi for mirroring your laptop display on your TV and LG's exclusive Wii-like Magic Motion remote, and the Smart TV suite is easy to use and content rich. But when it counts: picture quality trumps features.

Is the TV the company's best plasma yet? As a Magic 8-Ball would say, the "signs point to yes," but is it enough given the superiority of the competition? "My reply is no."

Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 50-inch LG 50PM9700, but this review also applies to the 60-inch screen size in the series. Both have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.

Models in series (details)
LG 50PM9700 (reviewed) 50 inches
LG 60PM9700 60 inches

If you're looking for a sexy television, then LG's 2012 range of LED TVs can't be beat. Slim, with impossibly narrow bezels, they're the supermodels of this year's TV fashion catwalk. The PM9700 may not look like Miranda Kerr, but it's still quite restrained and even elegant, though with one major caveat.

At a 1.5-inch thickness, the TV's bezel's diagonal is as about as thin as plasma can get these days; a measurement also seen on the Panasonic VT50. However, as the VT50 has what's called a "bezel-less" design (with the additional sheet of glass on top) it does look slimmer.

The strangest part of the LG's design is the stand itself. It's a metallic concoction that looks a little like alien fingers, or a boomerang if I'm kind. At least it's mostly hidden by the TV itself, but I definitely prefer the ribbon stands of the LCD line.

The PM9700 also comes with the company's patented Magic Motion remote, which now comes with a scroll wheel. While it works relatively well, you can find yourself sweeping wide due to a sometimes low sensitivity. I would have liked to see an additional wand remote for some of the finer controls we expect from the company's other TVs.

Key TV features
Display technology Plasma LED backlight N/A
Screen finish Matte Remote Motion
Smart TV Yes Internet connection Built-in Wi-Fi
3D technology Active 3D glasses included No
Refresh rate(s) 96Hz, 60Hz Dejudder (smooth) processing Yes
DLNA-compliant Photo/Music/Video USB Photo/Music/Video
Other:THX certification for both 2D and 3D sources; optional active 3D glasses (model AG-S350, $45); compatible with Intel Wireless Display (WiDi)

The LG PM9700 is the company's flagship plasma, but it lacks some of the features found in the LCD range. The most obvious is passive 3D. While the company has been gung-ho about its passive technology for a while, it's not something that can be easily implemented in a plasma; therefore this TV requires active 3D goggles. Unfortunately, the AG-S350 3D glasses are sold separately and not included in the box, and the TV is not compatible with other companies' active 3D specs. Also omitted is the dual play mode for simultaneous two-player gaming.

Some other models in LG's range have a four-mode remote (with voice) but the included model nixes the voice search -- no big loss, though.

In case you glossed (ha!) over that chart above, check it out one more time. This is the only a plasma TV with a matte screen available today, and honestly that screen finish is its most exciting feature in my book. I haven't seen its like in a plasma since the Panasonic TH-PX77U series in 2008.

The TV also includes THX certification for both 2D and 3D sources, which is the other major step-up over LG's less expensive PM6700 series.

The TV is also compatible with laptops and other devices that use Intel Wireless Display for desktop PC mirroring. I didn't test that feature by press time, however.

Smart TV: In concert with the Magic Motion remote, the LG Smart TV platform is one of the most fun to use. The different tiles are fairly sensibly arranged, with the video services front and center while the "useless gumpf" like 3D World is relegated to the second screen. You can also create and edit different "cards" to surface the apps and functions you want, making the system one of the most customizable of any TV. Unfortunately, the Smart TV interface is also the TV menu, and accessing the Settings menu, for example, requires a bit of wand waving to access.

For a list of all of the video services and other important apps the LG offers you can see the list here.

Picture settings: Due to the issue with smoothing dejudder being stuck "on" for everything (see below), your only nonbuttery option is to use the Game mode, where picture settings are quite sparse. There is a color temperature slider and a control for "skin," "sky," and "grass" colors. If you want to venture into other modes -- in the hope they'll fix the dejudder issue -- there is no adjustment possible in THX (both 2D and 3D). Elsewhere, namely in the two Expert modes, control is plentiful. The two-point grayscale system only has one point, although LG's 20-point control obviates that problem, and there's a full color management system.

Connectivity: The LG PM9700 includes all of the connectivity a modern TV needs including four HDMI ports, two component inputs, two USB and a PC input. Internet connectivity is handled by both onboard wireless and Ethernet.

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