There's fierce competition in the flat-panel world between LCD and plasma, and the once stratospheric pricing of both these product categories is now merely expensive. We still see significant differences between the two technologies, however, and in general, we prefer plasma for value (price per inch of screen) and home-theater image quality. LCD, on the other hand, has a reputation for being more robust, although in reality the danger of damaging a plasma during normal use is minimal. LG's DU-42LZ30 is one of the new crop of large-screen flat-panel LCD HDTVs, acquitting itself well in terms of picture quality, especially compared to other LCDs. Although it does carry a $7,000 list price, we were able to find it for less than $5,000 online, making it a relatively good value for a flat-panel LCD.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.The exterior of the DU-42LZ30 is sleek, smart, and high-tech looking; overall, this is one of the most stylish flat-panel TVs we've come across. To help enhance the set's perceived contrast ratio, a glossy, all-black border surrounds the screen while thin silver trim outlines the entire black border. The speakers on the left and right side of the screen are concealed beneath black grilles.
A strip of transparent, tinted glass lines the bottom of the frame. In the midst of the glass, an LED readout and a series of icons light up and tell you information about current input, sound mode, and other details. An option in the menu lets you switch off these lights for nighttime viewing.
LG's internal menu system is quite simple and easy to navigate. The remote control is on the large side, extremely comprehensive in terms of its functionality, and partially backlit. It's also a universal model, capable of controlling five other A/V components.
This LCD comes with a removable stand, and optional wall mounts are available. The panel measures about 48 by 30 by 10 inches (WHD) with stand and 5.3 inches deep without--a bit deeper than most plasmas.LG bestowed a broad feature set on its panel, although the newest add-ons, such as an HDMI input and digital cable ready CableCard slot, are absent. The DU-42LZ30 does possess a built-in HDTV tuner, so you can watch over-the-air high-def by connecting a simple antenna.
The panel has a native resolution of 1,366x768, which makes it capable of fully resolving a 720p HDTV source (see Performance for more). Even the highest-resolution plasmas fall short of this number--one of the clear advantages of LCD. Naturally, the LG can display just about anything, including 1080i HDTV, standard-def, and computer sources.
Tops on the convenience list is the dual tuner PIP (picture-in-picture), complete with POP and side-by-side modes. Aspect ratio choices are impressive: you get five modes (all but one works with HD sources), plus a sixth that offers 16 levels of magnification. Conveniently, the set includes independent input memories and six video presets.
LG claims its XD processing engine will greatly improve standard-definition video signals from cable TV and satellite, but we found that for the best performance with high-resolution video sources like DVD and HDTV, XD should be turned off. There are also three selectable color temperatures (Warm, Medium, and Cool) with Warm being the closest to the NTSC standard of 6,500K.
A number of audio features are onboard as well, including EZ Soundrite, which keeps the volume level the same between regular program material and commercials. EZ Sound claims to automatically choose the right sound mode depending on the program material. Otherwise you can manually select from Normal, Stadium, Theater, and Music modes.
Connection options on the DU-42LZ30 are fairly generous. Two component-video inputs and one DVI input head up the list. Unusually, there is a pair of optical digital inputs--one for DVI and one for one of the component jacks--in addition to the standard analog audio inputs. We also counted two composite-video inputs, one S-Video input, one 15-pin RGB/VGA input for either a computer or an HDTV set-top box, and an optical digital audio output. Behind the left speaker is another set of A/V inputs with both S-Video and composite video, which would be convenient for hooking up a camcorder, a digital camera, or a video game console.Picture quality at factory settings out of the box was pretty typical, which is to say overdriven and a far cry from accurate. Unfortunately, even after calibration, the grayscale went plus-red in the low end, and as a result, dark parts of the picture had a reddish cast. We also detected a little bit of edge enhancement, which created faint rings around lines and edges onscreen. Reducing the sharpness control didn't do anything in the component-video inputs to reduce or eliminate it. Testing the DVI input, however, we discovered that we could get rid of the edge enhancement by bringing down sharpness. Go figure!
White-field uniformity (the evenness of color across the screen) as well as black-level performance were both quite good for an LCD flat panel. Resolution measured much higher with the DVI input than with either of the component-video inputs; the component-video input rolls off some of the high-frequency video resolution from a 720p signal. We recommend that you use the DVI input for your HDTV connection.
After calibration, chapters 12 through 25 of the Seabiscuit DVD looked a lot better, with great detail and good color saturation. Fast motion scenes were solid with none of the smear commonly associated with direct-view LCDs. The opening scenes of Alien, very dark material, looked reasonable, with little or no low-level noise, albeit with a slight reddish hue.
HD material from our DirecTV satellite feed also looked fairly good. Bright scenes were full of snap and good color saturation, but again, dark material suffered a bit with the plus-red color temperature.
|Before color temp (20/80)||13,100/8,000K||Poor|
|After color temp (20/80)||5,000/6,600K||Poor|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 2375K||Poor|
|After grayscale variation||+/- 252K||Average|
|Color decoder error: red||-10%||Average|
|Color decoder error: green||-15%||Poor|
|DC restoration||All patterns stable||Good|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Y||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||N||Poor|