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LG PK950 review: LG PK950

LG's games platform, not to be confused with the games included with Yahoo Widgets, includes extremely basic custom titles, for example Sudoku and Whack a Mole. Of course, you'll need to buy the external speakerphone kit to use Skype. It hasn't been released yet, so we didn't test it for this review.

LG's non-streaming apps are primarily Yahoo Widgets

Picture settings
Adjustable picture modes 6 Independent memories per input Yes
Dejudder presets 0 Fine dejudder control N/A
Aspect ratio modes -- HD 6 Aspect ratio modes -- SD 5
Color temperature presets 3 Fine color temperature control 20 points
Gamma presets 2 Color management system Yes
Other: 2-point and 20-point IRE systems available; 2 THX modes; Auto Power Save mode; guided "Picture Wizard" setup tool

In this area LG is among the best on the market for sheer numbers of adjustable parameters. The TV's two Expert modes allow fine adjustment of 20 points of white balance, which seems like overkill compared with the 10-point system on the LG LH8500 series or Samsung's high-end 2010 sets, and didn't work well in our testing. Fortunately, the TV also offers LG's usual suite of other advanced adjustments, including a standard 2-point system.

Plenty of presets are provided for those who'd rather not futz with settings. The two THX modes, one for bright and one for dim environments, are not user adjustable, and there's a new Auto Power Saver Mode, again non-adjustable, that depends on room lighting to do its job. LG's Picture Wizard is on-hand to guide novices through basic settings.

The company's signature multi-point IRE calibration system didn't work well in our experience.

Other features
Power saver mode Yes Ambient light sensor Yes
Picture-in-picture No Onscreen user manual Yes
Other: Three "ISM" modes to combat burn-in

In addition to the Auto Power Saver picture mode, you can apply one of three Energy Saving settings (each limits maximum light output) or an ambient light sensor to any non-THX picture mode. You can also choose a "screen off" option in the TV's energy saver menu to just get sound, reducing consumption to about 24 watts. LG calls its onscreen manual "simple" and that's definitely the case--it's more like a rundown of features than a usable manual.

Like most plasmas, the PK950 offers three ways to fight burn-in, including white and color washes and a pixel orbiter that shifts the whole image around on the screen. Since temporary image retention seems more common on this set than with other plasmas, we welcome the washes in particular.

HDMI inputs 3 back, 1 side Component video inputs 2 back
Composite video input(s) 1 back, 1 side S-video input(s) 0
VGA-style PC input(s) 1 RF input(s) 1
AV output(s) 0 Digital audio output 1 optical
USB port 2 side Ethernet (LAN) port Yes
Other: Service-only RS-232 port; proprietary "wireless control" port for media box

There's nothing special here aside from the proprietary, optional wireless connection (see Key Features), and no major missing links unless you're partial to S-video. The second USB port is nice if you monopolize the first with the optional Wi-Fi dongle.

No major links are missing from the LG's back panel input bay.

The second USB input is a nice side-panel touch.

All told the LG PK90 series delivered an excellent performance, with deep black levels, accurate color and solid video processing that handled 1080p/24 correctly. As usual for a plasma, it also showed nearly perfect off-angle viewing and screen uniformity. We could complain about some color issues in dark areas and secondaries, but they don't take much away from LG's best plasma yet.

TV settings: LG 50PK950

The LG's most-accurate picture preset was THX Bright Room, with a solid, if somewhat minus-blue grayscale and relatively accurate gamma (2.16 versus the 2.2 standard), both of which outdid both THX Cinema and the default Expert settings. There was plenty of room for improvement, however, so for our calibration we fired up LG's 20-point IRE grayscale adjustment.

Unfortunately, as we saw on the PK750, the system didn't work well--we saw significant drift over time and a lack of sufficient sensitivity and range in the controls. So, rather than waste more time trying to shoehorn it into an accurate state, we resorted to the standard 2-point system. It improved the grayscale quite a bit, although variations remained afterward, especially in dark areas, and gamma was worse than THX (2.36 overall). We ended up using our calibrated Expert for our evaluation below, however, mainly because its grayscale was more accurate than THX.

After setting up the PK950 we gathered the following comparison models and watched "The Final Destination" on Blu-ray for the majority of our image quality tests below.

Comparison models (details)
LG 50PK750 50-inch plasma
Panasonic TC-P50G20 50-inch plasma
Panasonic TC-P50VT25 50-inch plasma
Samsung PN50C590 50-inch plasma
Samsung PN50C7000 50-inch plasma
LG 47LE8500 47-inch full array local dimming LED
Pioneer PRO-111FD (reference) 50-inch plasma

Black level: In this crucial department the LG PK950 performed well, although it still couldn't quite match the depth of black delivered by some of the competitors in our lineup. The difference was apparent mostly in dark scenes, such as Chapter 6 when the tow truck-driving racist stalks the neighborhood. Black areas like the letterbox bars and the deepest shadows on the truck, the parked car, and the side mirrors, for example, all appeared darker on the PK950 than on the PK750 and the Samsung C590, just a bit lighter than the Samsung C7000 and Panasonic G20, and significantly lighter than the rest. The difference between the PK950, the C7000 and G20 was visible in our dark room in a side-by-side comparison, but we doubt it would be apparent in less stringent viewing environments.

Despite its less-accurate overall gamma, the PK950 handled details in shadows relatively well, mainly because gamma in dark areas was fairly close to the standard. That said, it still appeared to obscure more details than our reference, although it did surpass the C7000 and G20 in this category, if only by a hair.

Color accuracy: In bright areas the PK950 performed as well in this area as the better models in our lineup. The faces of the children in the stands during the initial raceway scene, including the delicate skin tones of Lori and Janet, appeared natural and quite close to our reference, without the slightly paler cast of the Samsung PNC7000 or the greenish of the Panasonic G20. Saturation was very good and primaries and secondaries mostly accurate, from the green grass of the infield to the red of the car logos.

The exception, as we saw on the PK750, was cyan, which appeared too intense and threw off colors like blue jeans, spectators' blue shirts and the blue paint of the broken bench, as well as the blue of skies in later scenes. Yellow also appeared a bit too reddish, as seen in road signs and Nick's swim trunks, but the difference was much more subtle.

In dark areas, the PK950 fell off somewhat. We detected a bluish cast to near-black colors, such as the dark suit of the mourner at the funeral in Chapter 5, or the shadows of the black hair of other bereaved. The effect was more visible and objectionable than on any of the other models in our lineup.

Video processing: Unlike the PK750 we tested earlier, the PK950 consistently handled 1080p/24 correctly, delivering the true cadence of film on so-enabled Blu-ray sources. We saw the effect on our favorite 1080p/24 test, the helicopter flyover from "I Am Legend," where the PK950 outdid most of the other sets in our lineup as well by reproducing the camera movement smoothly (yet not too smoothly), without the subtle hitching motion characterize by 2:3 pull-down.

According to our motion resolution test, the LG PK950 delivered the same result as the PK750: between 700 and 800 lines. That performance doesn't match the best plasmas or 240Hz LCDs we've tested, although it is better than typical 120Hz LCDs. As usual, we don't expect many viewers to notice, or even be able to see, the difference.

As on the PK750, we also saw softness and ringing artifacts in finely detailed areas of test patterns, although they were too subtle for us to see in most normal program material. Renaming the input "PC" and using a 1080p/60 source (1080i or 10

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