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LG Infinia PX950 review: LG Infinia PX950

LG Infinia PX950

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David Katzmaier
David_Katzmaier.jpg

David Katzmaier

Editorial Director -- TVs and streaming

David has reviewed TVs, streaming services, streaming devices and home entertainment gear at CNET since 2002. He is an ISF certified, NIST trained calibrator and developed CNET's TV test procedure himself. Previously David wrote reviews and features for Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as "The Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics."

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8 min read

When we reviewed LG's former flagship plasma in July, the PK950 series, we called it the best the company had ever produced and a worthy contender to Panasonic and Samsung. Its new boss at the top of LG's totem pole, the PX950, is basically the same TV plus 3D. LG differentiates the PX from the 3D competition by endowing it with the first THX Display certification for 3D sources, and THX assured us that said certification process is no walk in the park. The end result, according to our subjective comparison, is very good 3D picture quality indeed, albeit not significantly better than other makers' top 3D plasma TVs. Add to that the PX950's laudable 2D performance, as well as LG's sleek external styling, and you have one of the most appealing HDTVs available yet.

lg-60px950-60-infinia-3d-plasma-tv-1080p-fullhd.jpg
8.0

LG Infinia PX950

The Good

Produces relatively deep black levels; accurate color overall; correctly handles 1080p/24 sources; solid 3D performance; plenty of streaming and interactive features; extensive picture controls; sleek styling with single-plane design and 2-inch-deep panel; Magic Wand remote works well.

The Bad

Lighter black levels than some flagship plasma TVs; blue oversaturated slightly; ineffective 2D-to-3D conversion; fewer apps and services than many other interactive models have; exhibits some temporary image retention; inefficient power use; Magic Wand remote feels like a gimmick.

The Bottom Line

With excellent performance showing either 2D or 3D material, the LG PX950 series stands among the best plasma TVs this year.

Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 50-inch LG 50PX950, but this review also applies to the 60-inch version. All sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Models in series (details)
LG 50PX950 (reviewed) 50 inches
LG 60PX950 60 inches

Design


The LG PX950's blue-edged bezel is flush with the screen for a cleaner look.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Design highlights "="">Other: Transparent edge and stand stalk
Panel depth 2.1 inches Bezel width 1.5 inches
Single-plane face Yes Swivel stand Yes

LG is the only current plasma maker to offer the sleekness of a single-pane face--where the picture and the frame are both fronted by the same pane of glass--and the PX950 looks almost exactly like the PK950 from the outside. There's a transparent stand stalk and transparent edges (both originated by Samsung, but who's counting?), as well a glass-topped stand base. Overall we like the PX950's looks a lot--although not quite as much as the matte finish of Samsung plasmas like the PNC7000.

For what it's worth, the depth of the LG falls in the middle between the Panasonic (3.5 inches) and slim Samsung (1.4 inches) models.


A transparent stand stalk adds another sleek touch.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Remote control and menus "="">Other: Secondary motion-sensitive remote control
Remote size (LxW) 9.2 x 1.8 inches Remote screen N/A
Total keys 45 Backlit keys 38
Other IR devices controlled No RF control of TV No
Shortcut menu Yes Onscreen explanations Yes

One extra found in LG's flagship 2010 products like the PX950 is the "Magic Wand" remote, which behaves much like the Wiimote motion controller used on the Nintendo Wii. LG's little clicker fits well in the hand, and its few buttons are easy to find by feel, but you really only need two: Home and Select. The former calls up a simplified menu system and a big cursor control, and moving the remote itself to point the cursor activates menu items.

LG PX950 SERIES
LG's Magic Wand remote works like a Nintendo Wii controller, allowing you to manipulate menu items by waving the wand.

LG PX950 SERIES
The Wand summons a specialized, simplified menu system to ease accessibility via pointer.

The accuracy of the pointer was very good--better in our experience than even the Wiimote itself--and the jumbo icons help a lot, although annoyingly the wand didn't operate within apps like Netflix or Yahoo widgets. But soon the novelty of the system wore off and we ended up preferring the standard menu system and multibutton remote, which required only thumb movement. We can imagine some users intimidated by lots of menu selections might appreciate the Magic Wand, but for most others it's just a gimmick.

LG's standard clicker is a long, thin (thoroughly unmagical) wand with decent button differentiation and friendly, rubberized keys. We liked the bulge in the middle that corresponds with a convenient notch on the underside for your index finger; we missed direct infrared control of other devices. The main menus are basic and functional with plenty of ways to get around, including a nice Quick Menu of shortcuts. We would have liked to see explanations, however, especially for the more advanced picture setting functions.

Features

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Key TV features "="">Other: Optional 3D glasses (model "="">LG-AS100; $169 list); TrueBlack filter; Optional Wi-Fi dongle (AN-WF100, $70); Optional wireless media box (AN-WL100W, $350)
Display technology plasma LED backlight N/A
3D compatible Yes 3D glasses included No
Screen finish Glass Refresh rate(s) 60Hz, 96Hz
Dejudder (smooth) processing No 1080p/24 compatible Yes
Internet connection Yes Wireless HDMI/AV connection Optional

The main difference between the PK950, LG's former 2010 flagship plasma, and PX950 is the latter's ability to display 3D content. It doesn't come with the requisite 3D glasses, however, so you'll have to shell out extra for those. LG is the only maker we've tested so far whose proprietary glasses have rechargeable batteries--the USB charger is included. Unlike the company's LX9500 3D-compatible LCD, the PX950 does offer a 2D-to-3D conversion system and the aforementioned THX certification for both 2D and 3D.

Like the PK950, the screen of the PX includes a "TrueBlack" filter designed to improve image quality in brighter rooms, and the PX handled 1080p/24 sources properly. See Performance for details.

Other notables on the PX950 include the external "LG Wireless Media Box" option that enables you to connect HDMI and other gear wirelessly, which can really help custom installations. We'd like to see built-in Wi-Fi for the Internet features, but you'll have to either buy the dongle or get a third-party wireless bridge. We tested LG's dongle, which worked well, but we didn't test the media box by press time.


THX certification for 3D is the PX950's claim to fame.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Streaming media
Netflix Yes YouTube Yes
Amazon Video on Demand No Rhapsody No
Vudu video Yes Pandora No
CinemaNow No DLNA compliant Photo/Music/Video
Blockbuster No USB Photo/Music/Video

LG's 2009 models were among the first to include Netflix, but since that service is now available on most Internet TVs, the company's Netcast array of streaming partners is now pretty pedestrian. There are no major missing links, however, aside from any kind of audio service like Pandora or Slacker radio.

In our tests Vudu and Netflix performed as advertised, delivering the video quality we expect from both services via both Ethernet and Wi-Fi from LG's dongle. A solid selection of picture settings was available, but you don't get THX, Expert modes, or 2D-to-3D conversion options with the streaming video services. We didn't test DLNA or USB streaming.


The content selection on LG's Netcast is a step behind other makers' streaming offerings.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Internet apps "="">Other: 10 custom games, world clock, calendar; Skype requires speakerphone accessory (AN-VC100, $110)
Yahoo widgets Yes Skype Yes
Vudu apps No Weather Yes
Facebook No News Yes
Twitter Yes Sports Yes
Photos Picasa/Flickr Stocks Yes

Most of the nonstreaming apps, with the exception of Picasa, a clock for time zones around the world, an onscreen calendar and a few games, come courtesy of Yahoo widgets. At the time of this writing the PX950 has access to eighteen widgets--but still no Facebook, which both Samsung and Vizio do have.

Yahoo's platform is more usable than last year on LG, albeit not as snappy as on the LX9500, with useable responses to button presses and faster load times for individual widgets. In comparison, however, the apps platforms of Samsung and Vizio still felt a good deal faster than LG's widgets, and content selection was wider on Samsung, Vizio and Sony.

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 (still) hasn't been released yet, so we didn't test it for this review.


Yahoo Widgets provide the main nonstreaming Apps on LG.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Picture settings "="">Other: Two THX modes for 2D and one for 3D; 2-point and 20-point IRE systems available; Auto Power Save mode; guided "Picture Wizard" setup tool
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 3 Color management system Yes

With the addition of its nonadjustable "THX 3D Cinema" mode, as well as the ability to adjust four other picture modes while in 3D, the PX950 trounces the completely nonadjustable 3D of LG LX9500. Those four modes don't offer any of the 3D-specific tweaks of Samsung, but at least you can adjust basic picture settings like contrast, brightness and color.

With 2D sources 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 to 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 for 2D, one for bright and one for dim environments, are not user adjustable (Panasonic's single THX mode is), and there's a new Auto Power Saver Mode, again nonadjustable, that depends on room lighting to do its job. LG's Picture Wizard is on-hand to guide novices through basic settings.

Editors' Note: The two 50PX950 review samples we received from LG suffered from a picture setting-related bug. LG has since issued a firmware update that, according to our testing, fixes the issue. The company says that any PX950 owner who connects the TV to the Internet will receive an automatic notification to update the firmware, which is available as a free download.


LG offers one of the most expensive selections of picture settings available.

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

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 PX950 offers three ways to fight burn-in, including white and color washes and a pixel orbiter, which shifts the whole image around on the screen. Since temporary image retention seems more common on this set than with other brands' plasmas, we welcome the washes in particular.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Connectivity "="">Other: Service-only RS-232 port; proprietary "wireless control" port for media box
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

There's nothing special here aside from the proprietary, optional wireless connection (see Key Features above), 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.


Not much goes missing from LG's connection bay.

Performance
The excellent overall picture quality of the LG PX950 wasn't a big surprise given the similarly impressive 2D-only 50PK950. While neither could match the deep blacks of Panasonic's plasmas, they came quite close to Samsung and delivered LG's customary accurate color. Both also handled 1080p/24 sources properly, and as usual for a plasma, it also showed nearly perfect off-angle viewing and screen uniformity. Finally 3D on the PX950 was very good, and in some ways better than the Panasonic VT25.

TV settings: LG 50PX950

Prior to any adjustment THX Cinema proved the most accurate setting on the PX950, although it still suffered from a too-blue grayscale and worse gamma (2.29) than we'd like to see, in addition to being relatively dim at 28 footlamberts (ftl). As with previous LG plasmas calibration was an adventure due to the numerous settings, the fact that color didn't remain consistent from measurement to measurement, especially in bright areas, and the interactivity between controls. While we were able to dial in significant improvements compared to THX, we couldn't achieve the kind of accuracy we've seen on other sets with multipoint controls, such as LG's LCDs, for example. We ended up with a 2.15 average gamma at our preferred 40 ftl, and grayscale variation, while more linear than before, was still worse than we expected. More tweaking could probably have improved the calibration even more, but didn't seem worth it.

Our Image quality tests for 2D were conducted with the help of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" on Blu-ray.

"="" bgcolor="#CCCCCC">Comparison models (details)
LG 50PK950 50-inch plasma
Panasonic TC-P50VT25 50-inch plasma
Panasonic TC-P50GT25 50-inch plasma
Samsung PN50C7000 50-inch plasma
LG 47LX9500 47-inch full-array local dimming LED
Sony XBR-52HX909 52-inch full-array local dimming LED
Pioneer PRO-111FD (reference) 50-inch plasma

Black level: The PX950 delivered essentially the same depth of black as the PK950, which was good but not up to the standards of the other flagship TVs in our lineup--although the difference between the LGs and the Samsung C7000 was slight, and would only be visible in a side-by-side comparison in a dark room. In dark scenes, such as when Dumbledore and Harry explore the mansion in Chapter 2, black areas like the letterbox bars, the deep shadows and foreground silhouettes looked lighter and less realistic on the LG than the others, robbing the scenes of some impact.

Details in the shadows, such as the keys of a shaded piano at the 6:26 mark, were relatively good albeit a bit lighter than on our reference and some of the others, but better than the local dimming LED sets.

Color accuracy: The LG PX950 came quite close to our reference in this category, delivering natural-looking skin tones in areas like the brightly lit cafeteria in Chapter 7 or the press of faces in the hallway at the beginning of Chapter 8, as well as darker scenes such as earlier in Chapter 7, when Harry passes through the gate. Primary and secondary color accuracy and balance were also good, although blue was oversaturated a bit, which affected the look of areas like the grass in the Quiddich field in Chapter 10, for example, but the issue wasn't drastic. We also appreciated that near-black areas and shadows remained relatively true and not shaded with another color, such as the blue seen on the PK950.

Video processing: Unlike the PK750 we tested earlier, the PX950 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 PX950 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 characterized by 2:3 pull-down.

According to our motion resolution test, the LG PX950 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.

Like other 2010 LG plasmas, the PX950 showed some 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 1080p/24 still showed the artifacts) removes the artifacts, but that's the only way we know of. Because 1080p/60 is less common than the other two resolutions, we didn't test the TV extensively in this mode, and our picture settings above were not created in it.

Bright lighting: The TruBlack filter of the PX950 beat the LG LCD and the Panasonic and Samsung plasmas at preserving black levels in brighter rooms, essentially tied the Pioneer but fell short of the Sony LCD. The filter didn't have as visible an impact on the other important bright room performance characteristic, namely the reduction of the brightness of reflections like in-room lights, windows reflected from the screen and even a viewer's white shirt. All of the non-LG plasmas reduced reflection intensity better than the PX950, although it still beat the LG LCD.

Standard definition: The LG performed OK with standard-definition sources, doing better than the Panasonics did in our test but not as well as the Samsung PNC7000. It delivered every line of the DVD format and details appeared relatively sharp. Jaggies were present in some moving lines. Noise reduction performed well to clean up lower-quality sources, and 2:3 pull-down kicked in quickly and accurately.

PC: Via VGA-style PC the LG performed relatively well, resolving every line of a 1,920x1,080-pixel pattern, although it was difficult to remove edge enhancement without softening the image too much. Via HDMI PC performance was perfect, as expected.

TEST RESULT SCORE
Before color temp (20/80) 6378/7138 Average
After color temp 6448/6471 Good
Before grayscale variation n/a Good
After grayscale variation n/a Good
Color of red (x/y) 0.643/0.333 Good
Color of green 0.294/0.597 Good
Color of blue 0.151/0.077 Average
Overscan 0.0% Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Y Good
480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps Pass Good
1080i video resolution Pass Good
1080i film resolution Pass Good

Power consumption: We did not test the power consumption of the 60-inch LG 60PX950 series, but we did test the 50-inch model. For more information, refer to the review of the LG 50PX950.

3D performance: Overall the PX950 delivered very good 3D picture quality with 3D Blu-ray as a source, comparing well to the Panasonic VT25 and Samsung C7000 and surpassing the Panasonic GT25 along with the two LCDs.

We tested all 3D displays in the default settings of the best 3D picture mode for our dark room, which in the PX950's case was the THX 3D Cinema setting. We performed no measurements, instead relying on subjective observations. We used a PlayStation 3 and a 3D-compatible distribution amplifier to send 3D to all compatible displays and switched between the various manufacturers' proprietary glasses while watching "IMAX: Under the Sea."

Compared to the VT25 the PX950 showed a bit more crosstalk, or visible doubles around the main objects in 3D, in some scenes, but was still among the better TVs we've tested. The head of the turtle against the blue background at 22:57, for example, showed a slightly brighter and more noticeable double on the LG than on the Panasonic, but the difference was subtle. In other scenes, such as the nighttime cuttlefish sequence with the crosstalk-ridden worms (17:34), the two were more difficult to tell apart. The C7000 was also nearly identical to the PX950's crosstalk in these scenes and others.

The Samsung and the LG both beat the Panasonic at producing realistic colors. The twilight shot of sky and sea around 17:19, for example, looked unnaturally bluish on the VT25 compared to the LG and Samsung plasmas. On the other hand the VT25's image seemed a bit brighter, and definitely had better black levels, than the other two, a combination that delivered superior impact.

Color shift toward blue was even worse on the Sony, and it tended to lose 3D effect when we moved off-angle. The GT25, as we've noted previously, introduced some jagged edge artifacts, while the nonadjustable LX9500 LG looked to be exaggerating the 3D effect, in addition to showing the worst crosstalk in our lineup.

The 2D-to-3D conversion system on the PX950 had an effect somewhere between vanishingly subtle and nonexistent. We checked out a sequence from "Under the Sea" that, on the true 3D version of the movie, looks spectacular: starting at about 7:21, the camera follows sea snakes as they undulate toward the viewer and at times break off the screen seemingly into your lap. On the 2D version converted to 3D by the TVs, the LG looked the flattest and least "3-dimensional" by far, even on the long shots of the ocean floor fading to infinity. We tried cranking up the 3D control, but the only effect that increased was our feeling of slight nausea. While we haven't been impressed by any of these systems, the PX950 does the least to simulate 3D in our experience.

How we test TVs.

lg-60px950-60-infinia-3d-plasma-tv-1080p-fullhd.jpg
8.0

LG Infinia PX950

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8
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