From the moment we turned it on, we knew the LG 47LE8900 was special. This 47-inch, LED-illuminated LCD TV's superb picture quality really impressed us, as did its understated styling. It's not all good news, though -- pictures display some minor banding, and the sound quality is rubbish.
Over the years, LG has progressed from routinely producing some of the least inspiring hardware we've ever seen to making TVs that look stunning, have awe-inspiring features and deliver some of the best picture quality on the market. No-one's been more surprised by the transformation than us, and every time our expectations settle, the company surprises us by producing something else that blows our minds. The 47-inch, 1080p 47LE8900 LCD TV is the latest example.
At around £1,700, the 47LE8900 isn't the company's cheapest TV. It does, however, have plenty of features that justify its price. Among them is a full LED backlight.
The 47LE8900 looks impressive. The front appears to be made of a single sheet of glass, which means the telly looks cool and imposing when turned off. LG has also toned down its logos too. When switched off, you might not even be able to tell who made this TV. LG should get a round of applause for putting its customers before yet another tasteless branding exercise.
When you turn the TV on, though, an LG logo is subtly illuminated on the lower portion of the bezel. The logo isn't huge or especially bright, however, which keeps the set looking funky and understated.
You get plenty of connections, but some of them rely on the ghastly break-out cables that we've come to accept as inevitable on very thin TVs. It's not a big problem, though, and the four HDMI sockets are easily accessible, as are the two USB inputs.
Initially, LG shipped this TV to us without the screws needed for the stand. When LG sent them in a follow-up package, we found ourselves scratching our heads. Firstly, the stand is really heavy and, secondly, there are loads of screws to attach. Will any of this affect you? No, not unless you're planning on moving the TV frequently. But what you will need is another person to help you set the TV up and lift it into position, because it's a heavy beast.
From the very moment we turned the TV on, our footwear -- both shoes and socks -- was blown clean off. Looking at hi-def channels via the built-in Freeview HD tuner, we immediately realised that this TV is in a different league to many we've seen recently. The picture balances sharpness and picture processing in a very pleasing way.
The 47LE8900 sports a number of pre-configured picture modes. It's worth pointing out that we used the THX Cinema mode in our tests. We didn't need to undertake any real tweaking to produce a very strong, likeable image from all sources. The other modes weren't to our taste, though.
What really matters is that the TV has a very comprehensive set of picture controls that enable you to adjust every facet of the picture, and produce one of the best images we've seen from an LED-illuminated LCD screen. The picture quality beats that of Sony's recent 3D Bravia KDL-46HX903 into a bloody pulp, and we can't help admiring that.
The TV can also be calibrated by an Imaging Science Foundation engineer. You'll have to cough up between £200 and £300, but you'll be left with a picture that looks utterly stunning and is precisely tuned to your room and the ambient light therein.
One of the first things we noticed about the 47LE8900 is that it suffers from the most dreadful audio quality we've ever experienced. For a start, Freeview HD and Freeview broadcasts both output sound at different levels. That's not LG's fault -- it's due to the different audio encoders used by broadcasters for high-definition and standard-definition transmissions. But LG is to blame for failing to compensate for this difference. If you switch from BBC HD to BBC One, you're ears will get pounded by the increased volume.
That's not the only problem with the sound, though. We found it consistently weak and unconvincing. It was far too easy to make the sound distort at what we'd consider to be pretty modest volumes. That's not good enough really, but we've come to accept poor sound quality from flat-screen TVs as part of life, and we've bought a surround-sound system to improve matters.
We noticed one problem with the picture: 'banding'. It's hard to explain what this looks like, but, when the camera pans on solid areas of light colours, you may notice that there are dark bands visible. We noticed this immediately, but it's important to note that it doesn't ruin viewing, and the number of times you'll actually see any banding are quite small. If you're a perfectionist, it might be worth popping along to your local TV emporium and asking to see your favourite test DVD on the set before you plonk down your cash.
The 47LE8900 does a pretty good job of playing video files via USB. The usual formats are supported, like the popular DivX and MKV. But the TV falls down slightly when it comes to audio-codec support. DTS audio won't play, so, if you have files that include that sort of soundtrack, don't bank on this TV being able to handle them.
The TV's picture settings in USB-playback mode are also very inflexible. You can't adjust very much, and that made us feel we weren't seeing the best-possible picture quality. Indeed, images looked bright and unnatural. This TV isn't very impressive as a media streamer.
The LG 47LE8900 is utterly superb. Despite some banding, its picture quality is second to none. Reducing the backlight output can help reduce the banding problem if it really bothers you, so, if your room is dark, you may never notice the problem.
This TV wins our prestigious Editors' Choice award. From the moment we plugged it in, we fell in love.
Edited by Charles Kloet