LG's flagship LW980T TV range generated quite a buzz at the recent IFA trade show. Featuring the company's Nano Full LED backlighting technology, the 47- and 55-inch LW980T screens are expected to ship as early as next month, for a currently undisclosed price. We beat back the crowds to take the biggest model, the 1080p 55LW980T LCD TV, for a test drive. These are our first impressions.
With a 16.5mm-thick bezel and wafer-thin, 27.5mm-deep chassis, the 55LW980T is certain to get a nod of approval from discerning fashionistas. But, while we appreciate its charming design, that's not the reason the LW980T has got us all hot under the collar. Rather, we're stoked by LG's most advanced panel technology yet, and a new display technology dubbed 'Dual Play'.
Even a cursory glance will tell you that the 55LW980T's pictures pop. Much of this fizz can be attributed to the set's Nano Full LED backlight. LG first previewed Nano Full LEDs in its aborted LEX line during IFA 2010, but quickly took them back to the drawing board for additional refinement. The original Nano screens were designed to work with active-shutter glasses, but now they'll work with the cheaper and lighter passive 3D specs. (Check out our 3D FAQ to find out the difference between active and passive 3D.)
Unlike edge-lit LED screens, the Nano Full LED array is coupled to a screen-wide diffuser that delivers extremely smooth illumination. We didn't spot any obvious light pooling during our session with the set. Contrast is high too, thanks to judicious local dimming.
The 55LW980T's 3D images are dynamic and punchy, but they do betray a slight loss of resolution, due to the set's passive 3D technology. This characteristic doesn't diminish the appeal of the technology in our eyes, however. Passive 3D is bright and comfortable to watch, provided you view it bang on.
At its best, the system can deliver images which maintain colour fidelity and brightness, while avoiding double images around the edges of objects -- a problem that all too often plagues 3D sets. That said, we did spot some distortion and double imaging when we viewed the picture from a vertical angle. Best to sit still then.
While 3D continues to divide opinion, it's now beginning to bring ancillary benefits. Indeed, we suspect naysayers may well revise their opinion that nothing good comes from wearing 3D glasses when they get to see Dual Play working on the 55LW980T.
Dual Play makes use of polarised glasses to ensure two viewers see different full-screen images on the TV simultaneously. This funky feature requires dedicated eyeware which must be either left/left polarised or right/right polarised. The resulting image seen through each set of glasses is 2D, but it works spectacularly well for multiplayer games.
We spun our wheels on a two-player road racer, and can confirm each pair of glasses gave a distinctly different picture. Colour and brightness aren't adversely affected, although we did occasionally see ghosts of moving objects breaking through from the opposing polarised frame. We think the feature will prove monstrously popular among gamers.
The 55LW980T doesn't skimp on traditional niceties. It incorporates built-in Wi-Fi and ships with the LG's slightly barmy Magic remote control. This largely button-free wand comes into its own when controlling certain downloadable apps, but it's not much cop as far as regular TV is concerned. Thankfully, a normal zapper is also supplied.
LG's Smart TV Internet portal is looking increasingly enticing. The service now offers more than 175 different applications, including a healthy dollop of streaming Internet and pay-per-view TV. Users can take advantage of BBC iPlayer, ITN News and YouTube, plus pay-per-view content from Acetrax, BoxOffice365, Blinkbox, Cartoon Network and Woomi. Social media is covered by the usual Facebook and Twitter clients.
Significantly, LG used IFA to announce a co-development deal with Philips and Sharp that will allow future apps to be developed on a common platform, compatible with portals from all three companies. This could dramatically increase the number of applications heading to LG's Smart TV hub next year.
The LG 55LW980T is a really hot prospect. Its image quality looks set to be outstanding and the introduction of Dual Play will engage mainstream users in a way that 3D has so far failed to do. Colour us excited.
Edited by Charles Kloet