LCD televisions are everywhere these days, and despite costing several times what similarly sized tube TVs cost, they're selling better than Viagra. The reason is simple: these thin beauties look great even when they're turned off. LG's snazzy RU-23LZ21 is an excellent example. Finished in glossy black, it stands out from the silver masses and will dazzle the design-conscious members of the household. This panel will do well in a room with high ambient light, such as a kitchen, and also works in a bedroom, where its PC input adds dual-use possibilities. We certainly noticed some image-quality flaws, but they're less important for a TV that's likely to experience limited home-theater duty.
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 first thing that we noticed was the RU-23LZ21's slick appearance. The picture on LG's Web site did no justice to the polished, glossy black bezel around the screen. The included table stand lets the panel swivel to the left or right and tilt forward or backward. A removable rear panel covers the main set of inputs and keeps the cables bundled together nicely.
At only 3.3 inches deep and 22.5 pounds, the RU-23LZ21 would also hang well on the wall. An optional mounting kit is available.
The included remote control leaves a bit to be desired. Buttons are not laid out or labeled intuitively, and the lack of dedicated input selection means you must scroll through all inputs to find the one you need. Controls can also be found on the right-hand side of the panel and include Menu and Enter buttons so that all menu functions can be accessed without the remote. The RU-23LZ21's 1,280x768 native resolution is high enough to display every pixel of 720p HDTV. All incoming signals, including 1080i HDTV, standard TV, DVD, and computer, are converted to match its pixels. The set includes an NTSC tuner for regular TV reception, although naturally you'll need an external tuner to watch HDTV.
LG's video processing includes 2:3 pull-down for film-based sources. Though LG claims its DRP (Digital Reality picture) feature "improves picture outlines," it really amounts to an edge-enhancement circuit that can't be shut off completely. To minimize its harmful effects, set it to Soft.
Dual-tuner picture-in-picture tops the rather short list of convenience features. Virtual surround sound attempts to juice up the Lifetime movie of the week, while auto volume leveler keeps the commercials from blowing out your ears. One cute addition is a five-band equalizer, which lets you tailor the output of the two 7-watt speakers located below the screen.
The RU-23LZ21's connectivity is pretty skimpy. There's no DVI connection, for example. The jack pack on the rear panel does include a VGA input for PCs, a single composite-video input, one set of high-bandwidth-only component inputs, and the requisite audio inputs. Strangely, this TV will not accept a standard 480i signal via its component input, even though it's labeled as 480i. This is more of a problem for Xbox owners than for anybody else since the console's 480i menus won't be visible when using its high-def A/V pack. For home theater, it's an issue only for owners of interlaced-only, as opposed to progressive-scan, DVD players. The left-hand side of the panel has one S-Video in, one composite-video in, one pair of RCA ins, and a headphone output. Given the dismal performance of many LCDs we've tested recently, we were pleasantly surprised by the RU23LZ21's picture. This 23-inch flat panel serves up relatively accurate colors, and best of all, darker areas of the picture looked better than with most flat-panel LCDs we've seen.
Overall, the RU-23LZ21 looks best with brighter material in a well-lit room. Its brightness and contrast were set sky-high out of the box, leading to less detail in light areas such as snow or dress shirts and, conversely, a more accurate color temperature. In the warm setting, we measured 6,575 Kelvin on the bottom end and 6,700K on the top (6,500K is ideal). During calibration, we turned contrast and brightness down to restore most of the detail in the lightest and darkest portions of the picture. Using the menu's limited controls, we achieved a respectable 6,750K on the bottom and 6,700K on the top.
Unlike many LCDs with orangey reds and neon greens, the primary colors on the RU-23LZ21 looked good. Unfortunately, the color control was inactive on the component input, so you're stuck with one color level for DVD and high-def sources. We saw some red push--the tendency, for example, to turn the tones of Caucasian folks' skin redder--at that level, but it wasn't as bad as we've seen on many other sets.
Video processing was good except for some edge-enhancement artifacts, which appeared as rings around lines. We couldn't remove them even by reducing sharpness to zero. In one scene of an American flag blowing in the breeze, the stripes stayed perfectly smooth instead of degenerating into a craggy mess, as they did on the . This smoothing is important for video-based material, such as reality TV shows.
We were most impressed by the actual level of black on the RU-23LZ21. Black looked darker than on most LCDs we've seen, and that really improves the picture when viewing darker scenes in a dim room. Of course, it still wasn't as good as we've seen on standard tube TVs or better plasma displays. False contouring, while less pronounced than on the Samsung , was still noticeable on dark material such as the opening sequence of Alien and the test scenes toward the end of Digital Video Essentials.
We also took a look at some HDTV on the RU-23LZ21. Scenes from the D-VHS version of Digital Video Essentials looked very good, as did the DirecTV feed of DiscoveryHD.